Twenty Bears players are due to become free agents when the new league year commences Wednesday at 3 p.m. (CT). Of that group, 16 will be unrestricted, two will be restricted and two will be exclusive-rights free agents.
Twelve of the 20 free agents-to-be started at least one game for the Bears last season, but safety Ha Ha Clinton-Dix is the only one who opened more than 10, starting all 16 contests in his first year with the team.
Unrestricted free agents—players with at least four accrued seasons whose contracts have expired—are able to sign with other NFL teams without their original clubs receiving any compensation in return.
In addition to Clinton-Dix, other Bears unrestricted free agents include inside linebackers Danny Trevathan, Nick Kwiatkoski and Kevin Pierre-Louis; offensive linemen T.J. Clemmings, Ted Larsen and Cornelius Lucas III; quarterback Chase Daniel; tight end Bradley Sowell; defensive tackle Nick Williams; defensive end Brent Urban; outside linebacker Aaron Lynch; safeties Sherrick McManis, Deon Bush, DeAndre Houston-Carson ; and long-snapper Patrick Scales.
Only three of the 20 were drafted by the Bears, all in 2016: Kwiatkoski and Bush in the fourth round and Houston-Carson in the sixth round.
Last season Clinton-Dix recorded 78 tackles, two interceptions—one of which he returned for a touchdown—five pass breakups and two fumble recoveries. Both of his interceptions came in a Week 3 Monday night road win over the Redskins.
Trevathan missed the final seven games after hurting his elbow in a Week 10 win over the Lions. At the time of his injury, he led the Bears with 70 tackles. In 2018, Trevathan started all 16 games and was named a Pro Bowl alternate after compiling 102 tackles and two interceptions.
Kwiatkoski excelled after stepping into the starting lineup in place of Roquan Smith in a Week 4 win over the Vikings and again over the final eight games after Trevathan was injured. Kwiatkoski tied for the Bears lead with eight tackles-for-loss while also registering 68 tackles, three sacks, one interception four pass breakups and one forced fumble. In addition, he produced a safety in the season finale in Minnesota when he dropped Vikings running back Mike Boone in the end zone.
Pierre-Louis compiled 32 tackles, one interception and two tackles-for-loss while appearing in 14 games with three starts. Starting the final three contests in place of the injured Smith, Pierre-Louis amassed 23 tackles.
Williams, who was out of the league as recently as 2017, led Bears defensive linemen with 42 tackles, six sacks and five tackles-for-loss. He signed with the Bears in 2018 after participating in a minicamp on a tryout basis and played sparingly in two games. Williams entered the 2019 season without having recorded a sack in 38 career NFL games.
Restricted free agents—players with three accrued seasons whose contracts have expired—can sign an offer sheet with another NFL team, but their original club can match it or potentially receive draft pick compensation if they choose not to. The Bears' restricted free agents are defensive tackle Roy Robertson-Harris and outside linebacker Isaiah Irving.
Exclusive-rights free agents—players with two or fewer accrued seasons whose contracts have expired—can only negotiate with their current team. The Bears' exclusive-rights free agents are offensive lineman Rashaad Coward and tight end J.P. Holtz.
Last offseason, the Bears re-signed four of their 14 unrestricted free agents: Williams, Lynch, right tackle Bobby Massie and punter Pat O'Donnell. They did not re-sign safety Adrian Amos, receivers Joshua Bellamy and Kevin White, cornerbacks Bryce Callahan and Marcus Williams, tight end Daniel Brown, fullback Michael Burton, running back Benny Cunningham, and offensive linemen Eric Kush and Bryan Witzmann.
Take a look at the Bears players officially slated to become unrestricted, restricted, or exclusive rights free agents when the NFL's free agency period begins in March.