For the second consecutive year, the Chicago Bears and Phil Emery made significant moves on the first day of free agency. Last year it was the crazily-lopsided trade with the Miami Dolphins to acquire Brandon Marshall. This year, Emery addressed two of the Bears' biggest weak spots by signing tight end Martellus Bennett and left tackle Jermon Bushrod. But with Nick Roach gone to the black hole, Brian Urlacher not coming back (repeat: not coming back), and other gaping roster holes along the offensive and defensive lines, what is the Bears' biggest roster need right now?
Other than the two big signings of Bennett and Bushrod, Chicago has made other lower profile moves to solidify the roster. D.J. Moore is out, but Zach Bowman is back. Matt Spaeth was released, but tight end Steve Maneri - a highly sought after blocking specialist - was signed. Turk McBride was added to provide depth at defensive end. Still, there is a lot of roster work left to do between free agency and the draft.
Below is my list of the biggest roster needs right now, from least to most important, that the Bears need to address. I don't mean they should immediately go out and fill the spot right now, but if it isn't resolved prior to the season, that roster hole will have a greater impact on the team's success than the rest. Vote in the poll at the end and hit up the comments section to make your voice be heard.
Just missed the list: Cornerback and defensive tackle
The cornerback position is in great shape with Charles Tillman and Tim Jennings... along as they stay healthy and the Bears never have to play against a team using a slot receiver. Even with Bowman resigned, the Bears do need a nickel corner, but it is not as big a need as some of these other positions. Defensive tackle is a similar need as the Bears are okay with Henry Melton and Stephen Paea backed up by Nate Collins. But with literally no one else behind those three, someone needs to be added that will end up getting a little playing time.
Dishonorable Mention: Back up Quarterback
For two reasons. One, Jay Cutler has missed seven games over the past three seasons, which isn't terrible, but its not good for your team's quarterback to miss any games, especially when the backups play like Jason Campbell and Caleb Hanie. Two, the offensive line is still terrible-to-below-average, even with Bushrod, at least until proven otherwise, meaning that there will be plenty more chances for things like this to happen. And really, whoever Trestman has holding the clipboard, we'll only know if they are any good at quarterback if Cutler gets hurt, so here's hoping that whichever QB is backing up Jay is confined to desk duty only.
#5 Most Pressing Position: Wide Receiver
The Bears have a solid top three with Brandon Marshall, Alshon Jeffrey, and Earl Bennett, and the addition of Martellus Bennett adds another wrinkle for Trestman's passing attack. However, the one thing those four guys are missing is top end speed, and while Marshall can go down the field and fight for the ball better than anyone (remember this?), the lack of a speed receiver on the outside is glaring. And, finally, for the first time in forever, that speed receiver won't be Devin Hester.
#4 Most Pressing: Center
Roberto Garza is old, terrible, and the Bears best option right now since they have no other options at center. And by no one, I mean Edwin Williams. The Bears likely won't go the aging free agent road with this position since they already have one, but this could be resolved via the draft, even with a fourth or fifth round pick.
#3 Most Pressing: Outside Linebacker
Unless you believe that J.T. Thomas, Lawrence Wilson, or Patrick Trahan is the answer to replace Nick Roach, then the Bears need someone, anyone else to play alongside Lance Briggs
and Brian Urlacher. Cheap veteran options are available, with guys like Daryl Smith (played under new D.C. Mel Tucker in Jacksonville), D.J. Williams, and Justin Durant available. Not a bigger need than the next two simply because it can be a two-down position, but it can be glaringly obvious if this spot is a giant target for other teams to exploit on first and second down.
#2 Most Pressing: Middle Linebacker
Tough call between this and my number one choice, but it comes down the MLB being a massive need on the defensive side - the top pressing hole to fill for Tucker's defense. But, the Bears have enough other talent on defensive that - while we need to address this with probably a combination of a veteran and high draft pick - the Bears can mask this position a bit if needed. Which isn't ideal, and I don't envy whomever is trying to replace a legend.
#1 Most Pressing: Guard
Weird, right? A position featuring nameless, faceless, fat guy grunts who shove people around is the Bears' most pressing need? Seriously, though, it is, by a long shot. At right guard - the more stable of the two guard positions - we have... Gabe Carimi, a fallen right tackle, and possibly a re-signed Lance Louis once he recovers from an ACL tear. That's bad, but not as bad as left guard, which has... no one, unless you count maybe converting the developing duo of James Brown or Cory Brandon there, or maybe you think Chris Riley or Nick Pieschel can get the job done. Who are those last two guys? They are the only guards currently listed on the Bears' roster. So, yeah, guard's kind of a major issue.