As you can expect my top three Chicago Bears needs for 2014 will have a defensive slant. Last year the Bears fielded a top 10 offense, while their defense was near the bottom of the barrel.
1) Defensive End - The NFL is a passing league, and if you can't disrupt the opposing quarterback you'll struggle to stop anyone. The Bears need help both via free agency and via the draft. They need an established edge rusher to take over for the declining, and soon to be (we think) cut, Julius Peppers.
Bringing back Corey Wootton is a possibility, but I think the Bears need some more speed off the edge. I think they'll wait out the initial rush of free agency and look for a couple of veteran bargains.
Picking at 14 in the draft will net the Bears a very good prospect, as this draft is top heavy on the defensive line. Missouri's Kony Ealy is a guy that could get after the QB from the defensive end position, and some mock drafters predict he'll be in the mix for the Bears at 14.
If the Bears don't grab a DE in the 1st round, they better get one at some point. The position is in desperate need of some competition.
2) Defensive Tackle - The Bears actually weren't that bad against the pass last year, but that was helped out because they were so awful against the run. They need some actual NFL caliber DTs on their roster, and it would help if they remained healthy.
I'd be fine if they brought back Jeramiah Ratliff, Nate Collins or Henry Melton, but they also need to keep their eyes open for a free agent upgrade.
Melton and Collins are coming off knee injuries, but Ratliff finished the year healthy after working his way back in shape following his own injuries. If the Bears do plan on some hybrid stuff up front in 2014, Ratliff maybe be the best bet among the three.
There are a handful of DTs that could be had in the first round at 14 overall that could step in and compete for a starting position. The Bears could also explore some of the DT/DE hybrid type players at some point in the draft. The Bears will draft DT at some point because much like DE, they need competition at the position
3) Safety - The top two safeties are good bets to receive franchise tags, but if the Cleveland Browns let T.J. Ward test the market, the Bears need to give him serious consideration. Ward is a complete football player and he's young enough (27) to be a part of the defensive core moving forward.
The Bears will have at least one new starting safety in 2014, and with Chris Conte's play slipping last year they may have a new tandem starting. Donte Whitner, Antoine Bethea, Chris Clemons and Louis Delmas are all possibilities and would all be upgrades. The Bears will bring in a veteran safety or two this off season.
Ha Ha Clinton-Dix from Alabama is a possibility at 14, but the Bears will have to weigh their board and gauge their chances at getting the highest quality group of defenders in the early rounds.
Would S, DL, DL make the most sense? Could they go DL at 14 then find a quality safety in the 2nd or 3rd?
What are your top three needs for the Bears this off season?