The Chicago Bears kicked off free agency by agreeing to terms with former Philadelphia Eagles linebacker T.J. Edwards to a three-year, $19.5 million deal with $12 million guaranteed.
It’s a heck of a bargain for general manager Ryan Poles, especially considering Edwards is coming off a career year with the Eagles. Last season, Edwards totaled 159 tackles, 10 tackles for loss, two sacks and seven pass breakups. He was also one of the top-graded linebackers by Pro Football Focus (84.8).
Here’s a collection of all of the grades for the Bears’ expected signing of Edwards, where experts agree that Chicago got a steal with the move.
ESPN’s Seth Walder gave the Bears an A for getting a “steal” in Edwards for the price compared to his production.
This is a steal for a highly productive off-ball linebacker in the prime of his career. The 26-year-old Edwards’ numbers were excellent across the board for the Eagles last season, as he allowed 0.6 yards per coverage snap, the eighth-best mark among linebackers with at least 250 coverage snaps, per NFL Next Gen Stats. He also ranked seventh in run stop win rate among linebackers and had a strong 38% pass rush win rate in a small sample.
The tricky part of evaluating Edwards is that he played on such a stacked defense that it’s fair to wonder if he benefited from such good play around him. Off-ball linebacker is not a premium position either, but again, the financial commitment from the Bears here is minimal and much less than I thought he would go for — even given the crowded linebacker market.
Pro Football Focus gave Chicago a perfect A+ grade for their acquisition of Edwards, who’s coming off a breakout year.
A 2019 undrafted free agent, Edwards is coming off of a career year that saw him rank sixth among all linebackers with an 81.6 PFF grade. Edwards impressed both against the run and in coverage and finished the year tied for 15th at the position with 51 tackles resulting in a defensive stop.
Chicago replaces Roquan Smith with a three-year deal that doesn’t reach the per-year average of Smith’s new contract with the Baltimore Ravens. Concerns regarding Edwards’ coverage ability on third downs are likely why this deal came in so much lower than our projection, but Edwards is capable enough in a zone-heavy scheme to not be a complete liability.
The Athletic‘s Mike Jones gave the Bears an A for the addition of Edwards, which addressed a major need at a bargain price.
Edwards goes to Chicago for $19.5 million over three years, according to reports.
The native of Lake Villa, Ill., who grew up idolizing Brian Urlacher, now will anchor the Bears defense after a season in which he racked up a career-high 159 tackles (99 solo, 10 for a loss) for the Eagles. It’s a much-needed addition for a Bears defense that ranked 31st in the league, surrendering 157.3 rushing yards a game.
CBS Sports’ Tyler Sullivan is one of the few to grade the Bears lower than an “A” for the Edwards signing.
Chicago is expected to be a major player in free agency and made its first strike by signing former Eagles linebacker T.J. Edwards to a three-year, $19.5 million deal. The Bears defense needs improvement wherever it can get it, and Edwards is someone who can slot in off the ball in the middle of the defense. There’s also some familiarity with Edwards as Chicago assistant GM Ian Cunningham was a former Eagles executive when he signed with the team in 2019.
Sporting News’ Vinnie Iyer gave the Bears an A for addressing a key need in Edwards.
GM Ryan Poles started his big spending by working to shore up the second level post Roquan Smith. Edwards is just one of may key defensive holes the Bears will fill.
Sports Illustrated’s Matt Verderame gave Chicago a B+ for getting an upgrade — not quite in Roquan Smith’s class — at a bargain price.
Edwards was the first free agent to agree to terms with a new team during the NFL’s legal tampering period, going to the Bears on a three-year deal worth $19.5 million, according to NFL Media’s Ian Rapoport. The contract also includes $12 million guaranteed.
Last season, Edwards was a stalwart in the middle for the Eagles, racking up 159 tackles, including 10 for loss. He also added two sacks for the NFC champions. In 2021, Edwards totaled 130 tackles, showcasing the ability to track ball carriers from sideline-to-sideline.
For the Bears, this is good value. Edwards getting $12 million guaranteed means this is essentially a two-year deal with a team option for 2025.
Chicago desperately needed to find linebacker help after trading Roquan Smith to the Ravens in October. While Edwards isn’t in Smith’s class, he’s a clear upgrade at a reasonable price.
Bleacher Report’s Gary Davenport praised the Bears for their signing of Edwards.
Last year with the Eagles, Edwards had the best season of his career, piling up a career-high 159 total tackles. His 10 tackles for loss were as many as he had in the first three seasons of his career combined.
Edwards might not be an elite talent, but he’s an athletic linebacker who’s capable of staying on the field in sub-packages. After trading Roquan Smith last year, off-ball linebacker was a glaring need in Chicago.
Adding a solid three-down starter for $6.5 million per season was an excellent move.
Walter Football believes Chicago’s addition of Edwards was a “slam dunk,” especially considering the value the Bears got with his deal.
The first signing during the 2023 free agency period is a slam dunk. When I saw that the Bears immediately agreed to terms with T.J. Edwards, I was concerned that they highly overpaid. That is definitely not the case.
This is a great price for Edwards, who has quietly become one of the top off-ball linebackers in the NFL. Edwards will be a huge, yet cheap upgrade to a position vacated by the trade of Roquan Smith. Linebacker was already a need with Smith on the roster, so this is just the beginning of the defensive rebuilding process for the Bears.
Bears Wire’s Brendan Sugrue believes Edwards could wind up being one of Poles’ best free-agent signings, when all is said and done.
Sure, Edwards had a career year playing on one of the best defenses in the NFL last season but he’s a standout player in his own right. Now he comes to Chicago to elevate the linebacking play on a franchise that prides itself on stellar defensive play. He knows that all too well, seeing as he grew up a Bears fan in the northern suburbs of Chicago.
There’s a good chance we look at Edwards’ deal as one of the best free agent signings of general manager Ryan Poles’ career. As for Edwards, he gets his first big payday in the city he grew up in and a chance to play for his childhood team.