2024 Bears Free Agent Target: Za'Darius Smith
Trevor Ruszkowski - USA Today Sports

2024 Bears Free Agent Target: Za'Darius Smith

by - Senior Writer -

It's no secret that the Bears spent a ton of money addressing the defensive side of the ball last season. Despite the early season struggles through six weeks, their investment on that side of the ball paid off, as they were one of the best defenses in the league in the second half of the season.

A big reason for that was the acquisition of Montez Sweat, as he finally gave the Bears the pass rush they were searching for. Not only did Sweat lead the Bears with 7.5 sacks in eight games, but he also led Washington with seven sacks in eight games with them. That makes him the first player in NFL history to lead two different teams in sacks during the same season.

Because of that, and seeing how important he was to the defense, Ryan Poles didn't hesitate to sign him and gave him a hefty five-year extension that will kick in next season. As massive of a signing as that was, unless the Bears add to their pass rush, teams will double-team Sweat all season long, neutralizing his impact on the field.

Adding Yannick Ngakoue last season was supposed to help, but he was lost for the season with a foot injury just six weeks in and didn't do much leading up to that. Ngakoue is now heading to free agency once again, and it appears as if a reunion will only happen once again. However, even if he does walk away, there are some pass rushers that could help this team, and Za'Darius Smith is one of them who is predicted to land with Chicago this offseason.

The former Green Bay Packer, Minnesota Viking, and most recently, Cleveland Browns EDGE rusher has had a great career and will be one of the most sought-after defenders in free agency. The Bears had a pretty good defense in 2023. They led the league in interceptions with 22 but still gave up too many points. Teams scored a total of 31 touchdowns against them. Part of the reason is the Bears cannot get to the quarterback. They finished the season with 30 sacks, with only the lowly Panthers below them.

Smith could help them address their lack of sacks the past two seasons and would make a solid pairing with Sweat on the defensive line. Smith is coming off a down season in Cleveland as he only had 5.5 sacks, but when you have the defensive player of the year in Myles Garrett, you can see why your numbers could be limited.

Before the 2023 season, Smith was one of the better and more consistent pass rushers for the better part of five seasons, as he had 10 sacks with the Vikings in 2022 and averaged 9.5 sacks during his four-year run with the Packers. That may not scream elite defender to you, but you add that to what Sweat can do, and the Bears would have one of the better pass-rushing duos in the NFL.

Looking at this defense and the strides they made last season, the Bears need someone who is not only a productive player but also someone who will come in and do their job in a way similar to what Smith does on the field. One of the jobs Smith is given is sacking the QB, so if that is all he does on the field, you are getting a player doing his job.

There is a reason why everyone in the division was happy when Minnesota gave Smith away to Cleveland. He has a pass-rushing pedigree, and with him out of the division, the teams don't have to worry about him chasing them down. How fun would it be for the Bears to get him back in the division and have them chase down a new set of QBs?

Although he is on the wrong side of 30 and will be 32 at the start of next season, Smith still, at worst, has two or three years left in the tank. That alone is worth giving him a two-year deal, as the Bears could capitalize on his final two years as a reliable player.

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