The offseason is my favorite part of the year, and as a Bears fan, I am used to always looking ahead with (misplaced) hope. But now, with Trubisky and Matt Nagy, I have a new offseason of dreams of a better world. So let’s see what we can do to make this team capable of competing for a wildcard spot…
Top Needs: Rebuild the WR room, provide more protection for Trubisky, and ensure the Defense stays a top10 D.
Starting Cap: $41.6mil
WR Cameron Meredith, Original Round RFA Tender (undrafted): $1.9mil – No one will want to top that cost after that gruesome knee injury in 2017. So easy, cheap WR ‘addition’ for Trubisky.
WR Dontrelle Inman: 1yr/$4mil – Are you overpaying? Maybe. Did he show up with no chemistry and produce as well as all of your other WRs? Yes. So keep him around to see if he clicks with Trubisky in the offseason.
CB Bryce Callahan, 2nd Round Tender: $2.9mil – Keeping a very good slot corner around on the cheap. Or landing a 2nd round pick to improve the spot in the draft… Win/win.
LS Patrick Scales, ERFA Tender: $0.6mil – Longsnapper. Have to have someone do it. It’s cheap. Blah blah blah.
CB Prince Amukamara: 3yr/$21mil – He’s injury prone, but he’s good when he plays. And is more trustworthy than Kyle Fuller who quit on the team in 2016.
OLB Sam Acho/Lamarr Houston: 1yr/$2mil – One of these guys you can keep for this deal. It really doesn’t matter which. Probably Houston.
Remaining Cap: $26.3mil
QB Mike Glennon - $11.5mil
OLB Pernell McPhee - $7mil (resign him at maybe 1yr/$2mil if possible, instead of Acho/Houston?)
TE Dion Sims - $5.6mil
RT Bobby Massy - $6mil
WR Markus Wheaton - $5mil
Remaining Cap: $59mil
Remaining Team Needs:
Now, let’s re-address what is needed after cuts and resigning.
Offense: WR1 (White/Meredith/Inman compete for WR2/3); Backup QB; Backup TE; Starting RT; Line Depth.
Defense: DE; OLB; CB; Safety.
WR1 Allen Robinson: 3yr/$30mil – This locks down the WR 1 spot, and allows the three receivers on the roster to compete for WR2/3 spots. He may be coming off of an injury, but he's been a top tier WR in the NFL recently, and he's young. The discount is because of the injury and lethargic 2016. If it isn't Robinson, who is my favorite FA WR (over even Landry), maybe they go wild and bring in Josh Gordon. Hopefully not a 3yr deal.
LT Nate Solder: 2yr/$18mil – Another overpay, but that is what you have to do as the Bears. The Pats have been grooming guys to replace him, so I think he’ll see the market. He actually plays LT, allowing Charles Leno Jr to swing to RT and solidify the O-Line for the Bears.
TE Virgil Green: 2yr/$8mil – The Bears drafted Adam Shaheen to be the freak athlete pass catcher. Time to bring in a blocker who can technically catch passes on the many million bootlegs they’re sure to run next year. And just to be certain, since the Bears are losing two guys in this scenario…
TE Luke Wilson: 1yr/2mil – He flashed at times. He can do a lot. And since he won’t be stuck behind Jimmy Graham, he may out-produce our more-expensive-FA as a pass-catcher over the course of the season.
DE/DT Star Lotulelei: 1yr/$6mil – He’s been a bust in the 4-3, but maybe he can succeed in the 3-4 scheme at DE. I actually thought he would play 3-4 end when he came out of college, and then the Panthers drafted him. I like him to give a lot more pass-rush than Unrein did.
DE Jarvis Jenkins: 1yr/2mil – Low pay for a Chiefs guy that Nagy knows. He is the Lotulelei insurance move.
OLB Kareem Martin/Courtney Upshaw: 1yr/$2mil – The Bears need another veteran stopgap at the position in case of injuries. You have Leonard Floyd and Willie Young. Play it safe. There isn’t a great edge-rusher available in free agency for the 3-4, so don’t force it.
CB Trumaine Johnson: 4yr/$40mil – I feel like I’ve been rooting for this move for years. He’s a good, young player who is often ignored by the wider press. If this doesn't happen, the other option to play across from Amukamara is Aaron Colvin, likely to the exact same contract. Both are physical guys who will succeed with Vic Fangio’s scheme.
A Veteran backup QB to teach Trubisky: 2yr/$15mil – It’s the going rate *shrug*. This should be someone with starting experience who can help Trubisky prepare. Possible guys here are Matt Moore, Derek Anderson, Ryan Fitzpatrick. Praise be to the God of your choice if it is Josh McCown coming back to Chicago to teach the kid.
Remaining Cap: $6.5mil (actually more with some simple restructuring. We’ll assume its enough for the rookie class and some league-minimum depth building).
I am not going to name the exact picks at each position, but give an array of choices. Its way too soon for overly specific moves. But I will give positions for each spot they should be focused on.
1st (7th): They won’t need WR here in this scenario. Nor corner. Free agency took care of it. Getting an edge rusher like Arden Key, or an elite Safety playmaker like Derwin James at this spot would help this defense take the next step. Maybe a defensive guy shoots up draft boards and this is his landing spot in the top 10. An offensive coach may rely on his scheme to succeed on offense, so they may avoid drafting that side of the ball.
2nd (39th): One of Safety/OLB is still up for grabs. But I think Offensive Lineman if possible. Solder is a stopgap pickup, and he’s been injured. Get a swing tackle who is the long-term answer at one of the spots here. Maybe someone like McGlinchey falls far enough you can package one of your 4ths to go get him. Maybe its Brian O’Neill or Connor Williams or Kolton Miller or Orlando Brown.
3rd(none): Gone in the Trubisky trade…
4th(101st/111th): Two picks. One of them should contribute immediately. The one truth of the Ryan Pace era is that he loves spending 3rd or 4th rounders on Safeties. The other is that they will go rogue with at least one of these picks if they haven’t already. Look for a position not of need, but looking at value. MLB or RB even... Knowing Pace, put me on the record that I think they overdraft a big-production-small-school WR at 111: Michael Gallup (CO State) or Jake Wieneke (South Dakota State).
5th-7th: Depth. Especially another RB, given we have nothing behind Howard/Cohen in this scenario.
What is still left:
The Bears offense gets a veteran backup signal-caller to help Trubisky. A couple new tight ends to allow the Bears to continue to scheme around power running. They improve the o-line, in FA and maybe even the draft. Their WR core is healthy, gets a new top option, and keeps only the best guys Trubisky is familiar with. The biggest problem here is if Shaheen isn’t successful in year two, and if the interior o-line is injury-riddled again. We’re largely banking on scheme changes and player growth here, over new personnel. (I refuse to entertain a world where Trubisky doesn’t continue to improve. My psyche can’t take it.)
The Defense has been legit under Fangio. They lose Unrein, a run-stuffer who was their worst defensive starter anyway, and take a gamble to replace him. They shred their overpriced pass-rushing team, and bring back one or two on a budget. They clean up the cornerback room with some long-term consistency. And they potentially add either an elite pass rusher or elite safety playmaker to take their D the next step. The biggest problem here is going to be the lack of a pass-rusher across from Leonard Floyd if they end up going Safety in the first round.
There are a lot of depth questions left, and punter and a few other positions. I expect some UDFA players to make this team at the end of the roster, or post-draft cuts.
Overall, I think this Bears team can get to 8-10 wins with a top 10 defense (again) and an offense that rises from 32nd to 20th. Remember, they get the NFC West and AFC East, plus the Bucs and Giants. Its not a recipe for 13-3, but it’s a recipe for competition in the Wild Card race.