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Chicago Bears Offseason Team Needs – TSJ Sports

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Chicago Bears 2017 Offseason Preview: Defense Needs Vast Improvement

The 2017 Offseason is a very important one for everyone in the Chicago Bears organization.  GM Ryan Pace and the rest of management have a great opportunity to build a great team this off-season with $8 million in cap space and the #3 pick in a stacked draft.  The players, too, have to get better, especially the young receiving corp. that dropped a lot of passes in 2016.  Alshon Jeffery is set to be a Unrestricted Free Agent (UFA) this spring, and whether or not to re-sign him will be one of many big decisions this off-season for Bears management.

Team Needs

This section will actually start with what they don’t need, and that is a receiver.  Chicago has a surplus of young receivers, and they need to just let them grow.  There is no need for another receiver through free agency or the draft.  While other positions Chicago don’t necessarily have a pressing need, such as linebacker, I wouldn’t be mad if the Bears drafted an LB, but if they draft a receiver, it will be counter-intuitive and will frustrate Bears fans.

After re-signing Alshon Jeffrey, Chicago’s top priority should be to shore up the secondary.  Similar to receiver, there is some young talent at cornerback, but nowhere near as much nor as good.  QB Jay Cutler’s dead cap money is dropping by $17 million, which could definitely mean the end of the Jay Cutler era in Chicago.  I’ve been waiting to say that for a while.  Neither Matt Barkley nor Brian Hoyer are anything close to franchise QBs, however, so Chicago must find a new QB somewhere if they do dump Cutler.  There is a slight drop off after the first two team needs, but O-Line is definitely next on the list.  The interior three– LG Josh Sitton, C Cody Whitehair, and RG Kyle Long— are all solid players, but the Bears need help at tackle.  Depth behind the interior three wouldn’t hurt, either.

Free Agency

There are plenty of young defensive backs scheduled to be available on the free agent market, although who knows which players will be re-signed and which will become UFAs.  Assuming none of them are re-signed, on the market is Rams CB Trumaine Johnson, Chiefs S Eric Berry, Cowboys CBs Brandon Carr and Morris Claiborne, Jaguars CB Prince Amukamara, and Bills CB Stephon Gilmore, just to name a few.  Many of these players, especially Johnson, Berry, and Amukamara, but if the Bears could sign one of the other players to a smaller contract, it will be a good in Chicago.  One bargain the Bears should consider going for is Bengals cornerback Dre Kirkpatrick.  He is only the 18th highest paid defensive back scheduled to be a free agent, yet he had three interceptions last year and is a solid corner, especially for his current salary.  Even for a slight raise based on 2016, he is worth keeping an eye on.

Redskins QB Kirk Cousins is set to be a UFA, but not only is he expected to re-sign with Washington, he will go for an insane price on the open market if he doesn’t.  Chicago cannot fall into a trap and pay too much money for a QB when they have other pressing needs on the roster.  Past Cousins, the only UFA QB that can start in the NFL is Ryan Fitzpatrick, and he is 34.  Yuck.  Cowboys QB Tony Romo has been rumored to be leaving Dallas soon either through trade or free agency, but targeting hi would not be good for either party.  Romo wants a team that can win now, and the Bears need a quarterback that is young and can grow to be their franchise QB, not a 36-year old.  Additionally, Romo couldn’t stay healthy behind the best O-Line in the NFL; if he signed with Chicago, he wouldn’t last a single practice. If Chicago dumps Cutler and wants a fresh start at QB, they will have to draft a new signal caller.

Besides possibly Vikings OT Matt Kalil, there is no big money free agent tackle this offseason, and even Kalil might get re-signed or get a big contract from anyone.  Even though the Bears don’t need a big-money OT, the lack of any actually hurts the Bears: with no big-money tackles to get, teams that need to improve their OTs before anything else will now be going for tackles that they wouldn’t normally go for so that they can still improve, which will drive the price up of every decent tackle, which is bad for a team like Chicago just trying to get a bargain on one of those decent tackles.  Economics thinks this exact scenario will happen, but maybe other teams try to acquire tackles through the draft so they don’t drive up the price of free agent OTs.  If that happens, the Bears can target a vast variety of tackles.

The main thing they’ll have to decide is how much age matters in a free agent OT: are they looking for a veteran that can come in and fill the hole immediately, or someone still in their 20s that can still improve?  I’m not the one that has to answer that question, but it should be answered by the Bears management if they want to narrow their choices.  Some older tackles include Bengals OTs Andrew Whitworth (35) and Eric Winston (33), Patriots OT Sebastian Vollmer (32), and Buccaneers OT Gosder Cherilus (32).  Some interesting younger tackles include Kalil (27), Lions OT Riley Reiff (28), Giants OT Marshall Newhouse (28), and Vikings OT Andre Smith (29), just to name a few.

Expect Chicago to target a couple of DBs, with one of them possibly being a big-money player such as Trumaine Johnson, and try to get a bargain on a OT, possibly two if they can and they don’t like any of their options in the draft.


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Draft

If Chicago wants a good cornerback, and man, do they really need a couple of those, then they’ll have to acquire them in free agency.  Going by our in-house Top 50 Big Board by Nick DeCesare, there is certainly no cornerback worth taking with the #3 overall pick.  The highest ranked is #10 Marshon Lattimore from Ohio State, but even that is a stretch for a need.  Safety, however, is a real possibility with that third pick.  Not one, but two safeties are definitely high enough on DeCesare’s board to be considered at #3: LSU’s Jamal Adams and Ohio State’s Malik Hooker.  Adams is a big, yet well-rounded safety with great instincts, while Hooker is a great coverage safety that has the looks of Earl Thomas.  Despite Hooker’s supreme athleticism, I would prefer the well-rounded Adams.  There are also a few cornerbacks the Bears could snag at the top of the 2nd round: LSU’s Tre’Davious White, Michigan’s Jourdan Lewis, and Washington’s Sidney Jones.

If Chicago dumps Cutler, their draft becomes a lot more complicated.  Since they can’t get a QB through free agency, and their franchise QB isn’t going to come in the third or maybe even second round, they’ll have to get someone with the #3 pick if they dump Cutler.  My opinion is that Clemson’s Deshaun Watson is the only QB worth taking that high in this QB-weak draft class, and my friend Nick is even more harsh: Watson is also his highest rated QB, but at just #24.  A ranking that low doesn’t exactly scream franchise QB, but I am higher on him.  I think he’s a winner, he’s more accurate from the pocket than people like to give him credit for, and he’s mobile, which always helps young QBs to make easier decisions and make plays.  Some people like North Carolina’s Mitch Trubisky going to Chicago at #3, but Nick and I are in agreement that he is vastly overrated.  Nick even went so far as to put him #44(!) on his draft board.  I think even Notre Dame’s DeShone Kizer, despite showing raw tools, is a big stretch at #3.  Watson is Chicago’s only option at QB in the draft, and odds are he’ll only be available at #3.

Similar to cornerback, there are no elite tackles that could be considered at #3.  Chicago will most likely have to look to the third round for their new, young OT, as not only are there no OTs that are projected to go at the top of the second round (thus drafting one there would be a stretch) and Chicago has other team needs to handle at the top of the second.  Therefore, the third round seems to be the perfect place to draft a new OT.  Western Michigan’s Taylor Moton, Bucknell’s Julien Davenport, Troy’s Antonio Garcia, or Florida State’s Roderick Johnson, just to name a few.  Their raft stock will no doubt fluctuate between now and April 27, so it will be interesting to see what Chicago ends up doing at OT.

Conclusion

In my opinion, this is Chicago should do a few different things this offseason.  First, re-sign Alshon Jeffrey.  He is a dynamic receiver that has a big frame and can develop into a Dez Bryant-like player, and we’ve seen the flashes of potential already as he has grown into a star.  Next, don’t cut Jay Cutler, at least not yet.  While I will party the day Cutler leaves Chicago, this year is terrible for teams looking for new QBs, so I suggest the Bears wait a year or two for some good QBs through the draft, such as Oklahoma State’s Mason Rudolph or Washington State’s Luke Falk in 2018, or maybe even wait till 2019 for UCLA’s Josh Rosen or USC’s Sam Darnold, both of which have supreme hype behind them in the college football world.  There will be good QBs in the future, so Chicago should just be patient for another year while they rebuild the rest of the team.

Speaking of the rest of the team, Chicago should target one or two cornerbacks in free agency, with one being somewhat of a big-money player with the other possibly being a bargain player such as Bengal’s CB Dre Kirkpatrick.  With cornerback taken care of, they should focus on safety with their #3 overall pick, preferably selecting LSU’s Jamal Adams.  I’ve seen mock drafts that have Chicago taking Alabama DL Johnathan Allen, and while I’m fine with that pick, Adams is a dynamic player and fills a need.  While Chicago already has two young safeties, Adrian Amos has not looked impressive at all thus far, and Harold Jones-Quartey has not been a lot better, although he at least has flashed talent at times.

In the second round, look for Chicago to go cornerback, most likely LSU’s Tre’Davious White and Michigan’s Jourdan Lewis.  However, if Chicago feels satisfied they filled this need adequately in free agency, they could go an alternative route and take either a OT or a DE with their second round pick, such as DE Montravious Adams from Auburn.  With their third round pick, Chicago should be targeting a OT.  This early in the draft process, there isn’t a ton to know about mid round players, so I may form a personal preference which one I think Chicago should take after the combine and/or pro days.  As for the rest of the draft, look for the Bears to fill up on lineman on both sides of the ball to make sure depth in the trenches.

Chicago has a great opportunity in front of them: plenty of good players available, both through the draft and free agency, $8 million in hand, and the #3 pick.  They can vastly improve their team and improve on last year’s 3-13 mark.  The city of Chicago is trusting the Bears to make changes for the better, because if they don’t, the Bears could be in for another long season.