Bears looking for long-term OLB solution opposite Leonard Floyd

The Chicago Bears have already penciled in former first-round pick Leonard Floyd as one of their starting outside linebackers in 2018, but the spot opposite Floyd appears up for grabs.

The ninth overall pick of the 2016 NFL draft, Floyd had developed into one of the Bears' best defenders until he suffered a knee injury last year that ultimately required surgery. Floyd entered Week 10 of last season with 4.5 sacks and eight tackles for loss. Floyd finished with seven sacks last season as a rookie, but he had become a much better all-around player in Year 2 with the Bears.

The Bears have expressed confidence that Floyd will be medically cleared by the start of training camp.

Veteran Pernell McPhee -- the first big free agent signed by Bears general manager Ryan Pace in 2015 -- is scheduled to earn a base salary of $7.2 million in 2018. That seems like an awfully high number for a player with 14 sacks in three seasons. McPhee plays extremely hard -- not to mention that he's also a forceful and entertaining presence in the locker room -- but he's missed 12 games since joining the Bears.

Fellow veteran Willie Young, 32, has played the best football of his career in Chicago, but Young appeared in just four games last season. Young is due a roster bonus of $1 million on the third day of the league year. His base salary for 2018 is $3.5 million.

McPhee and Young will take up $13.475 million worth of cap space if both are on Chicago's 53-man roster this upcoming season.

Further down the depth chart, outside linebackers Lamarr Houston and Sam Acho each have expiring contracts.

Save for a few younger role players -- and Floyd, obviously -- the Bears could undergo a serious overhaul at OLB.

Here's a sample of what might be available for the Bears to consider in the offseason.

Free agency

Dee Ford, Kansas City: The Chiefs already exercised Ford's fifth-year option ($8.718 million), but that's only guaranteed for injury. Still, Ford, 26, played in only six games for Kansas City last season. In 2016, Ford had a career-best 10 sacks. The odds of the Chiefs cutting ties with Ford seem remote, but he would automatically vault to the top of the free-agent outside linebacker list if it unexpectedly happens.

Connor Barwin, Los Angeles Rams: Barwin, 31, has been a productive pass-rusher since he broke into the league with Houston in 2009. Barwin hasn't reached double-digits in sacks since 2014 with Philadelphia (14.5 sacks), but took down the quarterback a respectable five times last season.

Barkevious Mingo, Indianapolis Colts: Mingo -- the sixth overall pick of the 2013 draft -- didn't work out in Cleveland, but he finished strong last year for the Colts. Mingo, who started six games in 2017, set a career-high with 47 tackles and three forced fumbles.


Tremaine Edmunds, Virginia Tech: Edmunds (6-5, 250 pounds) seems best suited at OLB in a 3-4 defensive scheme. Edmunds played sparingly for the Hokies as a freshman, but came on strong the last two years with a combined 215 tackles, 32.5 tackles for loss and 10 sacks. Edmunds is supposed to be an athletic freak, who'll no doubt turn heads at the combine later in the month.

Harold Landry, Boston College: Landry was slowed by an ankle injury last season, but he tallied 16.5 sacks, 22 tackles for loss and seven forced fumbles in 2016. As a sophomore in 2015, Landry finished with 15.5 tackles for loss, 4.5 sacks and three forced fumbles for the Eagles defense. Landry has been compared -- by some -- to Atlanta's Vic Beasley, who had a career-high 15.5 sacks in 2016.

Roquan Smith, Georgia: Smith is a little undersized (6-1, 225), but he's generally considered one of the top linebackers in the 2017 draft class. Smith is built like an inside linebacker (the Bears potentially have a need there, too, since Jerrell Freeman isn't expected to return and Christian Jones in a free agent) in Chicago's scheme, although he projects better -- on paper -- in a 4-3. Still, Smith is such an elite athlete -- Smith is the seventh ranked player on Mel Kiper Jr.'s Big Board -- that he'll warrant series consideration for the teams picking in the top-15.