In my opinion, the Bears have 2 major offseason needs and two minor ones. If you look at the likely depth chart for 2012, this is what we have so far:
QB - Jay Cutler
RB - Matt Forte
LT - Jamarcus Webb
RG, C, LG - some combination of Garza, Edwin and Chris Williams, Louis, and Chris Spencer
RT - Gabe Carimi
TE - Kellen Davis
WR1 - Hester
WR2 - Bennett
WR3 - Knox
WR4 - Dane Sanzenbacher
MLB - Urlacher
OLB - Briggs
OLB - Roach
CB - Tillman
CB - Jennings
DE - Peppers
DE - Idonije
DT - Paea/ Akoye
DT - Melton/ Toeina
SS - Wright/ Steltz
FS - Conte
The bears were contenders last year, and could have easily been in the Super Bowl if not for injuries. If this lineup didn't change at all, they could easily be in the same position in 2012. But it should change. Not because the players are bad, but because we have the money for it to. I've heard we have 20 million to as much as 45 million to spend, but the most common being around 28 million. If we can make a good position better, we should. With the right moves, we can switch from being a super bowl contender to an absolutely DOMINANT team like the famous '85 Bears were. And here is what I think should happen given the current scenarios.
The positions in bold are the positions that need an upgrade or depth. Ranking them in order of importance, in my opinion are as follows:
1. WR - a true, tall, number 1 guy
2. DE - A third DE to add in the Peppers, Idonije rotation.
3. CB - A taller cornerback that can compete with Jennings for the starting job.
4. OLB - An outside linebacker that can compete with Roach for the starting job, add depth, and at the very least make the defense a bit younger.
The receivers on the Bear's radar seem to be disappearing by the day. It looks like Bowe will be tagged, Colston may be tagged, Reggie Wayne, from what I've read, is either going to the Patriotss or wherever Peyton goes, Michael Floyd might not be available at 19, and Kendall Wright had a horrible Combine. Who's left?
(Don't go to the comments now and say "What about Mario Manningham, Eddie Royal, Robert Meachem!) Those are all number 2 guys and we have an above average number 2 guy in Earl Bennett. He's very underrated, has great chemistry with Cutler, and doesn't need to be replaced.
I think the best scenario for the Bears would be to trade down in the draft for another second round pick and then draft Stephen Hill. He is the third best receiver in the draft, in my opinion: he's 6'4, he runs a 4.36, and he looked very smooth at the NFL combine. We shouldn't spend the 11-13 million on an older Jackson, but develop a young guy with a huge upside. AND we get an extra draft pick!
Many of you will disagree with this, but as added depth, I think signing Moss would be a brilliant move if we get him at the right price. He said recently he doesn't need any guaranteed money. There's a chance he could be washed up, but if we can sign him for say a one-year, 2.5 million dollar contract, then we should pull the trigger.
Hill, Moss, Bennett, Knox, Hester, and Sanzy would be a fine receiving core.
By not breaking the bank for someone like Vincent Jackson, this leaves a lot of money open in free agency. WE NEED TO GET CLIFF AVRIL. He has stated that he might hold out if he gets tagged, and the Lions can't afford to pay him big money. But we can. And we should. I think the Lions will let him walk, and we need to snag him. Peppers is a beast. Idonije is a solid rotation DE, and we should definitely resign him. But Cliff Avril is a monster. Adding him takes pressure off of Peppers and significantly improves the D-Line.
3. After the acquisition of Avril, we should still be under the cap by a significant amount. Enough under to get a top free agent CB. Enter Cortland Finnegan, Brent Grimes, or Brandon Carr. I would be happy with any of those 3. Lovie Smith does not like Tim Jennings. We all remember what happened when he benched him against the Packers. And who can blame him. He's a solid CB, but 5'8 just isn't enough to guard the big receivers that other NFL teams have. CB is off most people's position of need list, but Lovie Smith himself said at the combine that "5'9 corners" aren'y gonna cut it in this league. The Bears are looking to improve that position. And pairing one of those 3 big name corners with Pro Bowler Charles Tillman would be a huge upgrade to our secondary.
Let's face it. When you hear the name Nick Roach, fear doesn't exactly run through your veins like when you hear the names Urlacher and Briggs. Roach is solid, but why not complete the trio? Why not add a third beast linebacker to the Monsters of the Midway? It's not a pressing need , but I think its the next best thing for Chicago to do. If every offseason move goes the way I have so beautifully laid out, this is where we are sitting in the draft room. We've added a second round pick via a trade down in the first where we picked up Stephen Hill. We have our receiver needs met. We have Avril and Peppers on the D-line. We have 2 shut-down corners. We have young safeties and defensive tackles developing into stars. We have the best linebacking corps in the league, save for Nick Roach. This is where we trade our 2 second round picks to move up in the second round where we draft Zach Brown OLB North Carolina. He may be gone by then, but if he's there and we can make this trade, he would be a perfect fit in our 4-3 defense.
Many of you may argue that our offensive line is a more pressing need than some of the other positions I've mentioned, particularly LT. But Mike Tice has defended Webb on many occasions and seems to be sticking with him. Carimi is the RT of the future, and the interior line is fine, (we forget that the Bears had the 8th ranked rushing game in NFL last season; I know a lot of that was due to Forte, but the line is also a factor. Considering Kahlil Bell and Marion Barber both had 100+ rushing games after Matt went down.) Let's give the linemen some credit here. They aren't as bad as people think, and next year they will be fine if no changes are made. This is an article about the realistic moves the Bears could make, and I don't think the Bears are looking to draft a linemen high or sign a big name free agent like Carl Nicks.
Another position that people think should be upgraded but won't be, is TE. Kellen Davis is no superstar, but he is a good run blocker and red zone target. Lovie likes him, Tice likes him, and he will be back next year.
What do we do with our two third-round picks and the rest of our draft picks? I don't know! I'm not a draft expert, but best player available and depth will be fine with me if they do the 4 other things I've laid out. Maybe bring in some linemen to compete with the starters or some more receivers. You can decide that.
Finally, what about our own free agents? Let Caleb Hanie, Roy Williams, Brandon Meriweather, Zackary Bowman, and Chris Massey walk. Resign the rest. ("But Marion Barber!") Don't get me wrong, I wanted to punch Marion Barber in the face after the Broncos game mishaps. But he did what he was brought in to do and he is a good number 2, power red zone back.
So there you have it. All of these moves are very realistic and can be done. Given what is going on elsewhere in the league, this is what I think the best case scenario is. If the Bears do this, they should win the Super Bowl.