Home Sports Linebacker Tremaine Edmunds, the new face of the Chicago Bears defense, is ‘ready to get to work’

Linebacker Tremaine Edmunds, the new face of the Chicago Bears defense, is ‘ready to get to work’

by staff

New Chicago Bears linebacker Tremaine Edmunds visited Lake Forest in 2018 when he was going through the draft process out of Virginia Tech.

Halas Hall was under different executive and coaching leadership then, and it also looked physically different from the renovated facility the Bears unveiled in 2019.


So when Edmunds made another visit to Halas Hall last week after signing a four-year, $72 million contract with general manager Ryan Poles, he noted the revamped building, which include many homages to past Bears greats.

“I’ve just been walking around enjoying it and looking at all the tradition and looking at all the legends that came through here,” Edmunds said. “True legends. It’s been breathtaking. … It motivates you even more. I’m ready to get to work.”


Players’ introductory news conferences at Halas Hall often include references to Bears glory, especially the first meetings of new defensive stars. And Edmunds and T.J. Edwards — another free-agent linebacker addition from the Philadelphia Eagles who grew up a Bears fan in north suburban Lake Villa — both spoke of the draw of upholding the tradition of great linebackers in Chicago.

The Bears, of course, would love nothing more as Poles continues to rebuild their defense.

Entering free agency, it didn’t feel as if adding two linebackers would be the Bears’ priority given their deficiency on the offensive and defensive lines. But Poles said adding Edmunds and Edwards, who both come to the Bears from top-10 defenses, was a matter of going after the right value for good players. Edwards’ deal is for three years, $19.5 million, while Edmunds’ contract includes $50 million guaranteed.

“When you look at the board, we felt like those two players were at the top of their positions,” Poles said. “We felt like the skill set was going to help our team. And we decided to go there. It made sense. … You can get in trouble if you go heavy with the biggest need and you fire away there and you let really good players walk away because you’re too stuck on where you need to get players. These guys are really good and at the top of their position.”

After Edmunds’ predraft visit in 2018, the Bears under former GM Ryan Pace and coach Matt Nagy went with linebacker Roquan Smith with the No. 8 pick in the draft. Edmunds dropped to the Buffalo Bills at No. 16, the second inside linebacker taken.

Now after Edmunds averaged 113 tackles per year and put together two Pro Bowl seasons in the last five with the Bills, he’s tasked with replacing Smith as a prominent face of the Bears defense.

It’s an interesting turn of events after Poles and Smith couldn’t come to an agreement on a contract extension last summer. The Bears then traded Smith midseason to the Baltimore Ravens, with whom he signed a five-year, $100 million extension with $60 million guaranteed.

Bears coach Matt Eberflus cited ball production as one reason the Bears’ contract numbers didn’t align with what Smith wanted to be paid. Smith, who played weak-side linebacker for Eberflus in 2022, had seven interceptions, 20 passes defended, 16½ sacks and a forced fumble over 4½ seasons in Chicago. Edmunds, who played middle linebacker in Buffalo, had five interceptions, 35 passes defended, 6½ sacks and two forced fumbles over five seasons with the Bills.


When asked about what made the 6-foot-5, 250-pound Edmunds a better fit for the Bears, Poles said, “The length, the speed, the coverage ability in terms of just the space that he covers. And Matt and his group think they can take him over the edge with some of the ball production.”

Edmunds and Edwards, who also played in the middle in Philadelphia, didn’t get into which linebacker position they expect to play, though Edmunds mentioned the middle linebacker position multiple times during his news conference.

Second-year player Jack Sanborn could move to strong-side linebacker with their arrival. Nicholas Morrow and Matt Adams, linebackers for the Bears in 2022 who were free agents, signed with the Eagles and Cleveland Browns, respectively, this week.

Edmunds, who will be 25 in May, sounded very much like a player who would fit in with Eberflus’ HITS mentality as he talked about his willingness to put in the work multiple times.

He said effort is the part of his game in which he takes the most pride.

“You talk about effort, you talk about relentlessness and you talk about guys that just care. Guys that finish plays. Guys that give it their all,” Edmunds said. “When you turn the film on you can tell that from guys. It’s more than just talent because in this league talent is only going to get you to a certain point. You’ve got to figure out what’s going to set yourself apart, and I’m going to give it my all each and every time I step foot on that field. That’s how I was raised. That’s my identity, and that’s who I am as a player.”


New Bears linebacker T.J. Edwards speaks with the media on March 16 at Halas Hall in Lake Forest.

Meanwhile, Poles touted Edwards’ instincts and “awesome story” last week.

Edwards, who is 6-foot-1 and weighs 242 pounds, joined the Eagles as an undrafted rookie out of Wisconsin in 2019 and ended up starting 47 games over four seasons. He had 159 tackles, 10 tackles for a loss, five quarterback hits, two sacks and seven passes defended over 17 games in 2022 for an Eagles defense that fueled a run to the Super Bowl.

He echoed Edmunds’ drive to get better.

“I was raised in a way where you have to earn every single thing you get,” Edwards said. “Nothing is given in this world. That’s on the football field and life. The one thing that’s undefeated is hard work. As cliché as it sounds, getting up every day and putting two feet on the ground and getting to the task that you need to is what’s really helped me.

“That draft weekend was a long weekend, but for me all it did was help burn that hunger into my head. It’ll never go away. It’s something that I’m always chasing. I always want to be the best, and it’s my job to get up every day and find something new to work at and find something new to challenge myself with so that I can continue to be better and better. I don’t think I’m anywhere near the football player I can be. I’m excited.”

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