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Bears mailbag: Draft talk, Jordan Howard’s replacement, potential AAF targets and more

Free agency has all but come to a close for the time being, but the draft talk is just starting to ramp up. We’ll dive deep into this week’s edition of our weekly mailbag to answer your questions.

Wild Card Round - Philadelphia Eagles v Chicago Bears Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images
Kansas City Chiefs v Cleveland Browns Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images

Free agency is winding down and the upcoming draft is in full swing. Even so, the Chicago Bears found a way to make headlines a few times over the last week. The first wave started with the trade of running back Jordan Howard and finished with re-signing rotational outside linebacker Aaron Lynch.

With both transactions, it’s likely that the Bears are all but done making moves in free agency. At least in terms of impact signings that is. There’s just 22 days before the start of this year’s draft and all the focus has shifted to the end of April where the Bears aren’t slated to make their first pick until 87th overall in the third round.

With all of this in mind, there’s still plenty to talk about including Howard’s replacement, draft targets and overall roster construction. So, let’s dive right into this week’s mailbag.

When looking at overall roster construction, the Bears look to be in pretty good shape heading into the draft. Especially after the re-signing of Lynch.

Like you’ve pointed out though, there’s still some needs on the roster and those will come at positions where they can address them through the draft or in the priority undrafted free agent portion of the off-season.

As far as running back goes, I wouldn’t undersell the fit aspect when it comes to Mike Davis. No, he was nowhere near my top “want” at the running back position in free agency, but he runs very well between the tackles and that’s something head coach Matt Nagy highlighted when he spoke at the combine. The team also has Tarik Cohen and to a certain extent, Cordarelle Patterson.

Even so, I expect running back to be a top priority in a few weeks and wouldn’t be shocked if general manager Ryan Pace gets creative when addressing it. (More on that in a few)

As far as kicker goes, I don’t expect a surprise move like Stephen Gostkowski, etc. It’s possible they still could bring in a veteran like Matt Bryant or Kai Forbath. Though, I wonder why they haven’t made a move like that if they were going to. Right now they have Chris Blewitt (who special teams coach Chris Tabor personally identified a few months back) and Redford Jones. Neither has kicked in an NFL regular season game, but clearly they are searching for that “diamond in the rough” because paying veterans hasn’t worked out for them yet.

All in all, I expect both positions to be addressed in the draft. Running back will obviously come first due to positional value, but don’t be at all surprised if they spend a seventh-round pick on someone like Matt Gay.

Duke Johnson has been a popular name in my Twitter mentions over the past few days.

Yes, I think the Bears would have some level of “interest” in Johnson, but I’m not sure they would be willing to part with much more than a late round or future draft pick. It has already been reported that the Browns aren’t going to simply give him away, so that leads me to believe that they are looking for a certain compensation or they won’t move him.

In theory, Johnson seems like a good fit, but do keep in mind that he recently signed a three-year extension worth slightly over $5 million per year. Also keep in mind that in a lot of ways, he’s like a less dynamic Cohen, who has more value as an outside zone runner and a pass catcher out of the backfield.

If I had to guess, the Bears will likely look for a cheaper fit.

It’s not secret that the Bears have been somewhat docile this offseason in terms of spending in free agency. It’s also no secret that they lack draft picks in this year’s draft.

It’s also come to many’s attention that the Bears could be in line for a multitude of picks next year. Those range from a projected comp pick in the 4th round (from Adrian Amos), coupled with two more conditional picks (one from the Eagles and one from the Raiders) that could both end up being fifth-rounders.

The problem is that one the team is only projected to have a pair of second rounders, with no first or third round picks in 2020. Obviously a bulk of mid-to-late round picks are possible, but here’s how things look right now in 2020.

(2) Second Rounders (Their own and the Raiders’)
(2) Fourth Rounders (Their own and a projected comp pick for Amos)
(2) Fifth Rounders (Their own and a conditional pick from the Raiders)
(2) Sixth Rounders (Their own and a conditional pick from the Eagles that could turn into a fifth)
(1) Seventh Round

That’s a total of nine picks with all but two coming in the fourth round or later. Originally, it appeared that they would be in line for another comp pick from the Bryce Callahan deal, but because Witzmann’s deal didn’t break a threshold, he doesn’t help their current formula.

With all of this in mind, it’s plausible that the Bears could opt to trade a 2019 fourth-rounder and their 2020 second-rounder to get into the late second round like they did last year with New England. I would imagine they want to hold onto that Raiders pick because it’s likely to be much higher than their own. If they were to do that, I’d assume it would be for a running back.

I could absolutely see this happening, but again, fans need to understand the risk, especially with they lack yet another first round pick and also a third-rounder as well.

I had a few similar questions regarding the tight end position and at this point, I think it’s a valid one.

The team has a decent amount invested at the position, but I think it’s also safe to wonder how stable it is. Trey Burton appeared to be a very good pickup earlier in the year, but struggled down the stretch before missing their playoff game. Adam Shaheen has not proven he can stay healthy or even stay on his feet and Ben Braunecker is quality depth, but likely not much more.

In terms of priorities, I would say that if one is there in the mid-rounds, it could make a lot of sense. Two of my favorites would be Jace Sternberger (Texas A&M) and Foster Moreau (LSU). I do think that running back is going to be the priority, but defensive back, tight end, interior offensive line and maybe even edge rusher could be in line for additions as well.

Nagy has put a high value on the tight end position, so it wouldn’t shock me at all to see a fourth-rounder used on one.

Patterson was one of my favorite additions on the off-season so far. Not only does he bring speed, he brings versatility. The Patriots used him as a receiver, running back and kick returner.

Truth be told, he’s still a questionable receiver and he’s not likely to make a Ty Montgomery type switch to a pure running back. Even so, I absolutely believe Nagy has a plan for him and I don’t think it’ll be just in one spot.

I would expect him as the primary kick returner, as well as in a lot of gimmicky plays such as jet sweeps, multi-back backfields and as a deep threat in the passing game.

Overall, I wouldn’t expect Patterson to put up an impressive line of stats, but I do think his value is going to be bigger on the field than what most on the outside will see.

First off, I have to say I’m pretty bummed about the recent news of the AAF’s downfall just seven games into the season. Admittedly so, I didn’t watch a ton of games, but after an extended football season, I figured I would give my wife a chance to watch what she wanted to watch.

With that in mind, I think there are always positions and profiles for players that make sense for teams. For the Bears, I think the obvious ones are kicker, pass rusher and even defensive back.

As far as kickers go, the one I’d really like to see get a look is former Chargers kicker Younghoe Koo. He was perfect on the season and showed some promise before being cut in Los Angeles.

As far as edge rushers go, two names stood out to me as players worth a look: Karter Schult and Jayrone Elliott. Schult is still just 25-years-old and Elliott is a bit older at 27, but he ended up leading the league in sacks when all was said and done.

As far as defensive backs go, I think you’re simply looking for developmental depth. A few names that I’d give a look at: Chris Davis, Zack Sanchez, and one of my favorites Jamar Summers.

Not sure any of these guys will push a team over the top or fight for a starting spot in year-one, but Super Bowl contenders can never have enough depth.