The Bears secured a potential franchise cornerstone in rookie quarterback Justin Fields this year, but the national media believes they are still a work in progress.
ESPN ran an exercise (ESPN+ subscribers only) in which they ranked each NFL team based on their outlook over the next three years. Using each team’s overall roster, quarterback situation, coaching, draft ability and front office, a collection of media members predicted how the NFL would play out in the immediate future.
The Bears weren’t given a favorable ranking, placing 27th in the league with a 69.1 total score that falls under ESPN’s “very bad” territory. Their grading scale cited poor front office decisions and below-average coaching as the biggest factors in Chicago’s low ranking.
Field Yates indicated that strong play from Fields could have the Bears rise up their rankings and would likely see Ryan Pace and Matt Nagy’s jobs secured for the foreseeable future. However, he also knocked the team’s limited cap flexibility, lack of premier draft capital and an aging roster.
Jeremy Fowler had this to say about the long-term status of Bears’ defense:
A once-great but now-aging Chicago defense can retool on the fly while maintaining star power. Akiem Hicks will have trade value, Robert Quinn has an out in his contract in 2022 and Khalil Mack has a modest (for his standards) $12 million salary with a $5.5 million roster bonus next year. In fact, Chicago could move on from the contracts of Mack and safety Eddie Jackson after next season if it wants. The Bears can phase out certain players while building around promising young stars Roquan Smith and Jaylon Johnson.
The presence of Fields gives the Bears more of a positive long-term outlook than it had prior to the 2021 offseason, and the aforementioned opportunity to free up cap space could help them surround their new quarterback with younger talent. Those factors could certainly help Chicago solidify themselves as true playoff contenders in the near future.
However, one can certainly see why others may be worried about the Bears’ future. Their roster is in the bottom 10 in terms of average age, and 7 of their 11 most expensive players by annual salary are over 30 years old. Their offensive line still seems a piece or two away from being set, the defense doesn’t have too many budding stars, and their offensive weapons are an Allen Robinson departure away from reaching worrisome territory.
Chicago figures to have plenty of work to do before they can prove themselves as a sustainable playoff contender, but that doesn’t mean it’s impossible. Having a quarterback with the potential that Fields has certainly makes it a lot easier to be more confident in their future.