The Bears let the second and third waves of free agency roll their way on Thursday. They made one-year deals with three veterans: running back D’Onta Foreman, tight end Robert Tonyan, and defensive tackle Andrew Billings. Tonyan was the highest ranked of the three in the athletic’s top 150 at number 90. Foreman was next at number 123. Billings was unranked.
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How they fit: The Bears are always about schedule fit. It’s important to general manager Ryan Poles and coach Matt Eberflus, and they didn’t hesitate. So they targeted linebacker Tremaine Edmunds and signed them for their defense and right guard Nate Davis for their offense.
The same is certainly true for Tonyan and Foreman.
Tonyan’s connections begin with offensive coordinator Luke Getsy. They worked together in Green Bay. Tonyan’s best season came in 2020. He made 52 catches on 59 targets for 586 yards and 11 touchdowns. Getsy was in his first year as the Packers’ passing game coordinator that season, and was also their quarterbacks coach for Aaron Rodgers.
Foreman, meanwhile, had a better season than David Montgomery last season, recording 914 yards and five touchdowns for the Panthers. He is a fast and explosive defenseman who played in the Titans’ run-heavy zone schedule before leaving for Carolina.
On defense, the Bears needed a better combination for Justin Jones with three techniques on their line. Enter Billings, a one technique/nose natural approach. The Bears were the NFL’s worst pass-rushing team last season, but they were almost as bad against the run. Only the Texans allowed more rushing yards than the Bears. Billings excels against the run.
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Consequences 2023: It’s easy to project roles for everyone. Tonyan should lighten the heavy load on Cole Kmet, Foreman should form a skillful tandem with Khalil Herbert, and Billings should be part of the Bears’ defensive line, especially on early downs.
If we had to rank them in terms of potential impact, Foreman would be number 1. He proved last season, after the Panthers traded Christian McCaffrey, that he can handle a significant workload.
Everything he did last season resulted in career highs. With David Montgomery now a member of the Lions, the Bears needed to bolster their running back space and did so quickly by adding Foreman and Travis Homer earlier this week.
History: Foreman’s story is one of resilience, a personal trait Poles tries to recognize in players. Foreman, a third-round pick for the Texans in 2017, suffered a torn Achilles tendon while scoring a touchdown against the Cardinals during his rookie season. In 2019, Foreman tore his bicep while with the Colts. His career changed with the Titans, but his Tennessee tenure began with a stint on the practice squad.
Like linebacker TJ Edwards, the addition of Tonyan is another homecoming for a player from the Chicago suburbs. Edwards is from Lake Villa, Illinois. A record-breaking high school quarterback, Tonyan hails from nearby McHenry.
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cap update: At a press conference earlier Thursday in Halas Hall, Poland summed up his team’s approach to free desks: get better, because of course we know that this process takes some time to get it right.
With enough cap room, the Bears were able to sign Tonyan, Foreman, and Billings without a problem. They weren’t seasoned minimum deals. According to reports, Foreman agreed to a $3 million deal. The Bears added Billings on a $3.5 million contract.
Outlook: The Bears have yet to sign a free agent over the age of 30. Foreman is 26, while Tonyan and Billings are both 28. Their one-year contracts, of course, come with an element of proof. But all three still fit Poland’s approach of adding young, capable players who have something to prove or more room to develop as a player.
(Photo by D’Onta Foreman: Grant Halverson/Getty Images)