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Bears mailbag: Post-combine/pre-free agency madness

The combine is over and the start of the new league year is around the corner. What can we expect from the Bears over the next few weeks?

NFL: Detroit Lions at Chicago Bears Matt Marton-USA TODAY Sports
NCAA Football: Citrus Bowl-Kentucky vs Penn State Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

The wildness of the offseason is upon us and I for one, couldn’t be happier.

The NFL combine has concluded and so will the franchise tag process later this afternoon, but the best has yet to come. Whether you’re more of a free agent person or a draft geek, the offseason has something to offer for everybody.

In the coming weeks, we’ll see multiple things come to fruition for the Chicago Bears. Those include decisions on internal free agents such as Bryce Callahan, Adrian Amos, Aaron Lynch and Pat O’Donnell. On top of that, the Bears will have a limited amount of cap space and draft picks to work with. The good news? They don’t have many holes and should have more than enough to improve the overall roster.

For more on the what to expect in the coming weeks, let’s dive straight in to this week’s mailbag.

The Bears are going to have some interesting options when it comes to their third edge rusher spot. It’s possible that Lynch could be re-signed, but keep in mind that Vic Fangio may want him, and Lynch himself has said that he’s played his best football under him.

This is a deep free agent class, with plenty of options ranging from expensive players like Trey Flowers, Za’Darius Smith and Preston Smith. There will also be veterans like Terrell Suggs, Cameron Wake, Chris Long and maybe even Justin Houston who is expected to be released if not traded soon.

Out of all of those options, I like Suggs the best and it’s key to keep in mind that he has a history with new defensive coordinator Chuck Pagano. It’s not a guarantee that he’ll hit the open market, but if he does, look for him to be an option if the price lines up. They could also opt to wait until the draft, but my guess is that they’ll want some sort of proven option. Remember, depth is important for any team looking to make a Super Bowl run.

In terms of specific names, I haven’t heard of any one name the Bears are interested in.

I think we can safely assume that Le’Veon Bell won’t be an option for multiple reasons, but none better than his price tag. The next tier of running backs are Tevin Coleman, Mark Ingram, Latavius Murray and T.J. Yeldon.

Of those names, I think that guys like Ingram and Yeldon would make the most sense due to price and overall fit.

Spencer Ware is another player that could be in play. He’d be cheap and has plenty of familiarity in Nagy’s offense, health has been his biggest issue, though.

I do think the Bears plan to replace Jordan Howard and I think Pace will use multiple options to do so. I also expect them to sign a free agent, but I’m not sure they’ll spend too much on one, which could rule out Coleman who was reported asking for around $7 million per year.

As Brad Biggs of the Chicago Tribune reported on Sunday, the Bears aren’t expected to spend big on a kicker. That rules out both Stephen Gostkowski and Jason Myers.

That leaves some cheaper veteran options, like Matt Bryant or Kai Forbath, as legs they could add to the competition, but don’t expect any resolution to come from a free agent signing.

Because of that, I would also expect them to add a college kicker. Whether that’s drafting one in the seventh round or signing one as a priority undrafted free agent, remains to be seen.

As I’ve alluded to multiple times, evaluating special teams is difficult, but college kickers are the toughest of that group. With that in mind, I won’t pretend to know exactly what I’m talking about here. Going by the guidelines that Pace set last Wednesday, I think Matt Gay would be the best fit.

In my mind, there are three kickers that could get drafted. Gay, Cole Tracy and Austin Seibert. As an Oklahoma Sooners fan, I wouldn’t be overly happy with Seibert. He doesn’t have a great leg. Also, Tracy is someone that a lot of people really like, but it needs to be noted that he didn’t kick off this year for LSU. That would make me question his leg strength a little bit. Gay on the other hand, has a huge leg and albeit, it was at a high altitude, he was able to make kicks in bad weather as well.

My guess is that the Bears end up with the second kicker if they choose to draft one and my guess is that it’ll come down between Tracy or Gay, but my pick is Gay.

This is a fun one, but also one that Bears fans have to keep in mind over the next few years. The Bears aren’t expected to spend a ton this offseason and one of the main reasons for that is because of who they have coming out of contract over the next few years that are currently on rookie deals.

Here would be my ranking for this list:

  • Eddie Jackson
  • Tarik Cohen
  • Allen Robinson
  • Leonard Floyd
  • Adam Shaheen
  • Prince Amukamara

Now don’t get me wrong, I don’t have anything against Amukamara, but I somewhat doubt that he’ll get a third contract from the Bears, as I expect their secondary to continue to be on the pricey side.

I would also add Cody Whitehair to this list at either number two or three.

This is going to be an interesting draft class at the running back position. Josh Jacobs is the number one back and maybe the only one in this class who ends up in the first round. Outside of him, it’s somewhat of a crapshoot from there.

The majority of this class did not test overly well, but there’s still plenty of names to keep an eye on and that should be a fit in Nagy’s offense.

Of the three, I’d rank them like this:

  1. Darrell Henderson (Memphis)
  2. David Montgomery (Iowa State)
  3. Miles Sanders (Penn State)

For me, Henderson is my favorite fit for the Bears in this draft. Montgomery and Sanders are a little closer, but I should note that I believe that both can fit very well. I do think Montgomery is a little more well rounded and absolutely more proven at the college level.

Sanders is someone that I originally wasn’t overly high on, but is someone that is growing on me. He also tested very well at the combine, including a good show of hands during drills.

I’m not sure the Bears could go wrong with any of these three. Now the question will be- Will any of them be there when they select in the late third round?

I think we are going to see a little bit different of a defense, but nothing to drastic.

I think aggression is one thing that will change and I do think that ultimately, it will benefit the Bears. It’s also something that I think fans will enjoy, especially after Fangio’s style.

The other big change I expect is in the defensive backs department. I expect to see more man coverage, but a need for more versatility as a whole. Pagano loves to use his defensive backs in multiple different ways and there’s a good chance we’ll see him use more bodies on the field at the same time.

I do think that overall, it’s fair to expect some sort of step back. I’m not saying it will be big, but the amount of turnovers they had last year and how opportunistic they were as a whole may not be something they can replicate. I believe health played a large part in that. Even so, I expect them to still be a top five unit and look pretty similar overall.

It’s possible that Pace could opt to take a developmental quarterback in the later rounds of the draft this year, but I’m not sure it’s overly likely.

When Pace was asked about exactly this last week, he said that it’s a possibility, but it would need to be the best player available. With the amount of needs they have and limited amount of draft picks, I don’t know if quarterback is going to be high on their list of potential picks.

It’s also worth noting that Pace said he expected backup Chase Daniel to be with the team for a “long time”. There’s been some educated speculation that Daniel could be in line for an extension in the coming months, which is another way they could free up some more cap space if done right.