The Chicago Bears had one of the most impressive free agency periods this year. With a new head coach and a young quarterback in tow, they became a much more attractive landing spot for free agents, and that attraction was made apparent by how much talent they brought in.
The Bears are still far from finished, as there will likely be a couple of re-signings and depth additions before the 2018 NFL Draft starts on April 26. However, let’s take a look at what their depth chart looks like after the first wave of free agency.
Starter: Mitchell Trubisky
Backups: Chase Daniel, Tyler Bray
The Bears found their franchise quarterback (who apparently isn’t a top 32 quarterback in the NFL) last offseason, so this year they made an attempt to find an insurance option for him, and they did just that. They got two of them, actually. Daniel and Bray are both solid backups with experience in head coach Matt Nagy’s system, so the learning curve for them should be practically nonexistent for them.
Starter: Jordan Howard
Backups: Tarik Cohen, Taquan Mizzell
Fullback: Michael Burton
The dynamic duo of Howard and Cohen is still in tact, despite trade rumors regarding the former that circulated at the NFL Combine. Last year’s third-string back Benny Cunningham is still a free agent, but he may be worth bringing back for 2018. If they don’t keep him, then don’t be shocked if the Bears pick a running back on Day 3 of the draft.
Starters: Allen Robinson, Taylor Gabriel
Slot: Cameron Meredith
Backups: Kevin White, Josh Bellamy
Futures Deals: Demarcus Ayers, Tanner Gentry, Mekale McKay
What was once the biggest weakness on Chicago’s roster is now solidified with talent. The Bears may consider drafting one more wide receiver late in the draft, but their starters are basically set in stone. And no, Gabriel will probably not be lining up in the slot, as he lined up primarily as a split end or a flanker receiver in Atlanta. Trust me, I learned this fact a little bit later than others.
Starter: Adam Shaheen
Backups: Trey Burton, Dion Sims, Daniel Brown, Ben Braunecker
Futures Deal: Colin Thompson
One may argue that, given the big contract that the Bears gave Burton this offseason, he will be their starter at tight end. In reality, though, one should expect his role in Chicago to be fairly similar to his role with the Philadelphia Eagles. Nagy will likely utilize both Burton and Shaheen, running many two tight-end sets in the process. The real shocker here is that Sims is still on the roster. The Bears opted to not cut him before Friday, so $4 million of his $6 million base salary this season will be guaranteed. He will likely serve as a blocking tight end, although Chicago likely could have found someone to play a similar role for a much cheaper price.
Left Tackle: Charles Leno Jr.
Left Guard: Eric Kush
Center: Cody Whitehair
Right Guard: Kyle Long
Right Tackle: Bobby Massie
Backups: Jordan Morgan, Hroniss Grasu, Bradley Sowell, Cameron Lee, Brandon Greene
Futures Deals: Will Pericak, Travis Averill
With Josh Sitton not on the team, the Bears have a gaping hole at left guard. Neither Kush nor Morgan, the two players currently on the roster best suited for the role, would be ideal starting options on Week 1. Unless the team has a lot of faith in Morgan to start him down the stretch, expect them to target a guard at some point in the draft this year, especially if Notre Dame’s Quenton Nelson falls to them with the No. 8 pick.
Defensive End: Akiem Hicks, Jonathan Bullard
Nose Tackle: Eddie Goldman
Backups: Roy Robertson-Harris, Rashaad Coward
Bullard likely steps into the starting lineup with Mitch Unrein having signed with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Hicks and Goldman have secured their spots in the starting lineup, but the overall depth on the defensive line could be improved. The Bears may choose to look at a defensive lineman on Day 3 of the draft.
Starters: Leonard Floyd, Aaron Lynch
Backups: Sam Acho, Isaiah Irving, Howard Jones
With the overhauling of their wide receiver position, edge rusher has become far and away the Bears’ biggest need. Lynch is a solid signing, but he’d be better off serving as a rotational piece as opposed to a full-time starter. Unfortunately for them, there likely won’t be any edge rushers worth taking with the eighth pick in the first round. Barring a trade up for North Carolina State’s Bradley Chubb, expect the Bears to target an edge rusher in Rounds 2 or 4.
Starters: Danny Trevathan, Nick Kwiatkoski
Backups: Jonathan Anderson, John Timu
With Christian Jones having departed for the Detroit Lions and Jerrell Freeman presumably (but unofficially) off the team, the Bears’ depth at the inside linebacker position has become relatively thin. Kwiatkoski is a solid starting option, but he still has a bit to prove in that role. Virginia Tech’s Tremaine Edmunds figures to be a candidate for Chicago’s first-round pick, while other mid-round linebacker prospects could entice the Bears early on Day 3.
Starters: Kyle Fuller, Prince Amukamara
Nickelback: Bryce Callahan
Backups: Cre’Von LeBlanc, Jonathon Mincy
Futures Deal: Doran Grant
The Bears have their starting cornerback duo in Fuller and Amukamara, and Callahan serves as a talented nickelback option. However, the depth behind those three is severely lacking. Special teams ace Sherrick McManis is still a free agent, and it’s very possible that he may return in 2018. Regardless of whether or not he returns, the Bears should be in the mix for a boundary cornerback throughout the draft.
Free Safety: Eddie Jackson
Strong Safety: Adrian Amos
Backups: Deiondre’ Hall, Deon Bush, DeAndre Houston-Carson
Jackson and Amos proved to be a young, talented duo that could hold up the Bears’ safety positions for years to come. Both overcame obstacles - a broken leg for the former and a benching for the latter - to put together solid seasons. All of the safeties behind them are 2016 draft picks who have been rather average as of late, although Houston-Carson has been reliable on special teams. The Bears may consider drafting another safety for depth this year.
Kicker: Cody Parkey
Punter: Pat O’Donnell
Long Snapper: Vacant
The Bears started three different kickers in 2017, a trend they plan on ending with Parkey on board. O’Donnell has his best year statistically to date, with a career high in punts, net yards and yards per punt. Patrick Scales is still a free agent, while Chicago’s long snapper from last season, Andrew DePaola, became the league’s highest-paid long snapper by signing with the Oakland Raiders.