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Bears Mailbag: Draft talk, possible extensions, the running back situation and edge rushing depth options

With free agency winding down and draft talk on the forefront, this week’s mailbag is another hard hitter.

Wild Card Round - Philadelphia Eagles v Chicago Bears Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

As of Tuesday, we are exactly one month away from the start of the 2019 NFL draft. Every year, the draft is exciting, but obviously this year has been different for the Chicago Bears and their fans.

Not only have they taken a calculated approach in free agency, but they also lack a first and second round pick (as of now). That means the Bears won’t be making their first selection until the end of day two.

Even so, it’s hard not to be turning your focus to the draft and what the Bears may do. This is a team with a top-end roster, but due to their relatively quiet free agency, a few holes still remain including running back and edge rusher depth, among others.

With all of this in mind, let’s dive into this week’s mailbag to answer these questions and beyond.

Looking at the Bears current options, Aaron Lynch and Ezekiel Ansah appear to be the best available. Lynch has had three visits with other teams and still hasn’t signed. It’s been said that the Bears want him back, just at their price, not his rumored asking price of $5 million per year. It was also reported that Ansah recently had surgery and teams are waiting until mid-April to see the rechecked medicals before they think about signing him.

Veteran options like Nick Perry, Derrick Morgan or even Shane Ray could be cheaper options as well. Perry was cut, so he would not count against the team’s current comp pick formula that is currently projected to yield a fourth and fifth round picks.

I still maintain that the Bears will end up with some sort of veteran, it just will have to be at their price. Even after the Patrick O’Donnell re-signing, they are still sitting around $17.5 million in cap space, which is more than enough to work with.

Once the team drafted James Daniels last year, I was always in favor of keeping him at center (coming out of college). Of course, we know that they decided to keep Cody Whitehair there and to a certain extent, it was an understandable move.

  1. The Bears did not deem Daniels ready to start in Week 1.
  2. They wanted a steady presence that Mitchell Trubisky was used to under center.

With that in mind, I still believe Daniels could be a damn good center and it’s likely his best and most natural position. His athleticism fits very well in this blocking scheme at center and he’s a very steady and reliable snapper.

The one thing to keep in mind with this move is that normally, guards get paid more than centers and the Bears will get an extension done with Whitehair at some point this offseason. I’m not sure how much money will factor into this decision, but the Bears could be raising his potential price tag a million or two a year if they decide to move him to guard.

Either way, if they are going to make the switch, it needs to happen sooner rather than later.

As noted above, the Bears are in need of another edge rusher. There’s still some quality free agent options out there, but Emmanuel Ogbah is someone that is rumored to being shopped by the Cleveland Browns right now.

A few things to keep in mind with any trade scenario.

  1. The Bears have five total picks and none before 87.
  2. Although Ogbah was a former second round pick, he has seven sacks the last two years.

How much is that worth for a team like the Bears? Likely not much and more of the point, it’s probably not going to be a big enough need for the Bears to meet the Browns asking price. Remember, teams don’t give up valuable edge rushers often and when they do, it’s usually not for a cheap price.

It’s also worth noting that he’s in the last year of his rookie deal, so that would also need to be factored into the Browns asking price.

Mike Davis has 234 career carries and more importantly, his season high was in 2018 when he had 112. Obviously that does not support the theory that he could be trusted as the team’s primary back.

Even so, it’s important to keep in mind that head coach Matt Nagy is not looking for a featured back or a bell cow that can carry the ball 20-25 times per game like Jordan Howard did the past few seasons.

I would fully expect the Bears to spend one of their first few picks on a running back in next month’s draft as well.

Davis will need to stay healthy, but make no mistake, this is an offense that will have a trio of backs capable of carrying the ball 10-15 times a game and that’s exactly how Nagy wants it.

Admittedly so, I’ve been extremely behind my usual pace in terms of evaluating this draft class as a whole.

While I had taken a shallow dive into this running back class prior to this past weekend, it wasn’t until this past Friday that I truly dove in head first and was able to complete the majority of my evaluations.

As a whole, I wasn’t nearly as impressed with this class as some have hyped it up to be. For reference, I don’t have a single first round talent in this year’s class. That doesn’t make it a bad thing, but the top end of this class lacks in a big way.

I’ve also only got three second round grades and seven total backs in the first three rounds. Needless to say, at least from a value perspective, the Bears should find themselves in good shape whether it be the third or fourth round.

Here’s my top 10:

- Josh Jacobs (Alabama)
- Darrell Henderson (Memphis)
- Miles Sanders (Penn State)
- David Montgomery (Iowa State)
- Damien Harris (Alabama)
- Rodney Anderson (Oklahoma)
- Trayveon Williams (Texas A&M)
- Bruce Anderson (NDSU)
- Devin Singletary (FAU)
- Devine Ozigbo (Nebraska)

In terms of fit for the Bears, I’d go Henderson, Sanders and Williams. I’m not sure Henderson or Williams are true three down backs, at least right off the bat, but that’s not at all what it appears the Bears are looking for. I really like Montgomery, but I worry that his lack of explosion will deter Pace and company.

All in all, the Bears will have a few nice options staring them in the face at 87 overall.

There are two things that I think Trubisky needs to take sizable steps in, in order to take the “next step” and help the Bears reach the promised land. As of now, I think the tools are there for the Bears offense, but it all depends on Trubisky at this point.

  1. Footwork
  2. Pre-snap recognition

Footwork is number one for me and it’s that way for a few reasons. Consistent footwork will improve accuracy and create much more consistency overall. Sometimes I found myself wondering “What the hell?” when I would watch him miss wide open throws.

Pre-snap recognition is something that Nagy highlighted as a big key and I agree with him. Being able to understand defenses coming out of the huddle, especially coverages, will allow him to throw open receivers better and ultimately allow him to progress through his reads more naturally.

Trubisky may have been in year two of his NFL career last year, but he was also going into only his second full season of being a starting quarterback since his senior year in high school. It was also the first year in a very complex offense that asks a lot of him. If he’s going to take that leap, this is the year it will happen.

As I highlighted a few questions back, the Bears won’t make their first selection in next month’s draft until the 87th pick.

Because of that, plenty of fans (including myself) are wondering if Ryan Pace will be comfortable with waiting until that point to take his shot at one of his top running backs. This will be the first time in the Pace era that he won’t have a first round pick and in all four years prior, he’s had top 10 picks. So, obviously this will be a big change for him.

Pace is no stranger to trading up and down in the draft. His last three drafts, he’s made moves and I don’t expect this year to be any different. In regards to next year’s draft, the Bears won’t have a first rounder again, but they’ll have a pair of seconds and one of those is the Raiders’.

If the Bears are attempting to deal into the second, I would fully assume that they will have to make a similar move to last year when they dealt a fourth round pick and a future second rounder. I’m not sure how likely that is considering they lack a first and third in 2020.

Then again, I wouldn’t rule anything out with Pace because as we’ve seen, he doesn’t lack creativity and the aggressive nature to get his guy.