Here is my third installment of Team Off Season Plans and this time I will be tackling the Chicago Bears. This team feels a little different than both the 49ers and Browns since they do have some talented players on both sides of the ball. Plus, injuries killed them more so than other teams throughout the year. Without further adieu here we go!
Chicago Bears Salary Cap Space: $58 million
Upcoming Free Agents:
1) Alshon Jeffrey WR
2) Brian Hoyer QB
3) Ted Larsen OG
4) Eric Kush OG (Resigned)
5) Matt Barkley QB
6) Sam Acho OLB
---- The obvious elephant in the room is what to do about Alshon Jeffrey this off season for the Bears. In my opinion they must resign him since they have no better option behind him. Sure, maybe Kevin White if healthy can take his mantle, but he has yet to show that promise after missing most of the past two seasons. If they tag him again it could cost around $17-18 million for next year, but if they cannot work out a long term deal I would not let him hit the open market. Plus, one more year he can prove himself he can stay clean off the field and healthy on it since the past few seasons he has not had the best stat lines overall. It would also allow them to see if White can take over if in fact Jeffrey still does not sign a long term contract by next year.
Resign either Brian Hoyer or Matt Barkley. We all know that Jay Cutler will not be back on the team so trying to keep either one of the other starting quarterbacks from last year can keep the offense continuity in tact. I prefer Hoyer since he has the better experience over Barkley, but he also shows the least amount of future growth and is only a place holder until they find a young quarterback. He is the more expensive of the two, which may cause them to sign Barkley instead. Barkley also has the better upside to him if he can cut down his interceptions from last year. The former Trojan does have a nice pedigree being a former college standout and has more willingness to throw the ball down field than the timid Hoyer. If he has a whole off season to work and shows promise during training camp I could actually see him get a shot at starting next year. He did show some promise last year so why not maybe, he figures it out.
Possible Off Season Moves:
- Obviously trying to trade Cutler is top priority. I would not straight out cut him since a lot of teams would jump right on him since he does have talent that can be an upgrade for teams like the Jets, Texans, and Browns. Trying to get at least a couple late round picks to me is not a ridiculous proposition. Just this past year Sam Bradford netted a first round pick and his talent overall is lower than Cutler's in my opinion though I understand Bradford is a younger option who has more years left if he stays healthy. So, landing at least a second rounder to me is not crazy for teams desperate to find anything.
- Cut Lamar Houston and Eddie Royal or attempt to get a contract restructure. I would actually like to keep Houston since he is a very good pass rusher when healthy, but if cut he does save about $5 million dollars. Eddie Royal as well has shown sparks when healthy, but that has not happened since his arrival in Chicago and would save another $5 million that can be used else where on the roster.
- Try and trade for Garoppolo. The roster for the Bears is not really bad compared to the 49ers and Browns so bringing in Garoppolo from a Patriots roster to this one is not such a dramatic shift. In fact the Bears offensive line may be a bit of an upgrade at least on the interior it is. They have a good receiving corp if Jeffrey stays, White can stay healthy, and Cameron Meredith continues to improve. Plus, they have a very good runner with Jordan Howard emerging last year. I would try my best not to give up my 3rd overall pick for him and try to package a 2nd rounder, and a future first round pick hoping you do not pick as high next year. However, John Fox and maybe GM Ryan Pace are in a time crunch to win now so giving up the 3rd pick may not seem crazy to him since they may not around to see that player emerge if they cannot start winning.
- A.J. Bouye CB or Stephon Gilmore CB - The Bears have big needs all over their secondary to help out their solid front seven. They do have some options like Kyle Fuller who has talent, but seems to have soured on the coaching staff so I am not sure how long his leash is. Bryce Callahn and Cre'von LeBlanc are two smaller corners who are best served in the nickel and dime formation in the slot than on the outside at their size. Bouye and Gilmore are two promising outside corners who can help out right away, but most likely do not come cheap. This team is in a win now mode so money is something they should spend.
- Eric Berry S - I should have put him before the two corners since he is the bigger fish, but they could swindle deals to get both of them. I know GM Ryan Pace has made nice cheaper deals like he did for Trevathan and Freeman, but like I said I feel like the pressure is on for him to win. He and the coaching staff expressed interest in getting better at causing turnovers in the secondary and Berry is a perfect fit for that.
- Riley Reiff OT - I like Charles Leno at left tackle and he is still only 26 so he could possibly continue to improve. However, Bobbie Massie was a real weak link on the line in my opinion. Reiff can come in and push him off the spot with his higher upside and more solid play at right tackle. Cutting Massie could be a possibility if they do find a better option, which could save up another $5 million of cap space.
Possible Draft Options:
- If they keep the 3rd overall pick I think they should stick to their guns and not pick a quarterback since none of them show much promise and Coach John Fox has not shown an ability to develop young passers. Instead, drafting a defensive stud like Jonathan Allen is a nice safe choice who can really solidify that defensive front. With him the front seven would include Allen, Akiem Hicks, Eddie Goldman, Leonard Floyd, Jerrell Freeman, Pernell McPhee, and Willie Young next year to wreck havoc on offenses.
- I can also see them go for either Malik Hooker or Jamal Adams if they do not sign a free agent safety like Eric Berry. Hooker is a better possibility due to his athletic upside, which is something that GM Ryan Pace has favored with his picks like last years Leonard Floyd and the year prior with Kevin White. Adams is also a possibility due to his ready made ability and leadership that can wow DC Vic Fangio who likes pure football players who are not afraid to lay the wood.
- If they do not trade for a quarterback like Garoppolo or take one with their first round pick they could look to add one in the second round. A guy like DeShone Kizer or Patrick Mahomes may be available, but they look like long term projects more than ready made quarterbacks. With Fox and Pace possibly on the hot seat those two quarterbacks may not be on their radar. One that could be is Nathan Peterman who has pro offense experience and practiced in front of Fox and Pace at the Senior Bowl could turn into their version of Dak Prescott.
- They could also take another player they are familiar with in Obi Melifonwu if they still need a safety. Drafting a corner who falls out of the first round could be a possibility if they do not sign one through free agency. Lastly, if a tight end like Njoku or Engram could be an option since their current tight end Zach Miller has never proven to be healthy for long periods of time so finding a better option should be on their to do list.
My Mock Selections:
1 (3) - Jonathan Allen DL Alabama
2 (36) - Obi Melifonwu S UConn
3 (67) - Gerald Everett TE South Alabama
- In all they should draft best player available, but hedging more towards need than other teams. They have good pieces on the 0-line, running back, and linebacker so those are a few spots they could ignore. With this talented secondary pool they should definitely look to cash in on a few of them to try and find stability in the back end of their defense. If they lose Alshon Jeffrey obviously finding another receiver is a big need, but I think this draft has a deep mid round pool of talent there so they can wait on a talented pass catcher. Quarterback will obviously be a big need if they do not get Garoppolo or another trade option, but they should stand pat and follow Pace's inclination to draft best player available in the first round. Maybe you can land a nice developmental quarterback who could possibly surprise you.
Many NFL pundits can see a quick turn around for the Bears due to their solid roster compared to other top 10 drafting teams. They have a very solid defensive front seven, a solid offensive line, and a great running back to possibly win more games than they did last year. If they can find a stable quarterback it can help out very much obviously, but that can be difficult to do so that may hold them back a lot. I think Garoppolo has to be an option for them due to familiarity of him playing in their backyard at Eastern Illinois, and practicing with him this past training camp when the Bears and Pats practiced together for a week. If not hoping Barkley or a rookie quarterback can play decently is a bit of a prayer, but if they can stick to running the ball more they can avoid forcing one of them into bad situations. This is a make or break year for Pace and Fox so I can see them going all out in free agency to make a push for the playoffs or at least a winning season to take some pressure off of them.