2015 NFL Offseason: Chicago Bears

Chicago Bears (Last Year: 5-11)

2015 NFL Season Preview:

Veteran Additions:
RB Jacquizz Rodgers, WR Eddie Royal, TE Bear Pascoe, G Vlad Ducasse, C Will Montomgery, DE/DT Jarvis Jenkins, DE/OLB Pernell McPhee, DE/OLB Sam Acho, ILB Mason Foster, CB Alan Ball, S Antrel Rolle.
Early Draft Picks:
WR Kevin White, DT Eddie Goldman, C Hroniss Grasu, RB Jeremy Langford, S Adrian Amos. Bears Rookie Forecast
Offseason Losses:
WR Brandon Marshall, C Roberto Garza, C Brian De La Puente, DE/DT Ray McDonald, DT Stephen Paea, OLB Lance Briggs, ILB D.J. Williams, CB Charles Tillman, S Chris Conte, S Danny McCray.

2015 Chicago Bears Offense:
If only the Land of Oz happened to be real. Jay Cutler could be whisked away in a tornado, find the Wizard, obtain a heart and then click his heels to return back to Chicago. Cutler, the Don’t Care Bear, would suddenly be concerned with whether his team wins or not, and the Bears as a whole would improve tremendously.

Unfortunately for the city of Chicago, this is just a work of fiction. The fans will once again be forced to endure Cutler’s lethargy, as he wastes away both his talent and another season. Cutler has all the skill in the world, but he just doesn’t give a damn. When he doesn’t feel like getting hit, he’ll gladly toss checkdowns, and when he’s had enough of being on the field, he’ll fire careless passes that are often picked off. Cutler was responsible for 24 turnovers in 2014, all while maintaining a pathetic 6.8 YPA.

To be fair, the checkdown habit wasn’t all Cutler’s fault. The offensive line was in shambles this past season and did not give Cutler an appropriate level of protection. The primary offenders were right tackle Jordan Mills and reserve blocker Michael Ola, who had to step in for various injured players. Mills will still be stationed at his post, as Chicago neglected to find an upgrade for him. Left tackle Jermon Bushrod struggled in 2014, but was fine until he sustained a knee injury in the middle of the year that knocked him out for a couple of games. He returned shortly afterward, but was never the same for the rest of the season.

Both guards will be back as well. Kyle Long was easily Chicago’s top blocker this past year, while Matt Slauson played in just five contests because of a torn pectoral. His return will obviously help. Slauson and Long will sandwich new center Will Montgomery, who was brought over from Denver. Montgomery isn’t very good, but he’s a serviceable starter who is familiar with offensive coordinator Adam Gase’s system. If Montgomery doesn’t work out, perhaps third-round rookie Hroniss Grasu can step in and be effective as a blocker for Cutler.

Cutler won’t have his buddy Brandon Marshall around this upcoming season, as Marshall was dealt to the Jets. That could be a blessing in disguise, as Marshall, who just turned 31, was coming off a down year and was showing some signs of regression. Alshon Jeffery, who was the better wideout by a mile last season, will now be starting across from No. 7 overall pick Kevin White, who, like Marshall and Jeffery, is gifted with both great size and athleticism. He’s raw, however, so he may not be a big contributor as a rookie.

The Bears have some other weapons available for Cutler to waste, primarily Matt Forte, Martellus Bennett and Eddie Royal. Bennett is coming off a big year in which he caught 90 balls for 916 yards and six touchdowns. He’s wisely holding out for a new contract as a consequence. Royal just had a couple of strong seasons working with Philip Rivers, but he clearly valued money over his football career by signing on to play with a lethargic bum like Cutler.

As for Forte, he’ll certainly see a decrease in receptions (102) with Marc Trestman no longer coaching him. Forte saw a dip in his yards-per-carry figure, as it dropped from 4.6 to 3.9, but that was the result of poor play from the offensive line. With Slauson back and Bushrod healthy, perhaps Forte’s numbers will increase, which could give Cutler more time in the pocket.

2015 Chicago Bears Defense:
Even if the new coaching staff somehow gets Jay Cutler to care and the offensive line to perform better, it still needs to worry about a horrific defense that surrendered 27.6 points per game in 2014.

To combat this, Chicago is moving to a 3-4 system. It didn’t have a starting-caliber nose tackle for the scheme, so it spent its second-round pick on the monstrous Eddie Goldman, who was getting some late-first-round consideration. It’s unclear how Goldman will play, and the same can be said for starting defensive end Ego Ferguson, who did not look good while playing a third of the snaps in his rookie campaign last year. Ferguson might do better in the 3-4, but that’s unknown. Meanwhile, someone who will likely thrive in the new system is Jay Ratliff. The former Cowboy was the Bears’ top defensive lineman by far this past season, and he has experience in the 3-4, so there won’t be any sort of adjustment period.

The front office signed another player who will be comfortable in this scheme, bringing over Pernell McPhee from Baltimore. McPhee will feel right at home as an edge rusher in this style of defense, but the question is whether he’ll thrive as a full-time player for the first time in his career. McPhee did well behind Terrell Suggs and Elvis Dumervil last year, but now that he’ll be asked to be on the field for the majority of the snaps, the opposition will be paying more attention to him. Will he continue to generate tons of heat on the quarterback, or will he disappoint as a big signing?

Elsewhere at outside linebacker, Lamarr Houston figures to start across from McPhee. Houston is also familiar with playing while standing up, but he’s coming off a torn ACL and may not be 100 percent. And what about Jared Allen? Expected to provide depth at the position, Allen will be in an unfamiliar system. Now 33, Allen might be learning a new trick at too old of an age. Allen wouldn’t even be a factor if Willie Young, who collected 9.5 sacks in 2014, wasn’t coming off a torn Achilles.

Having McPhee play well in his new home and Houston recover from his knee injury will go a long way in assisting a secondary that needs all the help it can get. The cornerbacks aren’t that bad; Tim Jennings has been with the Bears since 2010, and while he turns 32 in December, he proved that he can still be an adequate starter last year. Kyle Fuller, meanwhile, got off to a terrific start in his rookie campaign in 2014, but knee and hip maladies caused his performance to decline. The Bears have very little depth at the position, so Jennings and Fuller better stay healthy.

The safety position is one of the two major liabilities in this defense. Antrel Rolle and Brock Vereen are slated to start unless fifth-round rookie Adrian Amos steps up. Vereen showed some promise with a couple of decent games in his rookie campaign this past season, but he’s still a question mark. Rolle is a bigger uncertainty; Rolle, 33 in December, saw his play decline dramatically in 2014. He was constantly torched while he was with the Giants, so why will he be any better in his new home?

The other liability on the stop unit is at inside linebacker. Long-time Bear Lance Briggs is gone, so Jon Bostic and Mason Foster will be the starters. Bostic was brutal in coverage last season, while Foster has struggled for years with the Buccaneers. Chicago ignored this position, outside of signing Foster, so it will be a persistent problem area in 2015.

2015 Chicago Bears Schedule and Intangibles:
There surprisingly hasn’t been much of a disparity between Chicago’s home and road records recently. Over the past five seasons, the Bears are 24-18 as hosts and 21-19 as visitors.

The Bears did well on kick returns last season, scoring a touchdown via Chris Williams, but they were outgained on punts by five yards. It’s no surprise that they struggled in this regard with Devin Hester gone.

Robbie Gould dealt with a quad injury at the end of last season, so that would explain why he attempted just 12 kicks. He hit nine of them, but whiffed on his only try from beyond 50.

Sixth-round rookie Pat O’Donnell was one of the league’s worst punters in 2014, ranking 27th in net yardage. He struggled to place punts inside the opposing 20.

The Bears could be buried right away; they kick off their season against three playoff teams from a year ago: Packers, Cardinals and Seahawks. After a much easier game against Oakland, four of Chicago’s next five contests are on the road, and none of the opponents are pushovers (Chiefs, Lions, Chargers and Rams).

2015 Chicago Bears Rookies:
Go here for the Bears Rookie Forecast, a page with predictions like which rookie will bust and which rookie will become a solid starter.

2015 Chicago Bears Positional Rankings (1-5 stars):
Offensive Line
Running Backs
Defensive Line
Special Teams

2015 Chicago Bears Analysis: The Bears got rid of the wrong person. It’s unclear how good of a head coach Marc Trestman was, but Jay Cutler absolutely needed to go, even when considering the financial implications of jettisoning him. Cutler is toxic and lethargic, and Chicago will never win with him as long as he’s at the helm. The silver lining is that there’s a good chance the Bears will have a top-five draft pick next spring, and that’ll allow them to obtain a new quarterback.

Projection: 4-12 (4th in NFC North)

NFL Draft Team Grade: A- Grade

Goals Entering the 2015 NFL Draft: The Bears should also be desperate to move up for Marcus Mariota. However, their chances aren’t as likely because, well, why in the world would the Titans want a heartless bum quarterback? Chicago will finally replace Cutler next year – check out my 2016 NFL Mock Draft – but in the meantime, they’ll need to add pieces for their new 3-4, as well as a receiver to replace Brandon Marshall and offensive linemen to have in place for their next quarterback.

2015 NFL Draft Accomplishments: The Bears did indeed attempt to trade up for Mariota, but it was a hilarious, futile effort because they tried to include Cutler in the deal. Chicago would’ve had more luck offering dog poop to the Titans. After all, dog poop doesn’t have nearly as high of a cap charge.

All kidding aside, the Bears had a terrific initial draft under this new front office. They accomplished all of their realistic goals, beginning with finding a replacement for Brandon Marshall. Kevin White was the best player available at No. 7, so he was the clear-cut correct choice. Pieces for the 3-4 were added after that. Eddie Goldman is the nose tackle Vic Fangio needed, while Adrian Amos is an athletic safety who will be able to compete for a starting job right away.

The Bears also found a couple of linemen for Cardale Jones, Christian Hackenberg, or whomever their next quarterback will be. Hroniss Grasu was the sort of replacement the Bears needed for the departed Roberto Garza at center, while guard Tayo Fabuluje was a solid value choice in the sixth round.

NFL Draft Individual Grades:

7. Kevin White, WR, West Virginia: B+ Grade
This pick makes so much sense. The Bears traded away Brandon Marshall this offseason, leaving a big need at receiver across from Alshon Jeffery. White has the size Marshall had, and he’s also a downfield threat. The issue with White is that he’s considered a raw, one-year wonder, but the potential is too great, and it could be argued that he was the best player available. This is definitely a strong choice, though I’m a bit upset that the Chicago fans didn’t boo like their Jet counterparts.

Follow @walterfootball for updates.

39. Eddie Goldman, NT, Florida State: B Grade
It almost had to be a nose tackle, right? The Bears are moving to the 3-4, and they didn’t have any sort of run-plugger in the middle of the defensive line. The Dick Butkus-approved Eddie Goldman now becomes that player. This is the right range for Goldman, who may have had a chance to be taken at the end of the first round. He’ll play only two downs for the Bears, but he’ll actually give Chicago a chance to get to third-and-long.

71. Hroniss Grasu, C, Oregon: B+ Grade
The Bears lost Roberto Garza, so they needed a new center. Hroniss Grasu was considered by some to be the top center in this class after Cameron Erving (yes, Browns, Erving is a center). Grasu fits the range as a third-rounder and he fills a need, so there’s no arguing this selection.

106. Jeremy Langford, RB, Michigan State: B+ Grade
This is a very logical pick, as the Bears had to find a reliable player behind Matt Forte. Jeremy Langford is great on third downs, so Chicago won’t lose much in that regard if Forte goes down. Langford could’ve gone in the third round without any complaints, so this is a solid choice.

142. Adrian Amos, S, Penn State: A Grade
The Bears have a new front office, so I didn’t know how they would draft. Based on their picks thus far, Chicago fans should be very optimistic (despite the Jay Cutler situation). Adrian Amos, a potential third-round pick, is a fantastic athlete who was highly productive at Penn State. He fills a big need in the Bears’ secondary. Great pick.

183. Tayo Fabuluje, G, TCU: B+ Grade
I thought the Bears would add two offensive linemen earlier than this, but they’re getting a nice value in Tayo Fabuluje. The TCU product is a massive human being (6-6, 353), but he’s actually athletic for someone his size. There are work-ethic concerns with him, but he’s worth a gamble at this juncture.

Season Summary:
It’s almost difficult to believe that the Bears were just one win away from reaching the playoffs a year ago. They capsized in 2014, as Jay Cutler’s anemic play was the catalyst for the team’s downfall. Marc Trestman and Phil Emery were both fired, and with Cutler soon on his way out, Chicago is starting over.

Offseason Moves:
  • Bears cut DE/DT Ray McDonald
  • Bears sign TE Bear Pascoe
  • Panthers sign CB Charles Tillman
  • Bears sign C Will Montgomery
  • Bears re-sign CB Sherrick McManis
  • Bears sign DE/OLB Sam Acho
  • Bears sign RB Jacquizz Rodgers
  • Bears sign CB Alan Ball
  • Bears sign ILB Mason Foster
  • Bears sign DE/DT Ray McDonald
  • Bears sign DE/DT Jarvis Jenkins
  • Bears sign G Vlad Ducasse
  • Buccaneers sign S Chris Conte
  • Bears sign S Antrel Rolle
  • Bears sign WR Eddie Royal
  • Redskins sign DT Stephen Paea
  • Bears sign DE/OLB Pernell McPhee
  • Bears re-sign QB Jimmy Clausen
  • Jets acquire WR Brandon Marshall from Bears for draft pick

    Team Needs:
    1. Quarterback: Talent has never been the issue with Jay Cutler. He just doesn’t give a damn. The Bears need a talented quarterback who actually cares, but they may have to wait until the second day of the NFL Draft to secure one. Hiring a coach like Mike Shanahan, who has a history, with Cutler, could also be a potential solution.

    2. Safety: Chicago’s defensive issues are well documented. The team needs help on all three levels of the stop unit, especially in the defensive backfield, where it had some horrid safety play in 2014. Signed Antrel Rolle

    3. Two Inside Linebackers: Lance Briggs is an impending free agent, so Chicago will have to find two new linebackers who can play the interior of the 3-4. Jon Bostic will probably be given another year, but it’s not like he wasn’t a liability at times. Signed Mason Foster

    4. Defensive End: The Bears don’t have much at the defensive end position in their new 3-4, so this is a position that will be looked at early in the 2015 NFL Draft.

    5. Guard: Cutler was constantly under pressure, as the Bears had some issues on their offensive line, particularly at the left guard spot. Everyone they started there struggled for the most part. Signed Vladimir Ducasse

    6. Rush Linebacker: The Bears seemed like they were set at defensive end a year ago, but Willie Young and Lamarr Houston are both coming off devastating injuries, so the pass rush will need to be addressed. Chicago could take an edge rusher for its new 3-4 defense at No. 7 overall considering the talent expected to be available there at that position. Signed Pernell McPhee and Sam Acho

    7. Nose Tackle: Chicago has a couple of young defensive tackles who need to be given a chance, but its top player at the position, Stephen Paea, happens to be a free agent. A true nose tackle is needed.

    8. Wide Receiver: Chicago had to find a tertiary receiver to go along with Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffery before the trade with the Jets. Now, a receiver is a possibility at No. 7 overall. Signed Eddie Royal

    9. Cornerback: Kyle Fuller was great as a rookie corner until he got injured and played hurt throughout the second half of the season. Tim Jennings is still there as well, but the Bears need some youth at the position, especially with Charles Tillman likely gone. Signed Alan Ball

    10. Right Tackle: Jordan Mills, chosen in the fifth round of the 2013 NFL Draft, was slightly sub par as a rookie, but took a major step backward in 2014. He’ll need to be upgraded with another poor season.

    11. Punter: Pat O’Donnell was 27th in net punting.

      Follow me @walterfootball for updates.

    2015 NFL Free Agent Signings:
    1. Pernell McPhee, DE/OLB, Ravens. Age: 26.
      Signed with Bears (5 years, $40 million)

      Playing behind Elvis Dumervil and Terrell Suggs, Pernell McPhee put great pressure on the quarterback, racking up 7.5 sacks despite being on the field for limited snaps. He also handled the run well.

    2. Antrel Rolle, S, Giants. Age: 32.
      Signed with Bears (3 years, $11.25 million; $5 million guaranteed)

      Antrel Rolle played extremely well in 2013, but there was a noticeable decline this past season. He was a major liability in run support, which isn’t a surprise, given that he’ll be 33 at some point during the 2015 campaign. He can still start, but not for much longer.

    3. Eddie Royal, WR, Chargers. Age: 29.
      Signed with Bears (3 years)

      Eddie Royal has served as a solid slot option for Philip Rivers, catching a combined 15 touchdowns over the past couple of seasons.

    4. Alan Ball, CB, Jaguars. Age: 30.
      Signed with Bears

      Alan Ball played well in 2013 before struggling a bit this past season. He missed the second half of the year with a torn bicep.

    5. Mason Foster, ILB, Buccaneers. Age: 26.
      Signed with Bears

      Mason Foster missed half the season with a shoulder injury. He’s still young – he’ll be 26 in March – but he hasn’t really lived up to expectations thus far.

    6. Jacquizz Rodgers, RB, Falcons. Age: 25. — Signed with Bears
    7. Will Montgomery, C, Broncos. Age: 32. — Signed with Bears
    8. Jarvis Jenkins, DE/DT, Redskins. Age: 27. — Signed with Bears
    9. Sam Acho, DE/OLB, Cardinals. Age: 26. — Signed with Bears
    10. Vladimir Ducasse, G, Vikings. Age: 27. — Signed with Bears
    11. Bear Pascoe, TE, Falcons. Age: 29. — Signed with Bears

    Chicago Bears Free Agents:

    Salary Cap: TBA.
    1. Stephen Paea, DT, Bears. Age: 27.
      Signed with Redskins (4 years, $21 million)

      Stephen Paea is a major liability in run support, but he’s excellent in terms of generating an interior pass rush.

    2. Lance Briggs, OLB, Bears. Age: 34.
      Lance Briggs is still strong against the run, but he’s just a two-down linebacker at this stage of his career. He turns 35 in November, so there’s no guarantee that he won’t regress further in 2015.

    3. Brian De La Puente, C/G, Bears. Age: 30.
      It was a mystery as to why the Saints let Brian De La Puente go last offseason. Capable of playing both center and guard, De La Puente sustained a season-ending ankle injury in November.

    4. Roberto Garza, C, Bears. Age: 36.
      Roberto Garza, who had suited up for Chicago since 2005, could still play. He wasn’t as effective as he once was, however, and at 36, he probably would’ve continued to regress.

    5. Ray McDonald, DE/DT, Bears. Age: 30.
      I’m giving Ray McDonald a write-up because of his great talent level, but it’s looking like he’ll never play in the NFL again after his latest (third) arrest for domestic violence. Unless McDonald is declared innocent of this charge, no one is going to sign him, and even then, the outlook for his football status is shaky.

    6. Chris Conte, S, Bears. Age: 26. — Signed with Buccaneers
    7. Sherrick McManis, CB/ST, Bears. Age: 27. — Re-signed with Bears (1 year)
    8. D.J. Williams, ILB, Bears. Age: 33.
    9. Jimmy Clausen, QB, Bears. Age: 27. — Re-signed with Bears
    10. Charles Tillman, CB, Bears. Age: 34. — Signed with Panthers
    11. Danny McCray, S, Bears. Age: 27.
    12. Dante Rosario, TE, Bears. Age: 30. — Re-siged with Bears (1 year)
    13. Josh Morgan, WR, Bears. Age: 30.
    14. Trevor Scott, DE, Bears. Age: 31.
    15. Austen Lane, DE, Bears. Age: 27.
    16. Jay Feely, K, Bears. Age: 39.
    17. Montell Owens, RB, Bears. Age: 31.


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