The Chicago Bears continued their inside linebacker overhaul by signing Jerrell Freeman to a three-year contract Saturday. The deal includes $6 million guaranteed, NFL Network reported. With Freeman and Danny Trevathan acquired in the opening days of free agency, the Bears have addressed one of their greatest personnel needs with a pair of new starters.
Freeman, who turns 30 in May, is known for his above-average athleticism and cover ability. He doesn’t have a reputation for being particularly strong or dominant on contact, but he has been a dependable stat-sheet filler.
At 6-foot-0, 240, the former CFL linebacker ranked first or second in tackles among Indianapolis Colts defenders in each of his four seasons with the team.
Freeman and Trevathan each played last season at a higher level than the Bears got out of their inside linebacker rotation. Shea McClellin (Boise State, Marsing High) and Christian Jones began the season with the first string – coaches liked their size (each at 6-foot-3) and athleticism – but game-changing plays were too rare.
Undrafted free agents Jonathan Anderson and John Timu played more as the season progressed, with the Bears mixing their combinations in sub packages. Trevathan and Freeman are three-down linebackers who are expected to establish continuity and bring a sharper edge to the second level of the defense.
Signing Freeman could signal the end of McClellin’s tenure with the team that drafted him 19th overall in 2012. General Manager Ryan Pace said on Feb. 24 he considered McClellin’s arrow to be pointing up at inside linebacker. The Bears were open to re-signing him at a team-friendly price, but the club also was content to let him gauge his value on the open market. He had a free agent visit with the Jets on Friday but remains unsigned.