3 Bears impending free agents who need to be brought back, 3 the team should let walk

2024 is shaping up to be one of the most important years in the long history of the Chicago Bears. What free agent moves should GM Ryan Poles make to start the year off right?

Jaylon Johnson is set to receive a lucrative contract this offseason. Should the Bears be the ones to give it to him?
Jaylon Johnson is set to receive a lucrative contract this offseason. Should the Bears be the ones to give it to him? / Justin Casterline/GettyImages
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The Super Bowl is only a week away, which means the Kansas City Chiefs and the San Francisco 49ers have another week of having the spotlight all to themselves. Once the confetti rains down and the trophies are handed out, the NFL will shift into free agency mode. The free agent period doesn't start until March 13th, but teams will spend the month leading up to that date finalizing their plans for how best to fill out their rosters before the NFL Draft at the end of April.

No team in the NFL will have as much attention on it this offseason as the Chicago Bears. The Monsters of the Midway possess the #1 overall pick in the draft for the second year in a row, thanks to last year's bombshell deal with the Carolina Panthers that brought DJ Moore and a bounty of draft picks to the Windy City.

Bears general manager Ryan Poles will again have a momentous decision on his hands. Does he trade back again for another haul? Or does he move on from Justin Fields and draft Caleb Williams or Drake Maye? The Bears have nearly $50 million in cap space, an ascending young roster that improved by four wins in 2023, and new offensive and defensive coordinators in Shane Waldron and Eric Washington. If Poles does opt to draft a new quarterback, that player will be walking in to arguably the best situation a #1 quarterback has ever had. Before we reach that point, though, Poles has some important decisions to make in free agency.

Poles will undoubtedly be looking at a wide range of free agents from across the league, but first he should decide what to do with the incumbent Bears whose contracts are up. Today we'll look at three that he should bring back, and three that he should let walk. Let's begin with who should stay.

Marcedes Lewis should come back for another year

It's not often that a player with four receptions on the season deserves to be re-signed, but Marcedes Lewis' contributions to the Bears go beyond stats. One of the longest-tenured players in the NFL with 18 seasons played, Lewis and his veteran leadership have been invaluable to this young roster.

Cole Kmet enjoyed by far his best season in the NFL, catching 73 passes for 719 yards and six touchdowns, and it's not a coincidence that this was done in Lewis' first season in Chicago. The former Jaguar and Packer has been a mentor and positive influence to the recently-extended Kmet and the rest of the roster, but he's also still one of the better blocking tight ends in the league. With a trio of quality running backs and a quarterback that uses his legs as often as Justin Fields does, the Bears need a player like that.

Even if the Bears choose to move on from Fields, both Caleb Williams and Drake Maye could benefit from having a veteran tight end to protect them and show them the ropes of how to survive life in the NFL. Lewis played for $2 million this past season, which is a pittance for someone that can so positively influence the team's locker room culture. If he's not ready to call it a career yet, the Bears should bring him back.