LAKE FOREST – To start free agency, the Bears are adding to their defense with a player with local ties.

Per numerous reports, the first from Ian Rapoport of the NFL Network, the Bears will sign former Eagles linebacker and Lake Villa native T.J. Edwards to a three-year, $19.5 million deal.

The Bears were able to begin negotiating with players who will become unrestricted free agents on Monday morning but cannot officially sign the players until the start of the new league year on Wednesday.

Edwards is expected to be a starter at middle linebacker as he takes a lead role on the defense and is the likely long-term replacement for Roquan Smith, who was traded to the Ravens last season. He could play alongside another Chicago area native who also played at Wisconsin – Lake Zurich’s Jack Sanborn.

A former standout at Lakes Community High School, Edwards just completed his fourth season in the NFL with the Eagles, helping the team to the NFC Championship this past season. In 61 career regular season games, 47 of which he started, he has 389 tackles, 20 for loss with five sacks. He also has two interceptions and two fumble recoveries in his career.

This past season, Edwards started all 17 games for Philadelphia, making a career-high 159 tackles with ten for loss, two sacks, seven passes defended, and one fumble recovery.

During the 2022 NFL Playoffs, Edwards had 21 tackles with a pass defended in wins over the Giants and 49ers then the loss to the Chiefs in Super Bowl LVII.

The linebacker signed with the Eagles as an undrafted free agent after a standout career at Wisconsin, where he was a first team All-Big Ten selection twice and a first team All-American in 2017. Edwards was also named the defensive MVP of the 2017 Cotton Bowl as the Badgers defeated Western Michigan.