By this writer’s count, the Bears will have a total of 21 free agents when March 2018 rolls. Which of these free agents should be a top priority for the Bears to sign? Let’s take a look at who and why in this, the first of many articles on the Bears’ free agents heading into the offseason.

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It would appear as if some changes are going to be taking place in Chicago during the offseason. It is likely that head coach John Fox will be out as the team’s head coach when the season comes to an end. This means that there will be many changes coming up for the Bears. A new scheme, both offensive and defensive, will surely be put in place and that means that certain players may no longer be needed.

Out with the old and in new is what they say.

But, there are some key free agents that the Bears may want to resign and keep for another season or two. They may also want, with a new coaching staff most likely coming in, some continuity.

There are about 13 free agents that the Bears may want to keep around out of the 21 that they will have in March. Here is a list of those free agents they should keep and a small summary of why they should keep them. In future articles, we will look at each free agent closer and determine, further, how they will fit into the Bears’ scheme moving forward.

The Bears’ must keep free agents include:

Christian Jones-ILB-Say what you want about his play but he’s a pretty decent backup and knows the Bears’ system. I would think they would want to keep him around for consistency even if they change coaches this offseason.

Prince Amukamara-CB-Amukamara proved that he could help the Bears’ defense with solid play and decent health. He showed us he still has it and can stay healthy enough to contribute. Amukamara is a must re-sign player this offseason.

Kyle Fuller-CB-This is going to be a tough call. Fuller played well, for the most part, this season but struggled during his first three seasons. The Bears didn’t pick up his fifth-year option. Does that mean he’s not in their plans for 2018?

Dontrelle Inman-WR-Inman has not been with the Bears that long so it’s hard to get a read on exactly what the Bears could do with him. Let’s hope they keep Inman around for at least one more season so we can see what they have in him.

Tom Compton-OL-Compton has proven himself to be a decent backup and can start in a pinch if needed. The Bears need some depth on the offensive line and Compton can provide it. Another one year deal for him wouldn’t be a bad idea.

Kendall Wright-WR-Wright showed a little bit of what he can bring to the Bears this past Sunday against the Bengals. In a position full of inconsistency, he just might be the Bears’ most consistent receiver. Should they not bring much more in at the position next offseason, perhaps they should keep Wright around for one more year.

Mitch Unrein-DE-I wasn’t that high on Unrein to start the season but before his injury, which landed him on IR, he was playing some good football. If he isn’t hurt long term then the Bears should bring him back on a one year deal.

Sherrick McMannis-CB-McMannis is the Bears’ best special teams player and needs to be kept. He has proven his value and we saw how much he was missed when he was out injured earlier this year. Having him come back for another year wouldn’t hurt.

Benny Cunningham-RB-There is just something good about Cunningham that makes him a viable backup at running back. He can play special teams and can fill in running the ball as needed. They should bring him back for another season.

Sam Acho-OLB-The Bears are going to need as many pass rushers as they can get and they may bring in young guys who aren’t ready to step up just yet. Acho plays with all of his heart and puts in 100% effort. One more year with the Bears wouldn’t hurt him or Chicago.

Lamarr Houston-OLB-There were some that were calling for Houston to be let go to start the season and he was. It appeared as if his career in Chicago was over. But the Bears brought him back needing him for depth. Houston probably has another good year in him, so they could bring him back. However, I am on the fence about whether they should bring him back.

Pat O’Donnell-P-You wouldn’t think that it was vital to worry about resigning a punter. But after the kind of season O’Donnell has been having, bringing him back would be a good move. He’s consistent, he’s doing much better, and he’s reliable. The Bears need to bring him back and probably will.

Andrew DePaola-LS-Chicago still has Patrick Scales on injured reserve with a torn ACL so if he can come back; they may decide to keep him over DePaola. But if Scales struggles at all in his return, DePaola may be resigned and return next season.