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Free Agency Could Cost Bears Nick Williams, Other Key Reserves

Free agent Nick Williams was one of the pleasant surprises for Bears in a disappointing 8-8 season

One of the few success stories of the 2019 Bears could easily become a former Bear.

The same applies to at least one other.

Defensive lineman Nick Williams went from the waiver wire scrap heap to largely being inactive on the Bears roster in 2018, and in the season past emerged among their more productive defensive linemen.

The next step for Williams is free agency, just as it is for 14 other Bears unrestricted free agents like Danny Trevathan, Ha Ha Clinton-Dix and Nick Kwiatkoski.

"I think I'm gonna have fun in free agency this year," Williams said. "We'll see what happens in the future."

Akiem Hicks' injury gave Williams a chance to start five games and he took advantage with six sacks as a member of the regular defensive line rotation. He is one of several Bears reserves who will be free agents after stepping in to impress while replacing injured starters. 

Linebacker Kevin Pierre-Louis and linebacker Nick Kwiatkoski are also in the same situation. Outside linebacker Aaron Lynch, guard Ted Larsen, tackle Cornelius Lucas and safety Deon Bush are also key reserves who are unrestricted free agents.

"We'll see what happens in the future," Williams said. "Obviously I want to be back here. I want to be a Bear.

"I love this organization. They've afforded me a lot of great opportunities. I like this locker room. I like my teammates. We'll see what happens."

Williams knows he simply was one of those players who capitalized when given a chance.

"The way it happened, nobody could've wrote a better story," he said. "Being on the street in '17 and the Bears giving me a shot in '18, coming back here in '19 and actually being able to contribute to the team and play the way that I did.

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"I just wanted to gain the respect of my teammates and let the organization and the coaches know that they made a good decision in bringing me in."

Before he was with the Bears, Williams played for the Dolphins and Chiefs.

"I played some good football and did some good things on the football field," Williams said. "I just not only wanted to show those teams, but I wanted to show myself and kinda prove to myself that I was kinda stashed away in Kansas City and I was playing behind Ndamukong Suh in Miami. I was kinda stashed away, lost in the shuffle, but when I got my opportunity, I made the most of it and played well."

The Bears are tight against the salary cap for next season. estimates around $10 million available after they rolled over the $17 million unspent this year. However, those figures are likely to change greatly and have already because they did not include a new figure for cornerback Kyle Fuller, whose deal ESPN reported was reworked late last week to free up cap money.

It's also possible they'll decline to pick up the option on guard Kyle Long to save some money.

Pierre-Louis gave valuable minutes as injured Roquan Smith's replacement, including an interception in Sunday's win over Minnesota, and realizes with cash tight unless you're a starter the sense of urgency for retention is less.

"Business is business," Pierre-Louis said. "We as players have to understand that. And I'm fully aware.

"If the opportunity arises, that's for myself and them, to be back here that would be a great thing."

Pierre-Louis offered perspective on the Bears lacking for some starters. The 8-8 season, he said, was definitely underachieving for the franchise.

"Eight and eight is not what the Bears organization is," Pierre-Louis said. "We fell a little short this year and something special is here.

"I've been on a couple teams and I'm able to realize what's real and what's not and they have something that's real here. Whoever is going to be here is going to be a part of something special."