Bears add more help on offense with RB D’Onta Foreman and TE Robert Tonyan

The Bears let the second and third waves of free agency come to them on Thursday. They reached one-year deals with three veterans: running back D’Onta Foreman, tight end Robert Tonyan and defensive tackle Andrew Billings. Tonyan was the highest-ranked of the three in The Athletic’s top 150 at No. 90. Foreman was next at No. 123. Billings wasn’t ranked.

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How they fit: With the Bears, it’s always about scheme fit. It matters to general manager Ryan Poles and coach Matt Eberflus, and they haven’t wavered. It’s why they targeted and signed linebacker Tremaine Edmunds for their defense and right guard Nate Davis for their offense.

The same definitely applies to Tonyan and Foreman.

Tonyan’s connections start with offensive coordinator Luke Getsy. They worked together in Green Bay. Tonyan’s best season came in 2020. He made 52 catches on 59 targets for 586 yards and 11 touchdowns. Getsy was in his first year as the Packers’ passing game coordinator that season, along with being their quarterbacks coach for Aaron Rodgers.

Foreman, meanwhile, had a better season than David Montgomery did last season, running for 914 yards and five touchdowns for the Panthers. He’s a fast and explosive back who played in the Titans’ run-heavy, zone scheme before heading to Carolina.

On defense, the Bears needed a better pairing for three-technique tackle Justin Jones on their line. Enter Billings, a natural one-technique/nose tackle. The Bears were the NFL’s worst pass-rushing team last season but they were nearly as bad against the run. Only the Texans allowed more rushing yards than the Bears. Billings excels against the run.


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2023 impact: It’s easy to project roles for all of them. Tonyan should ease the heavy burden on tight end Cole Kmet, Foreman should form a capable tandem with Khalil Herbert and Billings should be part of the Bears’ defensive line rotation, particularly on early downs.

If we had to rank them in terms of potential impact, Foreman would be No. 1. He proved last season after the Panthers traded Christian McCaffrey that he could handle a considerable workload.

Everything he did last season resulted in career highs. With David Montgomery now a member of the Lions, the Bears needed to bolster their running backs room and did so quickly by adding Foreman and Travis Homer earlier in the week.

History: Foreman’s story is one of resilience, a personal trait that Poles tries to identify in players. A third-round pick of the Texans in 2017, Foreman suffered a ruptured Achilles tendon while scoring a touchdown against the Cardinals during his rookie season. In 2019, Foreman tore his biceps while with the Colts. His career turned around with the Titans, but his tenure in Tennessee began with a stint on the practice squad.

Similar to linebacker T.J. Edwards, Tonyan’s addition is another homecoming for a player from the Chicago suburbs. Edwards is from Lake Villa, Ill. Tonyan, a record-setting quarterback in high school, is from nearby McHenry.


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Cap update: In a news conference earlier Thursday at Halas Hall, Poles encapsulated his team’s approach to free agency: “The goal going into this offseason deal was to improve our roster now but also stay flexible in the future so we can stay healthy, opportunistic and continue to get better because obviously we know this process takes some time to do it the right way.”

With ample cap space, the Bears were able to sign Tonyan, Foreman and Billings without any issues. They weren’t veteran minimum deals. According to reports, Foreman agreed to a $3 million deal. The Bears added Billings with a $3.5 million contract.

Outlook: The Bears are yet to sign a free agent older than 30. Foreman is 26, while Tonyan and Billings are both 28. Their one-year contracts naturally come with a prove-it element. But all three still fit with Poles’ approach to adding young, capable players with either something to prove or more room to develop as players.

(Photo of D’Onta Foreman: Grant Halverson / Getty Images)

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