This offseason is arguably the most important one the Chicago Bears have had in a long time.
They have their franchise quarterback, a dynamic duo at running back, a handful of talented offensive linemen, and a couple of building blocks on defense. With a new head coach and a stacked coaching staff, the Bears are in a much better position to succeed than they were in 2017.
At this point, the Bears are still pretty far away from being a true playoff contender. However, that may change if they stay active in the offseason. They have a couple of cornerstones; they just need a few more supporting pieces to add to the puzzle.
Last week, I took a look at a few things that the Bears should not do in the offseason this year. With those roadblocks to success mapped out, let’s take a look at what they should do instead.
Retain Kyle Fuller and find another starter at cornerback
CBS Sports’ Jason La Canfora reported on Friday that Kyle Fuller will not return to the Bears this offseason. Although La Canfora comes from a big media outlet, he has had history with reporting false Bears-related information in the past.
Even if Fuller doesn’t want to re-sign with the Bears like the report say, they will likely aim to place the franchise tag on him. Considering the fact that Fuller had missed all of the 2016 season and didn’t have a stellar 2015 campaign, that might be smarter for the team than bringing him back on a long-term deal this offseason.
If they don’t bring Fuller back, then cornerback will instantly become a major need for the Bears. Even if he comes back to the team, though, they will still need to find more talent at the cornerback position. Fellow starter Prince Amukamara will be a free agent in March, and Marcus Cooper will likely be released to free up cap space. Free agents like Trumaine Johnson and Malcolm Butler - the latter of whom would likely be added on a one-year deal - could be expensive targets for them. Other players like E.J. Gaines and Aaron Colvin would be intriguing, young additions to the team.
It’s unlikely that Chicago will target a cornerback with the eighth overall pick, as the value at that spot isn’t all that great. However, players like Colorado’s Isaiah Oliver, Iowa’s Joshua Jackson and Ohio State’s Denzel Ward would be great prospects to look at if they were to trade down. Louisville’s Jaire Alexander may be available when the Bears pick in the second round, and he would be a very good addition to the roster. Virginia Tech’s Greg Stroman Jr. and San Diego State’s Kameron Kelly are players I currently have second-round grades on, but both are under-the-radar players with great ball skills, fluid hips and solid physicality who could be had in Round 4.
Add new wide receivers in both free agency and the draft
In my aforementioned article, I mentioned that the Bears should not sign Jarvis Landry, mostly because his price tag isn’t quite worth his play level. However, it is crucial for them to find some other wide receivers this offseason.
To completely fill the need, they will have to double down on addressing it in both free agency and the draft. Over the Cap currently has the Bears with just over $41 million in cap space, but with projected roster cuts like Mike Glennon, Markus Wheaton, Pernell McPhee, Marcus Cooper, Jerrell Freeman, Quintin Demps and Willie Young, they could have over $80 million in cap space. With all of that money to spend, they would have a great opportunity to add some proven talent at wide receiver.
I’ve covered a handful of weapons that the Bears should look at in free agency before, so I don’t want to sound like a broken record. Nonetheless, impending free agents like Paul Richardson, Marqise Lee, Taylor Gabriel, John Brown and Albert Wilson would all fit Matt Nagy’s system without breaking the bank too much. Chicago could also take a look at Allen Robinson, although it’s unlikely he’ll hit the open market.
The Bears probably won’t have to draft a wide receiver in the first round after they make a few moves in free agency - and one could argue they probably shouldn’t regardless - but they will likely target one on Days 2 and 3. Texas A&M’s Christian Kirk, Memphis’ Anthony Miller and Maryland’s D.J. Moore fit the bill as system-friendly players that could likely be selected in Round 2. A lot of players that project to be fourth-round picks are bigger, possession-type receivers, but players like Texas Tech’s Keke Coutee and Penn State’s DaeSean Hamilton could be available in that round and would be worth a look.
Add some youth to the interior offensive line
Josh Sitton and Kyle Long form one of the league’s better guard duos in the NFL. The problem is, neither of them have been able to stay fully healthy.
Long suffered several injuries in 2016, including a torn labrum, strained triceps and an injured ankle. That injury bug continued to bite him in 2017, as he played through shoulder, neck, ankle and finger injuries throughout the year. Although Long is a very good player, it may be tough for him to return to his Pro Bowl-caliber self. Sitton dealt with his fair share of injuries in 2017, as well. Throughout the season, he battled with ribs issues, a concussion and an ankle injury. Prior to that, Sitton dealt with shoulder and ankle problems in 2016.
Neither are necessarily spring chickens, either. Sitton will be 32 years old in June, and Long will turn 30 in December. They have both been very good when healthy, but their combination of injury history and age aren’t all that uplifting. That said, it would be wise of the Bears to target a young guard or two in the offseason.
Quenton Nelson out of Notre Dame is the top overall player on my draft board, and he will likely be available when Chicago picks at the eighth overall spot. If they decide to move on from Sitton - such a move would save over $6 million - then Nelson would likely be the best possible option for them. Free agent Andrew Norwell was great for the Carolina Panthers this season, but it’s unlikely that the Bears would be willing to dish out top dollar for a guard.
If they don’t pick Nelson, then they will likely keep Sitton and draft a developmental piece on Day 3 of the draft. Iowa’s Sean Welsh is an athletic and strong guard who has some issues with balance, but can be developed into a solid starter. He could be a solid option in Rounds 4 or 5. Skyler Phillips out of Idaho State is a small-school sleeper who dominated competition in the Big Sky Conference. His technique could use some refining, but he’s an absolute bully who blocks to the whistle. He could be a possible target in Round 5.
What do you think the Bears should do in this year’s offseason? Let me know in the comments below.