What Bears Fans Have to Worry About: The Eagles Have Landed

Analysis: One potential lurking Bears problem is what actually happened last year to the two Eagles free agents they signed. The first in a series looking at possible Bears issues.
Kevin Byard stops Stefon Diggs following a reception in a December game, after being traded by Tennessee to Philadelphia.
Kevin Byard stops Stefon Diggs following a reception in a December game, after being traded by Tennessee to Philadelphia. / Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports
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First in a series

Bears free agency signings came with great fanfare in March, just like in 2023.

It's always like this when a team has needs, salary cap space and finds talent. At least it seems they found talent.

The two arriving from Philadelphia rated among the better players available.

Kevin Byard and D'Andre Swift landed in Chicago after both played for the Eagles last year, Byard for only half the year.

At $8 million a year, Swift didn't break the bank. Byard cost about half what they were spending for Eddie Jackson and he has 11 more career interceptions in only one more season than the former Bears safety.

"I mean, his production speaks for itself," Bears defensive coordinator Eric Washington said. "And so from afar, you look at that, you see a safety who has that type of ball production and then you get him here, you see the command, the intelligence, his ability to communicate very quickly, especially as we need to make adjustments before the ball is snapped."

The reviews have been as positive for Swift, the former Lions back who enjoyed his first 1,000-yard season last year.

"I've been watching this guy since, you know, college," running backs coach Chad Morton said. "He's exciting to watch, man. That guy he's got so much ability.

"He's fast, he can make guys miss and what we're excited about now is just opening up the passing game with the backs. So, he's got that opportunity to have that one-on-one matchup out of the backfield. So we can get him out on empty (backfield)."

A back who can do everything is always welcome and Swift ranked fourth, 12th, 16th and 20th among backs in catches in his four previous NFL seasons. Last year the Eagles had two backs who could catch passes because Kenneth Gainwell had 30, so Swift's career-low 39 catches was easily explained.

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There is a catch with both of these Eagles.

Philadelphia GM Howie Roseman went out of his way to bring in both, Swift in free agency and Byard at midseason via trade with the Titans.

You'd think he valued them as a result.

Instead, Philadelphia went looking for different starters at their positions and let them walk.

Roseman is not exactly known for giving away talent, but he did let T.J. Edwards leave as a free agent and Edwards had one of the best years by a Bears linebacker since the Brian Urlacher/Lance Briggs era. So maybe Roseman got some more of them wrong?

It would be easy to assume this except for a couple of disturbing issues.

In Swift's case, the Eagles wondered what happened to the back who tore up the league early. Swift had 175 rushing yards against Minnesota in Week 2 and 130 against Tampa Bay in Week 3. He caught 18 passes over the next three weeks. From Weeks 2-5 he averaged 108 yards rushing a game. He averaged 55.9 yards after Week 5 and never reached the 100-yard mark again after his Week 3, 130-yard game.

He also caught only 16 passes after Week 6.

Swift didn't appear on the injury report until he missed the finale with the Giants because of illness. Now he's with his third team in three years and didn't stick with the team in his hometown.

"I would say at the end of the day it came down to who wanted me in the building the most," Swift said. "That's kind of where I would rather be at."

Byard's production in 10 games for the Eagles wasn't exceptional but couldn't be called poor by any stretch of the imagination. He did allow 75% completions and two touchdown catches in his Eagles games, per Sportradar. The two TD throws came from Patrick Mahomes and Josh Allen--not exactly ham-and-eggers.

Roseman determined Byard didn't have what they needed and cut him before free agency so he could get a head start on finding a team.

Another Philadelphia native failed to stick in his hometown.

Did the Bears get what they paid for when they shopped at Roseman's garage sale or will they have regrets?

Twitter: BearDigest@BearsOnMaven


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Gene Chamberlain

GENE CHAMBERLAIN

BearDigest.com publisher Gene Chamberlain has covered the Chicago Bears full time as a beat writer since 1994 and prior to this on a part-time basis for 10 years. He covered the Bears as a beat writer for Suburban Chicago Newspapers, the Daily Southtown, Copley News Service and has been a contributor for the Daily Herald, the Associated Press, Bear Report, CBS Sports.com and The Sporting News. He also has worked a prep sports writer for Tribune Newspapers and Sun-Times newspapers.