After another sub .500 season for one of the most historic franchises in football, the Chicago Bears rebuild will reach yet another off-season with a numerous amount of questions and needs on all sides of the football.
This offseason may be the biggest one for the Chicago Bears in recent memory. After nine seasons of Jay Cutler under center, the Bears finally committed to a young quarterback who they gave up a lot to get in the 2017 draft at number two in Mitchell Trubisky. Mitchell had a decent rookie campaign, throwing for 2,193 yards, 7 touchdowns, 7 interceptions and a 77.5% quarterback rating in 12 games started. However, it is hard to judge a player who had no help at the wide receiver position, an injured offensive line, and predictable play calling by former offensive coordinator Dowell Loggains (who is now with the Miami Dolphins).
What We Know:
Three years after the hiring of Ryan Pace and John Fox, the John Fox era has come to an end in Chicago. Fox was praised for his previous head coaching stints in Carolina, where he was the head coach from 2002 to 2010 and brought the Panthers to Super Bowl 38( a year after going 7-9) and ultimately fell to the New England Patriots, and the Denver Broncos, where he was the head coach from 2011 to 2014 where he won four straight NFC West titles and made it to Super Bowl 48 where they were beaten by the Seattle Seahawks. Some analysts and Bears fans believed that John Fox would lead the franchise, who had not made the playoffs since 2010, back to the promise land but that was not how it unfolded. The Bears went 6-10 in 2015, 3-13 in 2016 and finished the 2017 season with a 5-11 record, leading to Ryan Pace firing Fox on Black Monday.
Ryan Pace was given the chance to bring in his guy for the first time in his general manager career and decided to go with former Kansas City Chiefs quality control coach and offensive coordinator Matt Nagy. Nagy took over the play calling duty’s after Kansas City lost five of six after starting the season 5-0. Under Nagy, the Chiefs compiled a 4-1 record and averaged a little over 28 points a game. Coach Nagy confirmed he would run a spread style offense and call the play himself. Vic Fangio will remain a part of the coaching staff in Chicago after taking over as defensive coordinator in 2015 and building the Bears defense up from being one of the oldest and worst defenses, to the sixth ranked defense in the NFL following the 2017 season.
Highly regarded Offensive Line Coach Hary Hiestand was named the new offensive line coach. Former Oregon Ducks head coach Mark Helfrich was named offensive coordinator and former Browns special teams coach Chris Tabor will take on that position with the Bears.
According to Over the Cap, the Chicago Bears are projected to have 50.2 million dollars in cap space, this including the 12.9 million dollar projected cap hit from the Kyle Fuller transition tag.
2018 Bears Free Agents:
Prince Amukamara (CB)
Zach Miller (TE)
Dontrelle Inman (WR)
Kyle Fuller (CB) – Transition Tag *
Mark Sanchez (QB) *
Kendall Wright (WR)
Tom Compton (T)
Christian Jones (ILB) *
Bryce Callahan (CB) *
Sherrick McManis (CB) *
Mitch Unrein (DE)
Mike Nugent (K)
Lamarr Houston (OLB)
Sam Acho (OLB) *
Benny Cunningham (RB) *
John Jenkins (DE)
Bradley Sowell (LT)
Cairo Santos (K) *
Pat O’Donnell (P) *
*denotes players I expect to return
Potential Cap Casualties:
1 )QB Mike Glennon-
Now that Trubisky is the clear cut starter, it is a no brainer that cutting Glennon and clearing his 11.5 million dollar salary is a no brainer. *Will be released at start of league year*
2) RT Bobbie Massie
The Bears picked up Massie two years ago and has been nothing more than league average during his tenure in Chicago. With a decent offensive line class and a few notable o-line free agents available this year, the Bears could find an upgrade and save 5.6 million by releasing him
3) CB Marcus Copper
The Bears thought they found a potential diamond in the rough last offseason, with the high hopes of him being one of their starting corners for now and the future. He was nothing close to that. Injury problems and mistakes were an issue for Copper to go with a 4.5 million dollar cap hit, Marcus may not be under contract with Chicago for much longer.
4) WR Markus Wheaton
Wheaton signed last offseason with the Bears after a few decent years with the Steelers. Bears had high hopes but like Copper, could not stay on the field and when he did play, he did not produce at all and had a ton of dropped passes. Expect the Bears to cut Wheaton and save the 5 million dollars.
5) OLB Willie Young
Young was a solid player for the Bears when he was healthy. The former Lion missed most of last season with a torn triceps and at the age of 33 and the Bears possibly trying to get younger at the position, he may be a casualty due to his age and 4.5-million-dollar cap hit. *Released on February 28, 2018
Potential Free Agent Targets:
1) WR Allen Robinson
Robinson was the go to guy for Blake Bortles for the past four seasons and was a very productive player. He had a monster 2015 season where he piled up 80 catches, 1,400 receiving yards and 14 touchdowns, which is a Jaguars franchise record. He declined during the 2016 season not reaching the thousand-yard mark and catching only six touchdowns. His 2017 season came to an end week one when he tore his ACL after a seventeen-yard reception. Robinson has an extremely high ceiling if he could stay healthy, but it is unknown if Robinson will ever get back to form coming off a major leg injury. Robinson is the type of player a lot of teams would take a chance on and expect the Bears to be one of them.
2) WR Albert Wilson
The former undrafted free agent out of Georgia State was a solid player during his tenure in Kansas City. He had a decent 2017 campaign, where he compiled 554 yards on 42 catches for 3 touchdowns. Though he is not great at anything as a wide receiver, he has above average speed and big hands and could be utilized on both offense and special teams. Wilson with a more major role in a offense may be a breakout player and be a reliable option for Trubisky, who is accurate for the most part on short and medium passes. A reunion with Matt Nagy in Chicago is reasonable and expected.
3) OL Nate Solder
With the release of Josh Sitton and with the possibility of Ryan Pace not wanting to commit a ton of salary to an offensive lineman, Nate Solder is in the second tear of offensive line players. Solder is without a doubt the best offensive linemen the Patriots have had over the past couple of seasons. Pro Football Focus rates Solder as a high quality run and pass blocker and with the Bears need at offensive line, Solder would slide in well at one of the tackle positions.
4) CB Patrick Robinson
Robinson has had an up and down career up until this season where he had a breakout year with the Eagles. The former 32nd pick in the 2010 draft finished the 2017 season with 45 tackles and 4 interceptions helping the Eagles win their first Super Bowl in franchise history. At the age of 30, Robinson may be a late bloomer. If the Bears are unable to resign Kyle Fuller or let Prince Amukamara walk, the Bears may be interested in the veteran.
5) LB Zach Brown
Zach Brown is an above average line backer when healthy. After being traded from the Titans to the Bills, he had a breakout 2016 where he had 149 tackles and 4 sacks. He was then traded to Washington where he only played in 12 games and amassed 127 tackles and 2.5 sacks. Brown possess the ability to play in space and come up against the run, making him a fit in the Bears 3-4 defense. Being only 28 years old, it is safe to say he is in the prime of his career and will get a three to five-year contract somewhere. With the release of Jerrell Freeman and Willie Young, expect the Bears to check in on the inside linebacker.
Potential First Round Targets:
– Calvin Ridley
– Quinton Nelson
– Minkah Fitzpatrick
– Denzel Ward
– Tremaine Edmunds
– Marcus Davenport
With the Bears having questions at many key positions on both sides of the ball, there are multiple ways the Bears can go in the draft. I believe if the Bears are keen to pick at eight rather than trade the pick, it is expected for both Minkah Fitzpatrick and Quinton Nelson to be off the board. Assuming that either the Jets or Broncos sign Kirk Cousins, a player such as Denzel Ward or Tremaine Edmunds may be taken. Tampa may also be looking at linebacker. We have seen in recent years that you can find solid wide receivers late in the draft and with Calvin Ridley not having that great of a combine, there is a possibility that Chicago passes up on wide receiver at eight. With that being said, I believe that the Chicago Bears will select Tremaine Edmunds out of Virginia Tech. If the Bears do trade back with a team like Miami or Arizona, look for the Bears to be interested in cornerback Josh Jackson out of Iowa and defensive end Marcus Davenport from UCLA
* Look out for the Bears to potentially trade the 8th overall pick in the draft to a acquire more draft currency *