RB Chester Taylor, TE Brandon Manumaleuna, DE Julius Peppers, OLB Brian Iwuh, CB Tim Jennings, S Chris Harris.
Early Draft Picks:
FS Major Wright, DE Corey Wootton, CB Joshua Moore.
OT Orlando Pace, DE Alex Brown, DE Adewale Ogunleye, DT Dusty Dvoracek, OLB Jamar Williams, CB Nathan Vasher, S Kevin Payne.
2010 Chicago Bears Offense:
It's safe to say that Year 1 of the Jay Cutler era didn't go as planned. Excluding his rookie year, Cutler endured a career-worst completion percentage (60.5), YPA (6.6) and touchdown-to-interception ratio (27-26). It wasn't all Cutler's fault, but he had his share of mishaps. Cutler often made poor decisions in the red zone and sported a disinterested attitude toward the middle of the season that festered throughout the entire team.
There is cause for optimism, however. In his final two games of the year, Cutler threw for 549 yards, eight touchdowns and just one interception on a 7.7 YPA. Sure, one game was at Detroit, but the other was against the Vikings in a huge Monday night upset. Cutler looked like he found a rapport with Devin Aromashodu, who caught 12 passes for 196 yards and three touchdowns in those two contests.
Aromashodu will be one of three starting receivers in Chicago's new offense. The others are deep threat Devin Hester and Johnny Knox, who caught 45 balls for 527 yards and five touchdowns in a solid rookie campaign. Cutler should continue to bond with the three wideouts, all of whom may post impressive stats in 2010.
Tight end Greg Olsen actually led the Bears in receptions last year, but will likely be phased out of Mike Martz's scheme, which doesn't ask the tight end to do much. One has to wonder why Chicago didn't trade Olsen this offseason.
Cutler's fantasy stock will soar under Martz, but will he be better off in real life? Probably not. Kurt Warner, Marc Bulger and Jon Kitna all were able to post incredible numbers under Martz, but they each suffered numerous injuries. Only Warner recovered, and it took him a long time to do so.
Martz simply doesn't believe in protecting the quarterback. This can only lead to disaster in Chicago, given how pedestrian the offensive line is. Left tackle Chris Williams played well toward the end of his rookie campaign last season, but is still incredibly inexperienced; he only has five starts on the blind side under his belt. The dreadful Frank Omiyale, meanwhile, will be stationed at right tackle after spending a year struggling at left guard.
Speaking of left guard, there's no definitive starter at the position. Johan Asiata (undrafted second-year player), Lance Louis and Josh Beekman are "battling" for the job. At least right guard Roberto Garza and center Olin Kreutz are stable, though the latter recently turned 33 and is coming off foot surgery.
The offensive front really struggled to open up running room for Matt Forte in 2009. Forte went from 1,238 rushing yards and 12 touchdowns as a rookie to 929 yards and four scores in his sophomore campaign. The fault wasn't all the line's, however, as Forte was noticeably out of shape. The Bears signed Chester Taylor (31 in September) to compete with Forte. If Forte is sluggish in training camp again, Taylor could easily win the job.
2010 Chicago Bears Defense:
Disaster struck immediately for the Bears in 2009. Brian Urlacher suffered a season-ending wrist injury during a Week 1 battle against the Packers. Just like that, Chicago's best defensive player was gone for the whole year. The team never recovered.
How big was the loss? Since 2004, Chicago has surrendered 17.9 points per game with Urlacher in the lineup, and 22.1 without him. That's less than a touchdown, but four of Chicago's eight defeats last year were decided by that amount.
Urlacher's back, but the big news this offseason was the addition of Julius Peppers, who inked a monstrous 6-year, $84 million deal with his new team. The good news here is that Peppers has notched double-digit sacks in all but two of his NFL seasons, and theoretically should provide Chicago's defense with a consistent pass-rushing presence. The bad news is that Peppers often took games off last year in Carolina, and the Chicago Tribune has already hinted that Peppers isn't giving 100 percent in practice. Here's a legitimate question: Why would anyone with $84 million in his back pocket work his hardest?
The Bears will hope that Peppers' presence will spark left end Mark Anderson, who hasn't done anything since totaling 12 sacks in his rookie season back in 2005. If Anderson can't benefit from Peppers' double teams, he's a lost cause.
Nose tackle Anthony Adams played well down the stretch, and will start next to under tackle Tommie Harris, who also stands to benefit from all the attention that Peppers will garner. Harris was once a Pro Bowl talent, but numerous injuries have plagued him over the years. That being said, Harris inexplicably looked terrific in the final two games of the 2009 season. If he can carry that momentum over and stay healthy, Chicago will have no problem generating 40-plus sacks.
The Bears' secondary can only hope Peppers, Harris and Anderson don't disappoint because it needs all the help it can get. Starting corners Charles Tillman and Zackary Bowman didn't play well last year, but should improve if the defensive line can generate consistent pressure. Safety play should also be better with the acquisition of Chris Harris. Harris will start at free safety across from Danieal Manning unless rookie Major Wright can break into the starting lineup. If so, that'll likely push Manning to the bench.
At linebacker, Lance Briggs and Nick Roach will start alongside Urlacher. Briggs is a solid weakside linebacker, but struggled toward the end of the 2009 season because of knee and hip injuries. Roach is a decent two-down player on the strong side.
2010 Chicago Bears Schedule and Intangibles:
Chicago's special teams usually rank among the league's elite, and the unit didn't disappoint in 2009. Earl Bennett and Johnny Knox returned a punt and a kickoff, respectively. The Bears didn't allow a score.
Robbie Gould is an extremely accurate kicker, as he's 113-of-129 (87.6 percent) over the past four seasons. Gould was 24-of-28 in 2009, including 2-of-3 from 50-plus.
Brad Maynard is one of the worst punters in the league; for the second straight year, he had an average lower than 41.5 yards (41.4), with 26-of-77 boots inside the 20.
The Bears will be tested early. Following a game against the Lions, they play the Cowboys, Packers, Giants and Panthers in consecutive weeks. Their final four games are against the Patriots, Vikings, Jets and Packers. Ouch.
2010 Chicago Bears Positional Rankings (1-5 stars):
2010 Chicago Bears Analysis: The Bears are a really solid team. The problem is that they're not particularly strong in one area (aside from special teams), and they have enough weaknesses to firmly place them behind the Packers and Vikings.
Chicago could certainly make the playoffs in 2010, but it could just as easily suffer a losing season.
The Bears had only five selections because they used their first two picks on Jay Cutler and the late Gaines Adams in previous trades.
I liked the players Chicago obtained; Major Wright figures to be a big upgrade at free safety, and Corey Wootton was a steal in Round 4.
That being said, the Bears had to improve their anemic offensive line in this draft. They failed to do so, waiting until Pick No. 218 to grab a front-line player. Cutler, Chester Taylor and Matt Forte can't be happy about this.
The Packers and Vikings have monstrous defensive lines. Detroit's front is much improved as well. How are the Bears going to block anyone?
Overall 2010 NFL Draft Grade given on 4/26/10: B-
2010 NFL Draft Individual Grades:
75. Major Wright, FS, Florida
Projected by many to go in Round 2, Major Wright fills a huge hole the Bears have at free safety. I guess you don't need second-round picks when you can get second-round prospects in Round 3. (Pick Grade: A)
109. Corey Wootton, DE, Northwestern
Incredible value pick. Corey Wootton would have been a possible first-round selection if it wasn't for a junior-year knee injury. (Pick Grade: A)
141. Joshua Moore, CB, Kansas State
Joshua Moore is a decent value here. When trying to defeat Brett Favre and Aaron Rodgers, you need as many quality corners as possible. (Pick Grade: B)
181. Dan LeFevour, QB, Central Michigan
Dan LeFevour has a long way to go because of the goofy offense he played in, but I'm with Mel Kiper - with a lot of work he can eventually be a solid starter. The Bears can afford to groom him behind Jay Cutler. (Pick Grade: A)
218. J'Marcus Webb, OT, West Texas A&M
It's hard to believe that this is the first offensive lineman the Bears have drafted considering all of the problems they have. (Pick Grade: B)
Supplemental-7. Harvey Unga, RB/FB, BYU
I love the value Harvey Unga brings for a seventh-round pick, but I don't know how he fits into Mike Martz's offense. He could be a goal-line back. (Pick Grade: B)
Key Undrafted Free Agents:
Freddie Barnes, WR
The Bears finally obtained their franchise quarterback - only they were missing everything else. Chicago's running game, offensive line and defense all went to waste, spoiling Jay Cutler's first season in the Windy City. Cutler had his fair share of gaffs in 2009, but he had absolutely nothing to work with.
Seahawks sign RB Adrian Peterson
Saints sign FB Jason McKie
Bears sign OLB Brian Iwuh
Bears re-sign S Danieal Manning
Bears waive QB Brett Basanez
Bears re-sign DE Mark Anderson
Rams acquire S Kevin Payne from Bears for conditional 7th-round pick
Bears acquire SS Chris Harris from Panthers for LB Jamar Williams
Bears re-sign OLB Jamar Williams
Bears re-sign OLB Nick Roach
Saints sign DE Alex Brown
Bears cut DE Alex Brown
Chargers sign CB Nathan Vasher
Bears re-sign DT Matt Toeaina
Bears cut CB Nathan Vasher
Bears sign CB Tim Jennings
Bears cut FB Jason McKie
Bears re-sign FS Josh Bullocks
Bears cut RB Kevin Jones
Bears sign DE Julius Peppers
Bears sign RB Chester Taylor
Bears sign TE Brandon Manumaleuna
Bears cut OT Orlando Pace
Left Guard: Frank Omiyale was a disaster at left guard. The Bears don't have picks in the first two rounds of the 2010 NFL Draft, but I imagine they'll be targeting a guard in the third or fourth rounds.
Free Safety: The Bears have had problems at free safety for years. There's great safety depth in the 2010 NFL Draft, so look for this to be addressed in Rounds 3-5. Drafted Major Wright; traded for Chris Harris
No. 1 Wide Receiver: Devin Aromashodu looked good at the end of the season, but neither he nor Devin Hester is a No. 1 wideout. Antonio Bryant is out there if the Bears want to take a chance on his character issues.
Defensive End: In the wake of Gaines Adams' unfortunate passing, the Bears are thin at defensive end again. Hopefully they'll receive a compensatory pick for Adams that they'll be able to use on a replacement. Signed Julius Peppers; drafted Corey Wootton
Defensive Tackle: Before Week 16, defensive tackle would have been the No. 1 need on this list. However, Tommie Harris, who struggled all year, dominated the final two games of the season, sparking Chicago to two victories, including one shocking upset against the Vikings. This offseason marks the first time Harris won't be coming off surgery, so things look bright. Having said that, Harris is as injury-prone as they come, so the Bears really need to insure themselves.
Running Back Depth: The Bears could use a reliable back behind Matt Forte and Kahlil Bell. This can be addressed in the later rounds of the 2010 NFL Draft. Signed Chester Taylor
Center Depth: Olin Kreutz is wearing down and it looks like 2010 could be his final season in the NFL. Drafted Joshua Moore
Punter: Brad Maynard, 36, hasn't maintained a punting average of 42-plus in three years.
2010 NFL Free Agent Signings:
Julius Peppers, DE, Panthers. Age: 30. Signed with Bears (6 years, $91.5 million; $42 million guaranteed)
Julius Peppers had 11 sacks in 2009, marking the fifth time in six seasons that he has accumulated double-digit sacks. Peppers just turned 30, but he has at least four more very productive seasons left in the tank.
Chester Taylor, RB, Vikings. Age: 30. Signed with Bears (4 years, $12.5 million; $7 million guaranteed)
Chester Taylor has been one of the top reserve running backs in the NFL over the past few years. He can run in between the tackles and catch the ball out of the backfield. The problem is that he'll be 31 in September.
Tim Jennings (RFA), CB, Colts. Age: 26. -- Signed with Bears (2 years)
Brian Iwuh, OLB, Jaguars. Age: 26. -- Signed with Bears
Brandon Manumaleuna, TE, Chargers. Age: 30. -- Signed with Bears (5 years)
Divisional Rival History: Detroit Lions: Take out a bizarre 2007 season where the Lions somehow swept the Bears, and Chicago has won eight straight in this "rivalry." Green Bay Packers: Lovie Smith was 7-3 against the Packers entering the 2009 season. He's now 7-5 after a pair of close Packer wins. Minnesota Vikings: The home team has claimed 14 of 16. Maybe that Monday night upset shouldn't have been that shocking after all.
Features to be Posted This Offseason:
2010 NFL Draft Grades (Pick-by-Pick NFL Draft Grades as well - Live on Draft Day!)