Robert Tonyan, D’Onta Foreman, was part of the first major rebuilding step for Bears

Additions like Tonyan, Foreman are part of the first major step in rebuilding originally appeared on NBC Sports Chicago

After a 3-14 season, NFL Media draft expert Daniel Jeremiah gave a candid assessment of what Bears general manager Ryan Poles needed to accomplish in the offseason and in the 2023 NFL draft.

“You’re looking at the bears and, my goodness, you’re just trying to get a competent group out there,” Jeremiah said during a pre-merger conference call in February.

The 2022 Bears were not competent. That’s not surprising considering the Poles arrived in Chicago and immediately eliminated an underperforming roster. The 2022 season was a resounding success as the Poles looked to the off-season to embark on a major rebuilding project.

Months of talk about the Bears’ salary mountain had fans and pundits dreaming of the massive injection of star-level talent that would soon be arriving in Chicago.

But as the Poles, head coach Matt Eberflus, and Bears staff evaluated the free-agent ranks and put players in “value buckets,” few of them are clear Big names made the cut.

The Bears gave linebackers Tremaine Edmunds gets a four-year, $72 million deal to likely fill WILL’s linebacker spot. Chicago was in the right tackle until the very end against Mike McGlinchey, but the Notre Dame product ended up in Denver with the Broncos on a five-year, $87.5 million contract.

The rest of the Bears’ free-agent haul didn’t come with big names or big prices. The Poles’ goal during this free-agent cycle was to identify suitability and add talent while keeping the Bears flexible for future off-seasons. This is only the first step of a multi-layered reconstruction.

What Poles has done so far with his additions is lift the bottom of the Bears. It was pretty damn near underground in 2022 so that shouldn’t be hard. But the Bears are more competent at many positions, particularly linebackers, with the additions of Edmunds and TJ Edwards.

The Bears missed a mountain of tackles in 2022. Safety Eddie Jackson was the team’s top tackler because most of the guys in front of him put it in the ‘Ole! Hall of Fame”. Edmunds and Edwards are athletic tackling machines that automatically make a linebacking corps better with a 10.7 percent missed tackle rate.

The Poles signed defensive end DeMarcus Walker. Walker won’t make headlines, but his 32 pressings, seven sacks and 16 quarterback hits would have led the Bears’ woeful defensive line last season.

basic competence is coming.

That was also the theme of Thursday’s plays as the Bears signed tight end Robert Tonyan, running back D’Onta Foreman and defensive tackle Andrew Billings.

Billings is an experienced run stuffer. He won’t do much as a pass rusher, but at 6-foot-1, 311 pounds, he has incredible power to move offensive linemen inside, plug holes and allow the Bears’ new linebackers to come downhill and to make plays. He’ll give the Bears 20 to 25 snaps of solid running defense. The Bears line of defense was a disaster in 2022. Billings’ signing isn’t worthy of a save, but he’s a quality pro who can help them in a key area.

Tonyan’s signing gives the Bears a clear upgrade in the No. 2 tight end slot ahead of Ryan Griffin and Trevon Wesco. While the former Packer isn’t much of a blocker, he is a solid threat to the red zone, which has historically had a nose for the end zone. Tonyan is a reliable receiver (two drops in five seasons per Pro Football Reference) who knows offensive coordinator Luke Getsy’s pattern.

Foreman is the newcomer that caught my eye on Thursday.

After leaving David Montgomery on the free hand, the Bears needed to find another reliable back in Khalil Herbert to share carries. Foreman is coming off a 2022 season in which he rushed for 913 yards and five touchdowns on 203 attempts. Foreman forced 34 missed tackles while hitting 21 explosive runs with a breakaway percentage of 33.2 (percentage of yards gained on rushes over 15 yards).

Montgomery had a breakaway percentage of just 8.9 and had just 17 explosive runs last season but forced 46 missed tackles.

The bears want burst, blast and big-play ability off their backs. Montgomery is a workhorse but doesn’t have the breakaway ability that Poland and Eberflus covet.

Foreman isn’t much of a threat as a pass catcher and needs to improve as a pass guard, but he should be a good compliment to Herbert as the Bears look to adopt a running back-by-committee approach.

RELATED: Fields that attract free agents show that QB can speed up rebuilding

Not every free-agent signing is worth doing backflips.

But what has Poland done in the last week, both in the free hand and in the Blockbuster trade with the Panthersadds a stable of solid veterans to go with the big acquisitions of Edmunds and wide receiver DJ Moore, who went on sale from Carolina.

Rebuilding that roster into one that can compete for a playoff spot will take several offseasons. A suspected franchise quarterback in Fields can help drive that process forward.

However, an essential first step is to raise the level by adding proven veteran contributors to complement the high-end talent that is either already on the roster or will be added in the future.

Mission accomplished.

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