April 15, 2024

Adam Rank identifies five players who should take advantage of free agency by hitting the open market … and five who should find a way to make it work in their current situation.

The Bears are one of the teams in great shape cap-wise, and they could reset the quarterback clock during the 2024 NFL Draft. At some point, you want to invest in your players and reward the loyalty of some of your club’s best. Johnson had a massive breakout campaign in 2023, earning his first Pro Bowl nod, and is one of the reasons (along with Montez Sweat) the Bears’ defense improved dramatically last season — ranking 12th overall after finishing 29th in 2022. GM Ryan Poles has even suggested he wants to extend Johnson long-term. Jaylon wants to stay in Chicago. This one seems automatic.

This a tough one because Dave Canales — who deserves a lot of credit for the rebirth of Baker — is now the head coach of the Carolina Panthers. So returning to Tampa means Baker is going to learn from yet another offensive coordinator. That said, Liam Coen, is a more-than-capable replacement. In fact, Coen briefly worked with Mayfield as the offensive coordinator in Los Angeles two seasons ago. And it was Baker’s short stint with the Rams that really could get the credit for the quarterback’s career resurgence. I mean, reuniting with Coen has to be better than, say, testing your luck with Arthur Smith in Pittsburgh.

Adam Rank at Improv

Madubuike is about to break the bank as one of the top defensive linemen on the free-agent market this offseason. He had a major breakout season — in a contract year, no less — with a team-high 13 sacks for a Ravens unit that lead the NFL in the category. And it’s not like Madubuike is a product of the system or anything like that, but the Ravens have built a special defense — boosted by former DC Mike Macdonald, who’s now the head man in Seattle — and it would be a shame to see the Pro Bowler walk away from that. He might end up with more money if he leaves, but I’m not sure he’s going to have more success.

I know there are a lot of fan bases that are hoping Hunter joins their squads this offseason. I’m a Bears fan and would love for him to be in Chicago. But I really respect the work Brian Flores did to get even more out of an extremely talented player, as Hunter logged a career-high 16.5 sacks in Year 9 with the Vikings. I would have a hard time leaving that situation if I were him.

Again, I don’t want to take away from anybody’s chance to get the bag, as the kids put it. And nobody would blame Young for cashing in. But after spending the majority of his young career with a franchise undergoing a tumultuous ownership change — a franchise that never won more than eight games in a season during his tenure — Young saw how the other half lives. His brief time with the 49ers must’ve been like going from a cover band to being a member of Metallica. There are some things you can’t put a price on. And I’m assuming he’d still get money to play for the 49ers, so I would try to run it back with them if possible.

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