Patriots defensive tackle Vince Wilfork announced Thursday that he’ll become a free agent.

NFL free-agent breakdown: Players who fit the Bears

SHARE NFL free-agent breakdown: Players who fit the Bears
SHARE NFL free-agent breakdown: Players who fit the Bears

The quintessential 3-4 nose tackle is a free agent.

Vince Wilfork announced Thursday the Patriots were not picking up his option.

“Can I still play football? Hell yea!” the 33-year-old wrote on Twitter. “Do I still love football? Hell yea.”

Would it be for the Bears’ new scheme? Stay tuned.

“It doesn’t have to be this big, 350-poundspace-eater,” new GM Ryan Pace said last month when asked about the 3-4 nose tackle spot.

Which is true — those guys don’t grow on trees. But withfree agency starting Tuesday, the Bears are bound to have interest.

The same will be true of wide receivers, were the team to decide to move on from the talented-but-complicated Brandon Marshall.

The abundance of receivers on the market — Randall Cobb, Jeremy Maclin and Torrey Smith, not to mention the disgruntled-but-employed Andre Johnson —might lessen any Marshall trade return, but would also give the Bears options to replace him.

Pace and coach John Fox can afford it, with about $28.5 million to spend, albeit to plug myriad holes.

As the Bears showed last season, though, landing famous names doesn’t always equate to victories. With that in mind, here’s a look at potential free-agent fits for the Bears:

Big fish

FS Devin McCourty—Chris Conte is likely gone and this year’s draft crop is fallow. Fox and Pace each signed big-name safeties last year, but McCourty will be a popular target.

WR Randall Cobb— Only 25 and perhaps the league’s best slot receiver, the Packers star might be a pipe dream. But if the Bears part with Marshall, they’ll look for a quick receiver opposite Alshon Jeffery.

OLB Brian Orakpo— He played only seven games in 2014 before a right pectoral injury, and in 2012 logged only two before hurting his left pec. The three-time Pro Bowler is a good bounce-back candidate; he had only one-half sack under a $11.45 franchise tag last year.

A good haul

FS Rahim Moore— He’s the second-best safety available and familiar with Fox, the only pro coach he’s known. Forget him allowing the Ravens’ 2013 playoff Hail Mary —Moore, 25, would bring stability to a unit that desperately needs it.

OLB Jason Worilds— Before turning 27 this week, he posted 7 ½ sacks and led all Steelers defenders in snaps last season.

DT Terrance Knighton—Like Moore, “Pot Roast” would fit both with Fox and his former coordinator, new Raiders head coach Jack Del Rio.

DE/DT Jared Odrick— If Miami signs Ndamukong Suh, Odrick’s out of a home. He’d fit as a 3-4 end; the Bears might have zero right now.

ILB David Harris— The 31-year-old was the quarterback of the Jets’ 3-4.

DE/OLB Pernell McPhee— He hasn’t started in two years but has flexibility the Bears covet.

OT/OG Orlando Franklin— Another former Fox disciple, Franklin could take Jordan Mills’ starting spot or move to guard if Kyle Long shifts outside.

QB Mark Sanchez— Assuming Jay Cutler returns, the Bears could do worse than a backup with 70 career starts.

A decent catch

QB Brian Hoyer —He threw nine interceptions in his final five games under new Bears quarterbacks coach Dowell Loggains, his position coach in Cleveland.

OLB Sean Weatherspoon— The former first-round pick missed last season (Achilles) and played only seven games in 2013.

DT Dan Williams— At 6-2, 327 pounds, he played a 3-4 nose for the Cardinals.

DT BJ Raji— He missed last season (torn biceps) and was bad in 2013 — Pro Football Focus gave him only one positive game grade — but could come cheap.

OLB Brooks Reed— Replace Lance Briggs with another Arizona alum? Reed was solid in Houston’s 3-4.

S Nate Allen— He had four interceptions with the Eagles last season.

QB Jake Locker— His athleticism could fit if the Bears decide to roll Cutler out more.


Twitter: @patrickfinley

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