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2018 offseason outlook: Ranking each position for the Bears based off of need

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Evaluating what the Bears’ strengths and weaknesses are heading into the beginning of the offseason, and whom they can target in both free agency and the NFL Draft.

NFL: Chicago Bears-Press Conference
The dynamic duo, Ryan Pace and Matt Nagy, will have the chance to turn the Bears into a playoff contender this offseason.
Kamil Krzaczynski-USA TODAY Sports

The 2018 NFL offseason is upon us.

With new head coach Matt Nagy in tow and the coaching staff filling up its vacancies, fans can start to focus on what the Chicago Bears will do this year to address their biggest needs. NFL Draft discussions will start to heat up, and free agency rumors are sure to pick up with time. It truly is one of the most exciting times of the year.

Coming off of a 5-11 season, the Bears clearly have a lot of work to do. However, they have their fair share of young pieces to build around. This offseason, they’ll be tasked with finding some talented veterans and more promising young players to surround them with. To know what to expect this offseason, let’s take a look at where each position stacks up in terms of need, plus which top players the Bears can either sign or draft to fix that need.

16. Running Back

Current players:

  • Jordan Howard
  • Tarik Cohen
  • Benny Cunningham (UFA)
  • Taquan Mizzell

The Bears are set at running back. Even if they choose to not bring back Benny Cunningham, I’m not so sure they’ll really make an effort to add another player at the position.

Best free agent options:

  • Le’Veon Bell
  • Carlos Hyde
  • Frank Gore
  • Dion Lewis
  • LeGarrette Blount

Best draft options:

  • Saquon Barkley, Penn State
  • Derrius Guice, LSU
  • Kerryon Johnson, Auburn
  • Bryce Love, Stanford
  • Ronald Jones II, USC

15. Punter

Current players:

  • Pat O’Donnell (UFA)

Pat O’Donnell is an impending free agent, but my guess is he stays with the Bears. He had a good season this year, and his combination of youth and skill makes him the best punter on the market.

Best free agent options:

  • Shane Lechler
  • Kevin Huber
  • Dustin Colquitt

Best draft options:

  • Michael Dickson, Texas
  • Johnny Townsend, Florida
  • J.K. Scott, Alabama

14. Quarterback

Current players:

  • Mitchell Trubisky
  • Mike Glennon (cut candidate)
  • Mark Sanchez (UFA)

With Mitchell Trubisky in the fold, the Bears won’t need to draft a quarterback of spend big bucks on one. They’ll probably be in the market to find a backup, though.

Best free agent options:

  • Drew Brees
  • Kirk Cousins
  • Jimmy Garoppolo
  • Case Keenum
  • Teddy Bridgewater

Best draft options:

  • Josh Rosen, UCLA
  • Baker Mayfield, Oklahoma
  • Sam Darnold, USC
  • Lamar Jackson, Louisville
  • Mason Rudolph, Oklahoma State

13. Long Snapper

Current players:

  • Patrick Scales (RFA)
  • Andrew DePaola (UFA)

Do I know a whole lot of long snappers? No. Nevertheless, the Bears will have to choose between the two long snappers they have on the roster, as both are free agents this year. I don’t know necessarily who the best free agents or draft options are at the position, but I expect Chicago to bring one of the aforementioned two back.

12. Center

Current players:

  • Cody Whitehair
  • Hroniss Grasu

After a somewhat slow start to the year, Cody Whitehair settled in and finished off the 2017 season strongly. Hroniss Grasu will be given a chance to compete for a roster spot in camp, but I doubt he’ll make the 53-man roster next year.

Best free agent options:

  • Weston Richburg
  • Ryan Jensen
  • Matt Paradis

Best draft options:

  • Billy Price, Ohio State
  • Frank Ragnow, Arkansas
  • Coleman Shelton, Washington

11. Nose Tackle

Current players:

  • Eddie Goldman
  • John Jenkins (UFA)

Eddie Goldman seems to have the starting nose tackle job on lock. The Bears rarely used John Jenkins this year, though - he played on 10.3 percent of defensive snaps and was a healthy scratch until Week 8 - so they might be in the market for a backup.

Best free agent options:

  • Dontari Poe
  • Bennie Logan
  • Kyle Williams
  • Haloti Ngata
  • Star Lotulelei

Best draft options:

  • Vita Vea, Washington
  • Derrick Nnadi, Florida State
  • Da’Ron Payne, Alabama
  • Harrison Phillips, Stanford
  • Lowell Lotulelei, Utah

10. Kicker

Current players:

  • Mike Nugent (UFA)
  • Cairo Santos (UFA)

Chicago’s conundrum at kicker in 2017 proved that they should look for a long-term solution this offseason. Connor Barth stunk up the joint and got cut, Cairo Santos essentially played hurt and Mike Nugent was decent, but the veteran, who will be 36 when next season comes around, might not be their best bet for a long-term answer.

Best free agent options:

  • Graham Gano
  • Chris Boswell
  • Matt Bryant
  • Adam Vinatieri
  • Kai Forbath

Best draft options:

  • Daniel Carlson, Auburn
  • Eddy Piniero, Florida
  • Griffin Oakes, Indiana

9. Safety

Current players:

  • Adrian Amos
  • Eddie Jackson
  • Quintin Demps (cut candidate)
  • DeAndre Houston-Carson
  • Deon Bush
  • Deiondre’ Hall

It’s probably safe to say that the Bears have found long-term starters at both free safety and strong safety. Adrian Amos and Eddie Jackson both had impressive seasons, but the depth behind them is questionable. Quintin Demps might not be on the roster next year, while DeAndre Houston-Carson is the only safety among the bottom three who have made a noticeable impact.

Best free agent options:

  • LaMarcus Joyner
  • Morgan Burnett
  • Tre Boston
  • Eric Reid
  • Kenny Vaccaro

Best draft options

  • Minkah Fitzpatrick, Alabama
  • Derwin James, Florida State
  • DeShon Elliott, Texas
  • Ronnie Harrison, Alabama
  • Quin Blanding, Virginia

8. Tight End

Current players:

  • Adam Shaheen
  • Dion Sims (cut candidate)
  • Zach Miller (UFA)
  • Daniel Brown (ERFA)
  • Ben Braunecker

Despite being criminally underused this year, Adam Shaheen flashed a lot of potential in the limited opportunities he had to shine. However, the depth behind him leaves a lot of questions. Zach Miller is unfortunately unlikely to ever play another down in the NFL again, and Dion Sims might get cut some time this offseason. It wouldn't be surprising to see them look for a reliable backup for Shaheen.

Best free agent options:

  • Jimmy Graham
  • Tyler Eifert
  • Cameron Brate
  • Austin Seferian-Jenkins
  • Antonio Gates

Best draft options:

  • Dallas Goedert, South Dakota State
  • Mark Andrews, Oklahoma
  • Hayden Hurst, South Carolina
  • Mike Gesicki, Penn State
  • Troy Fumagalli, WisconsinTro

7. Defensive End

Current players:

  • Akiem Hicks
  • Mitch Unrein (UFA)
  • Jonathan Bullard
  • Roy Robertson-Harris
  • Rashaad Coward

Akiem Hicks is the best player on the Bears’ defense right now, and arguably the entire team. The end spot opposite from him, though, isn’t as secure. Mitch Unrein is a free agent, and Jonathan Bullard hasn’t proven a whole lot yet. Roy Robertson-Harris also has potential, but he’s still fairly raw. Rashaad Coward is an intriguing depth piece, but he’s not expected to battle for the starting spot any time soon.

Best free agent options:

  • Sheldon Richardson
  • DaQuan Jones
  • Dominique Easley
  • Matt Longacre
  • Shelby Harris

Best draft options:

  • Maurice Hurst, Michigan
  • Christian Wilkins, Clemson
  • Taven Bryan, Florida
  • Andrew Brown, Virginia
  • Rasheem Green, USC

6. Inside Linebacker

Current players:

  • Danny Trevathan
  • Jerrell Freeman (cut candidate)
  • Nick Kwiatkoski
  • Christian Jones (UFA)
  • John Timu (RFA)
  • Jonathan Anderson

Although he played very well in 2016, a combination of age, injuries and two PED-related suspensions likely will bring an end to Jerrell Freeman’s short-lived tenure in Chicago. The Bears have two solid starters in Danny Trevathan and Nick Kwiatkoski, but they should look for a backup or two, especially if Christian Jones leaves in free agency.

Best free agent options:

  • Preston Brown
  • Zach Brown
  • Demario Davis
  • Navarro Bowman
  • Avery Williamson

Best draft options:

  • Roquan Smith, Georgia
  • Jerome Baker, Ohio State
  • Rashaan Evans, Alabama
  • Malik Jefferson, Texas
  • Tremaine Edmunds, Virginia Tech

5. Offensive Guard

Current players:

  • Josh Sitton (cut candidate)
  • Kyle Long
  • Eric Kush
  • Jordan Morgan
  • Cameron Lee

What appears to be one of the Bears’ strongest positions might be a pretty big need going forward. Josh Sitton is getting older, and, although I personally doubt it happens, he could possibly get cut this offseason. Kyle Long is also getting older, and he is coming off of a myriad of serious injuries. Two of Chicago’s backup guards, Eric Kush and Jordan Morgan, are also coming off of injuries that sidelined them for the entirety of the 2017 season. The Bears should look into adding some youth to their group of guards.

Best free agent options:

  • Andrew Norwell
  • Justin Pugh
  • Josh Kline
  • Brandon Fusco
  • Matt Slauson

Best draft options:

  • Quenton Nelson, Notre Dame
  • Braden Smith, Auburn
  • Will Hernandez, UTEP, UTEP
  • Isaiah Wynn, Georgia
  • Sean Welsh, Iowa

4. Offensive Tackle

Current players:

  • Charles Leno Jr.
  • Bobby Massie (cut candidate)
  • Tom Compton (UFA)
  • Bradley Sowell (UFA)
  • Brandon Greene

Believe it or not, I don’t see left tackle as that much of a need, if you can call it a need at all. Charles Leno Jr. isn’t elite by any means, but he’s a young and reliable tackle who has been progressing year in and year out. The right tackle spot, though, leaves a lot to be desired. Bobby Massie was inconsistent this year, and, with the contract he has, he might be a cap casualty this offseason. Their two main backups, who are free agents, weren’t all that great, either.

Best free agent options:

  • Nate Solder
  • Chirs Hubbard
  • Cameron Fleming
  • Greg Robinson
  • Donald Stephenson

Best draft options:

  • Connor Williams, Texas
  • Mike McGlinchey, Notre Dame
  • Kolton Miller, UCLA
  • Martinas Rankin, Mississippi State
  • Chukwuma Okorafor, Western Michigan

3. Cornerback

Current players:

  • Kyle Fuller (UFA)
  • Prince Amukamara (UFA)
  • Bryce Callahan (RFA)
  • Cre’Von LeBlanc
  • Marcus Cooper (cut candidate)
  • Sherrick McManis (UFA)

As I’ve mentioned before, the cornerback position hasn't been talked about as a big need as much as it should be. Four of the six corners of the Bears will be free agents to some degree this offseason, and one of them is a cut candidate. Obviously, re-signing Kyle Fuller is ideal, but it’s not guaranteed. If they lose him, then they’ll have to find a new No. 1 cornerback.

Best free agent options:

  • Trumaine Johnson
  • Malcolm Butler
  • E.J. Gaines
  • Aaron Colvin
  • Patrick Robinson

Best draft options:

  • Isaiah Oliver, Colorado
  • Joshua Jackson, Iowa
  • Jaire Alexander, Louisville
  • Denzel Ward, Ohio State
  • Carlton Davis, Auburn

2. Wide Receiver

Current players:

  • Cameron Meredith (RFA)
  • Kendall Wright (UFA)
  • Dontrelle Inman (UFA)
  • Kevin White
  • Markus Wheaton (cut candidate)
  • Joshua Bellamy (UFA)

As is the case with the cornerback position, a lot of Chicago’s wide receivers will be hitting the open market this offseason. Cameron Meredith isthe only true lock to stay on the roster, although Kendall Wright is a good candidate to be re-signed. Kevin White will also likely make it to at least training camp. Regardless, the wide receiver position must be improved if the Bears want to be taken seriously next year.

Best free agent options:

  • Jarvis Landry
  • Sammy Watkins
  • Allen Robinson
  • Paul Richardson
  • Marqise Lee

Best draft options:

  • Calvin Ridley, Alabama
  • Courtland Sutton, SMU
  • Simmie Cobbs Jr., Indiana
  • Dante Pettis, Washington
  • Christian Kirk, Texas A&M

1. Edge Rusher

Current players:

  • Leonard Floyd
  • Pernell McPhee (cut candidate)
  • Willie Young (cut candidate)
  • Sam Acho (UFA)
  • Lamarr Houston (UFA)
  • Isaiah Irving
  • Howard Jones

The most important pieces of a football team is the quarterback and the guy who can pressure the quarterback. The Bears now have the former, but they don’t have much of a long-term plan at the latter. Leonard Floyd has shown that he can be a very good edge rusher in the NFL, but even he has his concerns. He still needs to get better at winning one-on-one battles, and he needs to stay healthy - he has missed 10 games in his first two seasons in the pros. Behind him is a hodgepodge of aging veterans, many of whom have injury concerns, and two young players with limited upside. Finding a partner-in-crime for Floyd is crucial this offseason.

Best free agent options:

  • DeMarcus Lawrence
  • Ezekiel Ansah
  • Adrian Clayborn
  • Junior Galette
  • Julius Peppers

Best draft options:

  • Bradley Chubb, North Carolina State
  • Clelin Ferrell, Clemson*
  • Lorenzo Carter, Georgia
  • Arden Key, LSU
  • Harold Landry, Boston College

UPDATE: Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney said at a team banquet on Saturday that Ferrell will be staying for his senior year. Although this hasn’t been confirmed by the school, Ferrell himself or a national media outlet, it’s definitely a situation worth monitoring.

This offseason is going to be crucial for the Bears if they want to take that next step into becoming a legit playoff contender. It will be interesting to see what their plan is for attacking their needs this year.