Report: Bears
Matt Krohn - USA Today Sports

Report: Bears "very high" on free agent pass-rusher Danielle Hunter

by - Senior Writer -

When all is said and done, this upcoming NFL offseason could go down as one of the greatest offseasons in NFL history for a variety of reasons. Not only do you have so many teams seeking QB help in the draft, but you also have the free agent market loaded with talent on both sides of the ball. The Bears are expected to be active once again, but to what degree is an entirely different argument, as we still don't know the direction Ryan Poles is leaning quite yet.

We do know that the Bears want to continue adding to their defense, especially when it comes to the pass rush side of things. They addressed that during the season by adding and extending Montez Sweat, but with Yannick Ngakoue back on the market, the Bears would love to add another piece to help Sweat.

If that is what the Bears are looking for, there will be plenty of opportunities for them to do so, and it could come in the form of a division rival and one of the premier pass rushers in the game. According to initial reports/predictions, free agent EDGE rusher Danielle Hunter is expected to have a significant market from plenty of teams, but pointed out that two teams will be the most aggressive toward getting him.

One of those teams is the Jacksonville Jaguars, and the other, you guessed, is the Chicago Bears.

“The sense I get here in Vegas is that Danielle Hunter will be hard for the Vikings to keep,” ESPN's Jeremy Fowler said recently. “He will have a very strong market, he turned 29 in October, and several teams had interest at the trade deadline. Chicago could look to add a pass-rusher to complement Montez Sweat in free agency and is very high on Hunter.”

Can you imagine their pass rush if Hunter and Sweat are paired together for the foreseeable future? It's a match made in heaven for Bears fans everywhere, and the already improving defense will continue to get better to the point where they could be a top-five unit.

The Bears are very familiar with Hunter, having to face him twice a year since he came into the league as a third-rounder from LSU. When you look back at his career, not only was he the steal of his draft, but he could go down as one of the best third-rounders in NFL history as he continues to produce at an elite level.

From the moment he arrived in the NFL, Hunter has been an impactful pass rusher and has had at least 10 sacks in five of his eight seasons. That includes a career-high 16.5 sacks this past season after missing a large portion of 2021 with a pectoral injury. Take away his six sacks as a rookie, six sacks in 2021, and seven in 2017; Hunter has been a menace when it comes to getting after the QB as he has had seasons of 16.5, 14.5, 14.5, 12.5, and 10.5. That comes out to 87.5 sacks for his career thus far, as he could reach the 100 career sack mark this season if put in the right situation.

Along with that comes 11 forced fumbles and four fumble recoveries, with one getting returned for a score. That shows you the level Hunter can play at and how good he can be if he is 100% healthy, which he appears to be right now. Another part of his game that people tend to overlook is his ability to make plays in the backfield against RBs. To go with his 16.5 sacks, which was top three in the league this season, Hunter was also tied with Maxx Crosby for the league lead in tackles for a loss with 23.

This guy not only knows how to get after the QB, but knows how to locate the football and refuses to give up until a play is made. Considering how Hunter signed a one-year 20 million dollar deal last season, many believe his days in Minnesota are over, given the team's cap situation and the impending contract extension that Justin Jefferson will need sooner rather than later.

Once a final decision is made, Hunter would instantly become the most sought-after defensive free agent this offseason, and adding him to a defensive line that already has Sweat would be a massive boost for this team. Those two would wreak havoc on teams for years as they combined for 29 sacks this past season which was more than the Bears entire total in 2023.

The biggest hang-up regarding this potential deal could be the financial side of things. Yes, the Bears are expected to have over 50 million in cap space for free agency, but with Sweat accounting for 25 million and Hunter getting most likely the same amount, that will be a lot of money tied to two defensive players. Chicago may try to entice him to sign more of a backloaded deal to help the financials early on or tie in a massive signing bonus to assist with that. Either way, Hunter to the Bears makes a ton of sense, and adding him would be an instant offseason win for this team.

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