PHOENIX – The Bears have been among the NFL's busiest teams since the start of the new league year March 15, signing 10 free agents and acquiring receiver DJ Moore in a blockbuster trade with the Panthers.
The free-agent additions are linebackers Tremaine Edmunds, T.J. Edwards and Dylan Cole; running backs D'Onta Foreman and Travis Homer; guard Nate Davis; quarterback P.J. Walker; tight end Robert Tonyan; defensive end DeMarcus Walker and defensive tackle Andrew Billings.
"We feel great about the opportunity to add these guys," coach Matt Eberflus said Tuesday at the NFL owners meetings in Arizona. "You look at the number of starters that we've added across the board, I think that's just tremendous, and then we've got 10 more picks in the draft."
Eberflus is eager to begin working with the new players when the offseason program begins in mid-April.
"We're looking at it as an opportunity," he said. "Now what we need to do as coaches and an entire staff is now bring these guys together, with the young core we already have and bringing them together here this spring. We've got nine weeks to do it in the offseason. They've already started it. I've sent texts out and exchanged numbers between guys and talked to guys about how important relationships are; they can start building those relationships as we go. The guys have done that and they're going to lay that foundation."
During the offseason, Eberflus and his assistants typically work on their playbooks and schemes in the morning and assess free agents and draft prospects on film in the afternoon, ultimately sharing their input with general manager Ryan Poles.
"That process was really good with Ryan and his staff and with the coaches," Eberflus said. "We evaluated tons of players, got it narrowed down, and really what narrowed it down for us was the type of player; the style which he plays and really the man.
"We really looked at the man because we want those guys to be able to come into our team, because we have a young football team, and really coupled with the young core we have on our team currently, to really build that future for the Bears. And I think we did a really good job with that. You watch those guys play on tape, they play our style, they play our way."
“You look at the number of starters that we’ve added across the board, I think that’s just tremendous, and then we’ve got 10 more picks in the draft.” Bears coach Matt Eberflus
No one exudes those characteristics more than Moore. The sixth-year receiver, who was obtained from Carolina along with four draft picks in exchange for the No. 1 selection, has compiled at least 1,100 yards in three of the last four seasons. Last year he had 63 receptions for 888 yards and seven TDs for a Panthers offense that had three quarterbacks all start at least five games: Baker Mayfield, Sam Darnold and P.J. Walker, who is joining Moore in Chicago.
"Excited about getting DJ Moore," Eberflus said. "Had a chance to eat dinner with him and his family when he came in. What an outstanding young man. He's really done a good job of producing with multiple quarterbacks. You look at his ability to produce yards per catch, yards after catch, route running ability, just outstanding. We're really excited about him and how he couples with the rest of our guys, with [Chase] Claypool, [Darnell] Mooney, EQ (Equanimeous St. Brown), all the guys that we're going to have on our roster."
A player's intangibles are important to the Bears—and Moore's are at an elite level.
"People are always like, 'well, it's just the guy, the jersey number and all that,'" Eberflus said. "It's more than that. It's mind, body and spirit. That's how we coach guys. So in order to know that, you have to build a relationship with guys.
"But my first impression of DJ is that he lit up the room. The energy that he brought into the room and that his family brought into the room was just outstanding. You can feel that light inside of him and the energy that he's going to bring to our football team."
Foreman also will bolster the Bears offense. Last year the physical 6-1, 236-pounder became Carolina's No. 1 back following a midseason trade of Christian McCaffrey and rushed for a career high 914 yards and five touchdowns.
"Foreman's a big runner," Eberflus said. "When he took over there in Carolina, obviously showed what he can do. Very exciting player. Big back. Can really split two [defenders] and get those extra yards that you want him to."
It's unclear at this time how the workload in the backfield will be shared between Foreman and third-year pro Khalil Herbert, who last season rushed for 731 yards and four TDs on 232 carries, a stellar average of 5.7 yards per attempt.
"We need to look at [Foreman's] skillset in person," Eberflus said. "He is a big runner who can really get things downhill and can take it the distance. And he is very competitive. So I'm excited to get him on the field and to let him compete for that position. And I'm excited for 'Herb' too. I'm excited for him to compete for that position and see where it goes."
On the other side of the ball, Eberflus is ecstatic about adding linebackers Edmunds and Edwards to solidify the middle of the defense.
Edmunds spent his first five NFL seasons with the Bills after being selected by Buffalo with the 18th pick in the first round of the 2018 draft out of Virginia Tech. The 6-5, 250-pounder has generated at least 100 tackles every year he's been in the league, was voted to the Pro Bowl in 2019 and 2020 and was named a Bills captain in 2019 at the age of 21.
Eberflus was in his first season as Colts defensive coordinator when Edmunds entered the draft.
"Outstanding young man," Eberflus said. "We obviously evaluated him when he came out and we loved him. We had him super high. When we had the opportunity to get him, we were just really excited about that. To me, he's gotten better and better and better and I think his best year was last year."
Eberflus said that while the Bears are going to keep their depth chart open at this time of the year, Edmunds played middle linebacker with the Bills and "he's probably going to find his home there."
"He is a big body guy," Eberflus said. "I've had several offensive coaches come up to me during the Pro Days and all that stuff … what the offensive coaches say, just that big body presence in the middle in between the hashes there, that's where a lot of the throws go, and it really deters that. His size and length, he has tremendous range in there as a pass defender."
Edmunds is expected to team with Edwards, who arrives in Chicago after spending his first four NFL seasons with the Eagles. The Lake Villa, Ill., native who entered the league as an undrafted free agent from Wisconsin in 2019, led the NFC champions with 159 tackles last season.
"You can see the playmaking ability from him," Eberflus said. "His instincts, quickness, his strike. Really did a nice job of leading that Philly defense, so we're excited about that."
Eberflus has a special appreciation for Edmunds and Edwards because of the coach's background; he played linebacker at Toledo and coached the position at his alma mater as well as in the NFL with the Browns and Cowboys.
"We're excited about where they are," Eberflus said. "And they've produced in the league, so it's a known commodity. Those guys are players in this league. We felt that, just where we thought the draft was this year, where we think it is, I thought that was a great move to take those guys where we got them. Those guys are going to be valuable assets for our team for a long time."