My, how times change.
Last year, the Super Bowl ended, and all thoughts immediately turned to worries about having a season, or if not worrying, then at least dreading the eventual months of legal battles, missed practice time, and needless complaining that Jay Cutler wasn't publicly demanding and/or bragging about private workouts and/or screaming for somebody to improve his team. (Instead, he was pouting because he might not have an NFL job, cause Caleb Hanie was taking the Bears by storm. This, by the way, is sarcasm.)
But instead of worrying about Cutler's knee and having pundits reaching for stories question his toughness for months on end (or as Lester so doesn't like it referred to as, "Knee-gate") like we were at this time last year, now we're looking forward to the possibilities a new general manager in Phil Emery can bring to a club in need of upgrades at numerous positions.
(I'm also looking forward to Madden '13 being released with full rosters at release without a download, but that's beside the point.)
And the nice part is, the Bears don't have to wait until July or August to get it done in the span of two days.
The lockout threw a major kink in the works last year, preventing free agency, rookie signings, offseason workouts and other practices, obstacles which may have hindered the development of some of the younger prospects on the roster. With that being said, I don't often have predictions, but I'd like to lay out a few predictions for the coming year.
1) J'Marcus Webb will be the starting left tackle.
Will I be happy with that? No. I don't think he's all that great, and I'd really like him to show me what he's apparently been showing Mike Tice the last two years (or maybe I wouldn't). But with a full offseason of work, maybe there's a chance he becomes at least league average at tackle.
2) The Mike Tice Offense Will Break 5500 Yards.
That's not as outlandish as it seems - In 2010, the Bears were at 4600 and this year finished just above 5000... But, before Cutler was injured, they had a chance with how Forte was rushing the ball. And right in the midst of the 5-game losing streak, the Bears were halted on offense, only going 647 yards combined. 5500 is 343 per game, or about 250 passing and 90 rushing. While 5500 would only return the team to the league mean average in 2011, I think with a full offseason, defenses, which had been somewhat slowed to start the year, will return to the norm a little, and I think we'll get a slightly above-average offense in 2012.
3) The Bears will add at least two receivers, one free agent.
The Bears' receiving corps is not a strong point, and while I'd love to see them draft a young worthy first-round receiver, assuming Roy Williams doesn't return and leaving out Devin Hester, the oldest Bears' receiver is Johnny Knox... at 25. I fully expect the Bears to draft a wide receiver, but I also expect a free-agent to come in and show the kids how it's really done.
4) One new linebacker will also be added.
I keep forgetting JT Thomas is a Bear, considering he was placed on injured reserve last season, but his presence will mean the Bears have to add one less body to a position left dangerously thin in bodies last year, a position I'm sure they won't want to repeat.
5) Corey Wootton will have a bounce-back year.
Maybe it'll turn out he won't be very good, since he couldn't get on the field last year behind an UDFA in Mario Addison, Nick Reed, and later Chauncey Davis, but I think with another offseason of work, maybe Wootton will get it in gear and add to that singular (admittedly legendary) sack on his record.
6) Brian Urlacher will continue to play excellent football.
Because he's Brian Urlacher.
7) And the Bears will have a deal with Matt Forte by March 20.
Why then? That's my guess, but with being able to actually negotiate right now, I think they'll hammer something out.