Being away from football for an extended period of time is never fun. For me, at least. Luckily I’ve had the chance to catch up recently to see what all I’ve missed while being away on an island far, far away.
This will be the first of a three-part series where I look at each phase of the game and the moves made during the 2022 offseason and regular season. In addition, I’ll include the development of players inherited from the previous regime. Then, I’ll hand out grades to each position individually. Of course, this all starts with the offense.
And the best possible news is the Chicago Bears finally have found their franchise QB. They just need to find everything else from this point forward.
Notable additions - Trevor Siemian (free agent); Nathan Peterman (free agent)
Notable departures - Andy Dalton; Nick Foles
Overview: This position saw a complete turnover of the backups as Justin Fields was cemented as “the guy” to lead the franchise. Out went Andy Dalton and Nick Foles, and in came Trevor Siemian and Nathan Peterman. The biggest difference at the QB position came with the arrival of OC Luke Getsy and his staff. Justin Fields has taken a big step forward this year, the scheme is being built around him, and as a result the search is finally over. To me, Trevor Siemian is a capable backup, and that’s really all I care about. This was the easiest grade for me to hand out.
Now, just build a team around him.
Runningbacks - Halfbacks & Fullbacks
Notable additions - Khari Blasingame (free agent), Trestan Ebner (draft), Darrynton Evans (free agent)
Notable departures - Tarik Cohen; Damien Williams; Ryan Nall (IYKYK)
Overview: Much like the QB position, the primary players featured in 2022 were already on the roster prior to GM Ryan Poles’ arrival in Chicago. Khalil Herbert has emerged as a big play threat who thrives in Luke Getsy’s run scheme, and David Montgomery’s all-around performance warrants consideration to return. Provided the latter’s contract is reasonable enough.
As for the actual additions themselves, not a lot has flashed. Khari Blasingame, when healthy, is a solid fullback who contributes in each phase of the offense. Darrynton Evans has an impressive amount of explosiveness while being a weapon in the screen game. Trestan Ebner... not so much. This position group could see a substantial amount of change depending on what happens between free agency and the draft.
Notable additions - Ryan Griffen (free agent); James O’Shaughnessy (free agent); Chase Allen (undrafted free agent); Trevon Wesco (waiver claim)
Notable departures - Jimmy Graham, Jesper Horsted
Overview: This was a more difficult group to grade. On one hand, we saw incumbent Cole Kmet take a major step forward as a scoring threat across the entire field. On the other hand, not much else was seen from this position group. At all.
Is Cole Kmet good enough as is to be extended past 2023? I would say “yes,” if it’s a medium-sized deal in the 2-3 year range atop his pre-existing rookie contract. He’s also had bad mental lapses in critical moments. And, again, the players brought in behind him didn’t contribute much during the year. Don’t rule out some major spending here in addition to a new deal for Cole Kmet.
Notable additions - Riley Reiff (free agent); Michael Schofield III (free agent); Lucas Patrick (free agent); Braxton Jones (draft); Alex Leatherwood (waiver wire)
Notable departures - Jason Peters; Germain Ifedi; James Daniels
Overview: Ryan Poles identified this group as his top priority shortly after being hired this past January. A full season later, and this group still does not have a lot of long-term answers. They’ve been outright bad in pass protection this year. However, they’re also outstanding in paving roads for the run game.
Teven Jenkins has been the best story for this group and should be a building piece at RG for years to come. Braxton Jones, who’s had an impressive season considering how late he was selected, could be a guy to build with at OT. Unfortunately, not much else went right for this group. I don’t see any of the veterans signed this year coming back in 2023 due to injuries and/or poor performance. Upgrades are needed at C, LG, and OT. I feel Cody Whitehair will be cut this coming offseason as well.
The 2023 offseason presents Ryan Poles — a former lineman himself — the perfect opportunity to fix this group completely. Expect some major splashes in free agency and more draft picks used to beef up the bodyguards for Justin Fields.
Notable additions - Byron Pringle (free agent); Equanamious St. Brown (free agent); Dante Pettis (free agent); Velus Jones Jr. (draft); N’Keal Harry (trade); Chase Claypool (trade)
Notable departures - Allen Robinson; Damiere Byrd; Marquise Goodwin
Overview: I absolutely abhorred what was done for the receiving corps throughout the course of the year. The one reason why I’m not giving this an “F” is because I do believe Chase Claypool can be something when given the time to recover and learn the system. Darnell Mooney has shown to be a solid complimentary piece, but not enough to be a standalone guy to lead the group. Mooney is a candidate to be extended, but I’d rather wait to see how he looks once healthy. Ditto for Chase Claypool.
Otherwise, this group has been a complete disaster. There’s been very little positive development from their sole draft pick of the group, Velus Jones Jr. None of the band-aid contracts signed between Byron Pringle, Dante Pettis, and Equanamious St. Brown panned out as planned. A bet was placed on Darnell Mooney becoming a top threat while everything else was sorted throughout the season. Even with the trade for Chase Claypool, a ton of premium resources need to be spent here.
This was the 2nd easiest grade for me to assign, for what it’s worth.
The Chicago Bears have an excellent opportunity heading into the 2023 off-season to completely revamp their roster. The most important piece of the puzzle is already in place at the QB position. With over $100 million in cap space that’s available to be spent on re-signing and adding players to the roster, and a full slate of premium draft picks available, there’s no excuse not to be better in year two for this regime. There’s a ton of work to be done starting in March.
How this will all play out is anyone’s guess. If I had to place a bet on what will happen, the biggest free agency additions will arrive in the form of long-term deals for OTs and a C. The veteran free agent receiving market will see a bunch of movement, but Ryan Poles already declared the upcoming class as a weak group on paper. Otherwise, he may not have dealt for Chase Claypool at the deadline. That’s also before any major “surprise” cuts happen. If anything, he’ll be much more active in the trade market and the draft for help at receiver. He’s already pulled off two trades for receivers and will probably make another one soon. I won’t sleep on a major acquisition at tight end as well.
Buckle up for what should be a high-octane offseason.