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2022 offseason outlook: Ranking each position for Bears by need

The Bears will have plenty of tough moves to make this offseason, so let’s see which positions will likely be prioritized this year.

NFL: Minnesota Vikings at Chicago Bears Jon Durr-USA TODAY Sports

The 2021-22 NFL season has officially concluded, ending with Super Bowl LVI on Sunday.

Even though there won’t be any semblance of an NFL game until August, there’s a whole offseason ahead of us that should provide plenty of interesting moments, especially for Bears fans.

It’s a new era in Chicago, as new general manager Ryan Poles and head coach Matt Eberflus look to propel the Bears to something they haven’t had in roughly 15 years: sustained success. After a rough 6-11 season with several starters slated to hit free agency, the new regime has a chance to make its presence felt in a major way on this roster.

To forecast where Chicago stands with the offseason underway, let’s break down each position on the Bears’ and rank them based off of need. The lower down on the list a position may be, the bigger the need it is.

In addition to this internal analysis, I will discuss potential free agency and draft options at each position. To switch things up this year, I will not only be breaking down realistic draft targets for specific positions, but I will also be including more realistic free agent options, as opposed to the most popular free agents at each position.

Without further ado, let’s begin.

14. Kicker

Roster:

  • Cairo Santos

Santos is still under contract for the Bears and had another solid season in 2021. He’s not going anywhere.

Free agents:

  • Raiders K Daniel Carlson
  • Panthers K Zane Gonzalez
  • Jets K Eddy Pineiro

Bears draft targets:

  • Texas K Cameron Dicker (Round 6-7)
  • Oklahoma K Gabe Brkic (Round 7-UDFA)
  • LSU K Cade York (Round 7-UDFA)

13. Long snapper

Roster:

  • Patrick Scales (UFA)

Though Scales is a free agent, he’s been the Bears’ long snapper since 2015 and hasn’t caused any issues. It would be surprising if they didn’t bring him back, but stranger things have happened.

Free agents:

  • Ravens LS Morgan Cox
  • Falcons LS Josh Harris
  • Cardinals LS Aaron Brewer

Bears draft targets:

  • Arkansas LS Jordan Silver (Round 7-UDFA)
  • Pittsburgh LS Cal Adomitis (Round 7-UDFA)

12. Punter

Roster:

  • Pat O’Donnell (UFA)

O’Donnell isn’t an elite punter, but he’s been rock-solid for most of his NFL career. He gets the job done, so it’s unlikely the Bears replace him at punter.

Free agents:

  • Dolphins P Michael Palardy
  • Cowboys P Bryan Anger
  • Packers P Corey Bojorquez

Bears draft targets:

  • San Diego State P Matt Araiza (Round 4-5)
  • Penn State P Jordan Stout (Round 5-6)
  • Georgia P Jame Camarda (Round 7-UDFA)

11. Edge rusher

Roster:

  • Khalil Mack
  • Robert Quinn
  • Trevis Gipson
  • Jeremiah Attaochu (cut candidate)
  • Bruce Irvin (UFA)
  • Sam Kamara
  • Charles Snowden (futures)
  • Ledarius Mack (futures)

Unless the Bears choose to trade Quinn, they’ll be more than set at the edge rusher position. Mack, Quinn and Gipson all have experience with their hand in the dirt and should translate very well to a base 4-3 system.

Free agents:

  • 49ers EDGE Arden Key
  • Giants EDGE Lorenzo Carter
  • Colts EDGE Al-Quadin Muhammad

Bears draft targets:

  • Oklahoma EDGE Isaiah Thomas (Round 4-5)
  • Ohio State EDGE Tyreke Smith (Round 5-6)
  • Miami (OH) EDGE Dominique Robinson (Round 5-6)
  • UAB EDGE Alex Wright (Round 6-7)
  • Liberty EDGE Durrell Johnson (Round 7-UDFA)

10. Quarterback

Roster:

  • Justin Fields
  • Andy Dalton (UFA)
  • Nick Foles (trade candidate)
  • Ryan Willis (futures)

It might be tough for the Bears to move Foles, but if they do, they’ll be in the market for a backup quarterback for Fields. Dalton could be an option if he’s cheap enough, but he might get more in the open market than the new regime is willing to pay.

Free agents:

  • Seahawks QB Geno Smith
  • Cardinals QB Colt McCoy
  • Lions QB Tim Boyle

Bears draft targets:

  • Western Michigan QB Kaleb Eleby (Round 5-6)
  • Brown QB E.J. Perry (Round 6-7)
  • Kansas State QB Skylar Thompson (Round 7-UDFA)
  • Miami (FL) QB D’Eriq King (Round 7-UDFA)
  • Southeastern Louisiana QB Cole Kelley (UDFA)

9. Running back

Roster:

  • David Montgomery
  • Khalil Herbert
  • Tarik Cohen (cut candidate)
  • Damien Williams (UFA)
  • Ryan Nall (RFA)

Montgomery and Herbert project as one of the better backfield duos in the NFL. What happens to Cohen after missing nearly two full seasons to injury is unknown, but the Bears could look to add some depth in the form of a cheap free agent or late-round pick.

Free agents:

  • Chargers RB Justin Jackson
  • Bills RB Matt Breida
  • Cowboys RB Corey Clements

Bears draft targets:

  • Missouri RB Tyler Badie (Round 4-5)
  • Baylor RB Abram Smith (Round 4-5)
  • USC RB Keaontay Ingram (Round 5-6)
  • Oregon RB C.J. Verdell (Round 5-6)
  • Washington State RB Max Borghi (Round 7-UDFA)

8. Safety

Roster:

  • Eddie Jackson
  • Tashaun Gipson (UFA)
  • Deon Bush (UFA)
  • DeAndre Houston-Carson (UFA)
  • Marqui Christian (UFA)

Ryan Pace generally went with cheap starting options alongside Jackson: will Ryan Poles do the same? Jackson is the only safety under contract heading into the offseason, so it will be interesting to see what the secondary looks like next year.

Free agents:

  • Cowboys S Malik Hooker
  • Panthers S Sean Chandler
  • 49ers S Tarvarius Moore

Bears draft targets:

  • Michigan S Daxton Hill (Round 2-3)
  • Georgia S Lewis Cine (Round 2-3)
  • Illinois S Kerby Joseph (Round 3-4)
  • Maryland S Nick Cross (Round 5-6)
  • Baylor S JT Woods (Round 5-6)

7. Tight end

Roster:

  • Cole Kmet
  • Jimmy Graham (UFA)
  • Jesse James (UFA)
  • J.P. Holtz (RFA)
  • Jesper Horsted (ERFA)

The tight end position is in a similar spot as safety, in that they have their starter, but nobody else is under contract. With Graham hitting free agency, expect the Bears to look for a faster tight end who can complement Kmet’s physicality.

Free agents:

  • Vikings TE Chris Herndon
  • Seahawks TE Will Dissly
  • Falcons TE Hayden Hurst

Bears draft targets:

  • Nevada TE Cole Turner (Round 4-5)
  • Virginia TE Jelani Woods (Round 4-5)
  • SMU TE Grant Calcaterra (Round 5-6)
  • San Jose State TE Derrick Deese Jr. (Round 5-6)

6. Offensive tackle

Roster:

  • Teven Jenkins
  • Larry Borom
  • Jason Peters (UFA)
  • Germain Ifedi (UFA)
  • Elijah Wilkinson (UFA)
  • Lachavious Simmons (ERFA)
  • Tyrone Wheatley Jr. (futures)

If all goes well, the Bears might already have their two future starting offensive tackles on the roster. That said, they need a swing tackle, and Borom’s growth in Year 2 could be telling of whether he’s a long-term starter or not.

Free agents:

  • Rams OT Joseph Noteboom
  • Packers OT Dennis Kelly
  • Texans OT Geron Christian

Bears draft targets:

  • Central Michigan OT Bernhard Raimann (Round 2)
  • Ohio State OT Nicholas Petit-Frere (Round 2)
  • Minnesota OT Daniel Faalele (Round 2-3)
  • UCLA OT Sean Rhyan (Round 3)
  • TCU OT Obinna Eze (Round 4-5)
  • Southern Utah OT Braxton Jones (Round 4-5)

5. Inside linebacker

Roster:

  • Roquan Smith
  • Danny Trevathan (cut candidate)
  • Alec Ogletree (UFA)
  • Christian Jones (UFA)
  • Joel Iyiegbuniwe (UFA)
  • Caleb Johnson

Smith is a two-time All-Pro who projects as a perfect WILL in an Eberflus system, but they need a new MIKE. Trevathan isn’t the player he once was, and they don’t have a developmental option they can insert into the starting lineup.

Free agents:

  • Chargers LB Kyzir White
  • Broncos LB Josey Jewell
  • Raiders LB Nicholas Morrow

Bears draft targets:

  • Wyoming LB Chad Muma (Round 3)
  • Penn State LB Brandon Smith (Round 3-4)
  • LSU LB Damone Clark (Round 3-4)
  • Nebraska LB JoJo Domann (Round 4-5)
  • Oklahoma LB Brian Asamoah (Round 4-5)

4. Defensive tackle

Roster:

  • Akiem Hicks (UFA)
  • Bilal Nichols (UFA)
  • Eddie Goldman (cut candidate)
  • Angelo Blackson
  • Mario Edwards Jr.
  • Khyiris Tonga
  • Margus Hunt (UFA)
  • Auzoyah Alufohai (futures)
  • LaCale London (futures)

The Bears have several solid options along the interior they could bring back in 2022, but it will be near impossible for them to do so. At least one of Hicks or Nichols is probably gone, and Goldman could be a cut candidate given his recent play. They have some good depth options under contract, but what combination they’ll roll with next year is anyone’s guess.

Free agents:

  • Colts DL Antwaun Woods
  • Chiefs DL Derrick Nnadi
  • Raiders DL Solomon Thomas

Bears draft targets:

  • San Diego State DL Cameron Thomas (Round 2)
  • Oklahoma DL Perrion Winfrey (Round 2-3)
  • Ohio State DL Haskell Garrett (Round 2-3)
  • Tennessee DL Matthew Butler (Round 5-6)
  • Stanford DL Thomas Booker (Round 5-6)

3. Interior offensive line

Roster:

  • Cody Whitehair
  • James Daniels (UFA)
  • Sam Mustipher (ERFA)
  • Alex Bars (RFA)
  • Dieter Eiselen (futures)
  • Willie Wright (futures)

The Bears’ offensive line could look much different from how it looked for much of 2022. Daniels is slated to hit free agency, and while he’s a solid blocker, his price tag will likely be steep. An upgrade from Mustipher at center should be a priority this offseason, too.

Free agents:

  • Buccaneers C Ryan Jensen
  • Panthers C Matt Paradis
  • Rams C Brian Allen
  • Cowboys OG Connor Williams
  • Giants OG Will Hernandez

Bears draft targets:

  • Boston College OG Zion Johnson (Round 2)
  • Kentucky OG Darian Kinnard (Round 2)
  • Ohio State OG Thayer Munford (Round 3-4)
  • Boston College C Alec Lindstrom (Round 4-5)
  • Arizona State

2. Cornerback

Roster:

  • Jaylon Johnson
  • Kindle Vildor
  • Duke Shelley
  • Thomas Graham Jr.
  • Artie Burns (UFA)
  • Xavier Crawford (RFA)
  • Lamar Jackson (futures)
  • Michael Joseph (futures)
  • BoPete Keyes (futures)

As of right now, the Bears only have one NFL-caliber starting cornerback on their roster. Johnson played well in 2022, and Graham showed promise in limited action. Otherwise, Chicago will need to find serious upgrades at cornerback if they want to field a top defense next year.

Free agents:

  • Chiefs CB Charvarius Ward
  • Panthers CB Donte Jackson
  • Packers CB Rasul Douglas
  • Seahawks CB D.J. Reed Jr.
  • Falcons CB Isaiah Oliver

Bears draft targets:

  • Washington CB Kyler Gordon (Round 2)
  • Georgia CB Derion Kendrick (Round 2)
  • Mississippi State CB Martin Emerson (Round 2-3)
  • Cincinnati CB Coby Bryant (Round 3)
  • UTSA CB Tariq Woolen (Round 3-4)

1. Wide receiver

Roster:

  • Darnell Mooney
  • Allen Robinson (UFA)
  • Jakeem Grant (UFA)
  • Marquise Goodwin (UFA)
  • Damiere Byrd (UFA)
  • Dazz Newsome
  • Nsimba Webster (futures)
  • Isaiah Coulter (futures)

You could make an argument for another position here, but with Mooney as the only proven receiver under contract, the Bears need to find some talent at the position this offseason. They could prioritize deep speed in more of a vertical system, but they will most certainly bring in new talent in some form.

Free agents:

  • Chargers WR Mike Williams
  • Jaguars WR D.J. Chark
  • Cowboys WR Michael Gallup
  • Steelers WR Juju Smith-Schuster
  • Cowboys WR Cedrick Wilson Jr.

Bears draft targets:

  • Purdue WR David Bell (Round 2)
  • Georgia WR George Pickens (Round 2)
  • North Dakota State WR Christian Watson (Round 2-3)
  • Alabama WR John Metchie (Round 3)
  • Western Michigan WR Skyy Moore (Round 3-4)