Why the Idea of Bears Signing Connor Williams Makes Sense

So many suggested Bears free agent signings make little sense but in the case of Miami free agent Connor Williams it would make perfect sense.
Connor Williams snaps the ball against Buffalo. The center/guard remains an unsigned free agent at a position where the Bears can stand to upgrade.
Connor Williams snaps the ball against Buffalo. The center/guard remains an unsigned free agent at a position where the Bears can stand to upgrade. / Gregory Fisher-USA TODAY Sports
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When ESPN insider Adam Schefter tweeted what looked like an advertisement for free agent center Connor Williams this week, the Bear should have been one of the teams looking closely at the situation.

"Former Cowboys and Dolphins free-agent center Connor Williams, who is coming off season-ending knee surgery, expects to be ready for the start of the season and is in discussions with multiple teams about where to play in 2024," Schefter posted. "He plans to pick his new team before training camp begins".

Williams suffered a torn ACL in December, so it's probably no surprise he remains unsigned around the league. Apparently unconvinced he'll be ready to play, the Dolphins signed former Titans starting center Aaron Brewer.

Other teams will need to see proof Williams is ready. That's a short turnaround until the regular season.

As a result, Williams remains available and also owns the distinction of having been the NFL's No. 2 ranked center on Pro Football Focus' grading system.

The thought of almost any available free agent seems to excite Bears fans on social media but there is a salary cap and the Bears still need to sign their two first-round draft picks. Cash is limited and their greatest need appears to be strengthening the pass rush, as their defensive line was graded the worst in the NFL by Pro Football Focus despite the addition of Montez Sweat.

In this case, Williams would actually be one of the few free agents not at defensive end or tackle who the Bears should be monitoring and here's why.




1. Current Center Quality

They signed center Coleman Shelton and traded for guard/center Ryan Bates but between the two they have a center the Rams didn't want back and a player who was a backup. Bates only played 35 snaps last year for Buffalo and when he did play in other years it was almost always as a guard. Shelton was graded 17th among starting centers last year in his second season as an NFL starter. He had started two games prior to 2022.

It's easy to look at what they did at center and wonder if they even really improved their situation over the last two seasons, when they stumbled around between Sam Mustipher, Cody Whitehair, Lucas Patrick and Dan Feeney.

2. Offensive Line Investment

It might sound shocking but the general manager who briefly was an NFL offensive lineman has one of the lowest paid offensive lines in the league.

There are only eight teams paying less cap space for their offensive linemen than the Bears, according to Spotrac.com. They are paying $38.58 million this year. It's not always desirable to pay the most at a position group but Poles' old team, the Chiefs, sure seem to think it is. The world champions are paying the third most. The Rams pay second most. The Lions are paying the sixth most and the 49ers the seventh most. The Bears are paying $4 million for Bates and $3.5 million for Shelton. That's closer to backup money for a veteran player than starting money.

3. Connor Williams' Ability

Williams hasn't always been a center. He has played more at guard than at center, but wherever he has played he has been a good blocker. He started out at guard but moved to center in 2022 with the Dolphins. According to PFF grade, he has improved every single season he's been in the league. He has been a top 15 blocker at his position each of the last four years. A 70 grade in PFF's system is good. He has been at 71.2 or better the last four years.

4. Caleb Williams

It's been said numerous times throughout the offseason: The Bears have surrounded Caleb Williams with talent to help him succeed.

Have they really? They have questions on the offensive line at center and right guard. They haven't had a highly rated center since Whitehair was in the Pro Bowl early in his career, and it wasn't even the position they drafted him to play.

Bottom Line

Ultimately they'll probably settle in with this current group because of the lack of cap space. They might not even have enough to add a veteran pass rusher, if they deem it necessary, because they're at $21 million available without throwing in the cap hits for two first-rounders.

They also won't add another center because they have the two who can play there, Shelton is familiar with the offense after playing in offensive coordinator Shane Waldron attack with the Rams and Bates is a player Poles has coveted for two years. He tried to sign Bates as a restricted free agent.

If they wanted proven quality at center, though, adding Williams to snap to Williams would be the best way they can go.

Twitter: BearDigest@BearsOnMaven

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.