2016 NFL Offseason: Chicago Bears

Chicago Bears (Last Year: 6-10)

2016 NFL Season Preview:

Veteran Additions:
QB Brian Hoyer, OT Bobby Massie, G Patrick Omameh, C Ted Larsen, DE/DT Akiem Hicks, ILB Danny Trevathan, ILB Jerrell Freeman, S Omar Bolden.
Early Draft Picks:
DE/OLB Leonard Floyd, G/OT/C Cody Whitehair, DE/DT Jonathan Bullard, LB Nick Kwiatkowski, S Deon Bush, CB Deiondre’ Hall. Bears Rookie Forecast
Offseason Losses:
RB Matt Forte, TE Martellus Bennett, OT Jermon Bushrod, G/C Matt Slauson, DE/DT Jarvis Jenkins, DE/LB Shea McClellin, S Antrel Rolle.

2016 Chicago Bears Offense:
It was a bit surprising that the Bears didn’t target a quarterback in the 2016 NFL Draft. In fact, all they did at the position this offseason was sign Brian Hoyer to be the backup. There was a need at the position, as Jay Cutler, who turned 33 this spring, has endured an up-and-down career with the Bears. He’s coming off an “up” year in which he threw just 11 interceptions. However, a big reason for this was that he was under Adam Gase’s tutelage, and the stellar offensive coordinator is no longer with the team, as he took a head-coaching job with the Dolphins. Thus, Cutler may regress under replacement coordinator Dowell Loggains.

Gase’s departure, however, could be mitigated by the fact that Cutler has better downfield weapons at his disposal. Alshon Jeffery is still the No. 1 receiver, and he’ll be looking to bounce back after playing just nine games in 2015 because of numerous injuries. Jeffery was terrific when on the field, so he figures to have a prolific 2016 campaign if he can remain healthy. Teams also won’t be able to pay as much attention to him because of Kevin White. The seventh-overall pick in the 2015 NFL Draft, White missed his entire rookie season because of a stress fracture in his leg. White is both large (6-3, 215) and extremely physically gifted, reminding some of Andre Johnson. His presence should aid Cutler immensely.

Cutler’s other aerial weapons include slot receiver Eddie Royal and tight end Zach Miller. The latter emerged at the end of last year, catching 18 passes in his final three games. He showed some great chemistry with Cutler, so re-signing him to a $6 million deal this offseason was crucial.

One player not on the list in the previous paragraph was Matt Forte, who signed with the Jets this offseason. Forte was both a terrific runner and a very important safety valve out of the backfield for Chicago for many years. However, Forte showed signs of decline last year, so it was the right time to move on from him. The problem is that the Bears don’t have a viable replacement for Forte in terms of a pass-catcher. Jeremy Langford didn’t look overly comfortable in that role, even dropping a crucial ball that ended up costing Chicago a victory against the Vikings. Langford wasn’t even that great of a runner, mustering only 3.6 yards per carry. Fifth-round rookie Jordan Howard has some potential, but he can’t be counted on to be productive.

While Cutler has some nice downfield weapons at his disposal, his offensive line is even in worse shape than his running back stable. The tackles are absolutely horrendous. In fact, Chicago may have the worst starting pair of tackles in the NFL. It’s a joke that Charles Leno will be going into the season as the starting blind-side protector. Leno was beyond atrocious last season, while right tackle Bobby Massie isn’t much better. In fact, Massie was responsible for Carson Palmer’s season-ending injury two years ago. It’s unclear why the Bears eschewed addressing the tackle position this offseason, especially when Laremy Tunsil fell into their laps during the draft.

Chicago at least found a new guard, spending a second-round selection on Cody Whitehair. However, the team may have downgraded one of the interior positions as a result because Matt Slauson was released in the wake of the Whitehair acquisition. Slauson performed very well last year, and he didn’t count much against the cap, so it’s unclear why the Bears opted to part ways with him. At any rate, Whitehair will start at guard along with Kyle Long, who is finally moving inside after struggling at right tackle. They’ll sandwich center Hroniss Grassu, a third-round pick from 2015. Grassu struggled in limited action last year.

2016 Chicago Bears Defense:
The Bears had possessed a stalwart defense for a long time, thanks to Brian Urlacher and company. That has not been the case recently, as Chicago has struggled immensely on this side of the ball, even surrendering close to 25 points per game last year. However, based on several excellent moves made this offseason, the Bears could be back to their old, dominant, defensive ways.

The three major acquisitions came in the linebacking corps. In free agency, the Bears signed Danny Trevathan and Jerrell Freeman, both of whom will start in the interior. This was absolutely huge, as Chicago has had a huge void at inside linebacker ever since Urlacher began declining. That will no longer be the case, as Trevathan and Freeman enjoyed excellent 2015 campaigns for the Broncos and Colts, respectively.

The third new linebacker was acquired via the draft when the Bears moved up from No. 11 to 9 to select Leonard Floyd. The Georgia product will start outside and should provide a better pass rush than anyone provided last year, save for Pernell McPhee. Floyd would be replacing Willie Young, who is coming off a torn Achilles and has told the media that he wants a trade because he’s not happy in a 3-4 scheme. Floyd should be, as he projects as a high-impact edge rusher. McPhee qualifies as one as well, and he is dominant in run support to boot. The Bears will have a nice rotation going with Lamarr Houston included as well. Houston could even start if Floyd isn’t deemed ready, but he’s coming off a down season as a result of a knee injury.

The Bears also have some new players who can get to the quarterback from the defensive line. A third-round choice was spent on Jonathan Bullard, which seems like a great move because there was some speculation that Bullard would be taken at the end of the first frame. Bullard dropped, however, because many teams considered him to be a tweener. He should fit in as a five-technique in Chicago’s defense though, and he could start as a rookie along with Akiem Hicks, who is also new to the team. Hicks was solid for the Patriots last year, prompting the Bears to sign him as a free agent. Hicks and Bullard could easily be much better than last year’s starters, Jarvis Jenkins and Will Sutton, who were awful. Rounding out the defensive line, Eddie Goldman, last year’s second-round choice, should continue to be solid at nose tackle.

With a much improved pass rush, the secondary will obviously stand to benefit. This is important, as the defensive backfield is seen as the worst unit in Chicago’s defense at the moment. A pair of fourth-rounders – cornerback Deiondre’ Hall and safety Deon Bush – were added, but there’s no guarantee that they’ll make much of a difference as rookies.

That said, Hall could challenge for Tracy Porter’s corner job. Porter played well at the beginning of last season, but was a major liability to close out the year. Kyle Fuller, taken in the first round of the 2014 NFL Draft, was better, but only by default. Fuller was actually the top corner on the roster, but he struggled at times.

As for the safeties, the Bears at least have one promising one in Adrian Amos, who performed well above expectations as a fifth-round rookie. The problem is that there’s nothing viable next to Amos, as Antrel Rolle is no longer on the roster. With Rolle gone, the Bears will have to go with either Chris Prosinski, who was abused in coverage last year, or Bush, the aforementioned rookie.

2016 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 six seasons, the Bears are 25-25 as hosts and 26-22 as visitors. They were a dreadful 1-7 at home in 2015.

The Bears outgained their foes on both punts and kickoffs last year, but surrendered three touchdowns while scoring none of their own.

Robbie Gould was just fine last year. He went 33-of-39, but drilled 7-of-9 from 50-plus. He missed just one of his 29 extra points.

Pat O’Donnell was one of the league’s worst punters in 2014, ranking 27th in net yardage. However, he improved to 19th in that category last year.

The Bears have a chance to get off to a nice start. Following a tough game at Houston, they get the Eagles, Cowboys, Lions and Jaguars in four of their next five games.

2016 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.

2016 Chicago Bears Positional Rankings (1-5 stars):
Offensive Line
Running Backs
Defensive Line
Special Teams

2016 Chicago Bears Analysis: The Bears figure to be much more competitive in 2016. Kevin White is back, while numerous upgrades were made on defense. The most important factor, however, is Jay Cutler’s mindset. Will Cutler be focused like last year despite losing Adam Gase, or will he revert to being an absolutely terrible interception machine, which is what he was in 2014?

Projection: 8-8 (3rd in NFC North)

NFL Draft Team Grade: B Grade

Goals Entering the 2016 NFL Draft: The Bears had an excellent free-agency period, so they’ll need to continue to build momentum with some strong picks in the 2016 NFL Draft. Aside from left tackle, cornerback and five-technique, there’s not a glaring position of need, so the Bears can spend a couple of early choices on the best player available.

2016 NFL Draft Accomplishments: I’m torn on what the Bears did to start the draft. They found a quality pass-rusher in Leonard Floyd, but moved up to do so. They had to leap the Giants for Floyd, but there would’ve been plenty of similarly ranked prospects available at No. 11 had they not done that. It wasn’t a terrible decision, but it certainly wasn’t a good way to kick off the draft.

Fortunately for the Bears, the rest of their haul was mostly strong. Cody Whitehair and Jonathan Bullard were excellent values on Day 2. Whitehair, who fills a need on the offensive line, was obtained after trading down twice. Bullard, meanwhile, was chosen in the third round despite being regarded as a first-round prospect by some. He’ll satisfy an even greater void on the roster, the defensive end position.

Chicago did well in the third round, save for the Nick Kwiatkoski pick. I didn’t mind Kwiatkoski as a prospect, but moving up for him wasn’t necessary. Still, the Bears had a solid “B”-type draft overall, which would be graded higher had they addressed left tackle and cornerback.

NFL Draft Individual Grades:

9. Leonard Floyd, DE/OLB, Georgia B- Grade
The Bears felt the need to leap the Giants for Leoanrd Floyd, and rightly so. The Giants were going to take Floyd, and the Buccaneers had interest in him as well, but they obviously must have liked the trade better.

This pick makes sense. Floyd is arguably the best 3-4 edge rusher in this class – yes, above Joey Bosa, who was a 4-3 player – and he fills a position of weakness for Chicago. I can’t really say anything is wrong with this pick, as it would’ve been a “B” without the trade.

Follow @walterfootball for updates.

56. Cody Whitehair, G/OT/C, Kansas State A+ Grade
Wow, what a great pick. An A+ for the Bears, for sure. First of all, Cody Whitehair was projected by some to be chosen at the end of the first round, so they’re getting great value at this spot. Second, Whitehair fills a big need; Chicago’s offensive line had its issues heading into the draft, and Whitehair can pretty much play every single position up front (though he’s best as a guard). And third, Chicago obtained him after trading down twice! This is excellent drafting by the Bears.

72. Jonathan Bullard, DE/DT, Florida A+ Grade
Holy crap, I forgot Jonathan Bullard was still available. Maybe other teams did as well. The Bears are absolutely killing it in the draft, especially on Friday. Bullard could’ve easily been chosen in the first round, based on his talent level. I had him slotted in the second frame, so this is still a steal. Bullard also fills a huge need.

113. Nick Kwiatkoski, LB, West Virginia C+ Grade
The Bears surrendered a sixth-rounder to move up four spots to select Nick Kwiatkoski. I’m not sure if that was necessary, as there are plenty of solid fourth-round linebackers available. Kwiatkoski doesn’t even fill an obvious need, though depth is needed at inside linebacker. Kwiatkoski will play exclusively special teams in the near future.

124. Deon Bush, RB, Miami B Grade
Deon Bush makes sense as a fourth-rounder. He was productive at Miami, but tested poorly at the Combine. Still, he should be able to be a solid reserve safety – something Chicago needed – and a quality special-teams player.

127. Deiondre’ Hall, CB/S, Northern Iowa B+ Grade
This is another quality pick by the Bears, though it’s unclear where they view Deiondre’ Hall. It’s possible that Hall could play safety, though cornerback makes sense as well. Hall is a tall, long defensive back, and if he does play corner, he’ll be filling a huge need. Hall could’ve been chosen about 30 or so selections earlier than this, so this pick provides some nice value.

150. Jordan Howard, RB, Indiana A- Grade
I’m loving these day-three running back picks. I don’t know why they fell like this, but the Bears will be happy with Jordan Howard. At least during the first two downs. Howard struggles in the passing game, so he’ll always be a two-down player, in all likelihood, but that’s fine, as Chicago needed to find a runner to complement Jeremy Langford.

185. DeAndre Houston-Carson, S, William & Mary A- Grade
I wonder how high DeAndre Houston-Carson would’ve gone had he not struggled at the Combine. He tested poorly, so he fell to the sixth round, when his production said that he probably belonged in the third or fourth frame. With that in mind, I have to praise the Bears for making this pick despite it not filling a big need. Houston-Carson will eventually contribute on defense and will play special teams in the meantime.

230. Daniel Braverman, WR, Western Michigan A- Grade
Daniel Braverman is a small (5-10) receiver who endured a miserable Pro Day, running a 4.53 40, which is awful for his size. However, Braverman seems like one of those players where measureables don’t tell the whole story. He was a very successful receiver in Western Michigan’s offense, and he projects as a potentially semi-productive slot receiver in the NFL.

Season Summary:
Jay Cutler was much better than expected this past season, and yet the Bears still managed to go just 6-10, thanks to numerous injuries. Offensive coordinator Adam Gase did a great job of coaching up Cutler, but now Chicago will have to move on without him, as he took the Miami head-coaching job.

Offseason Moves:
  • Bears sign OT Nate Chandler
  • Bears cut G Matt Slauson
  • Bears cut S Antrel Rolle
  • Bears sign QB Brian Hoyer
  • Bears sign S Omar Bolden
  • Bears sign C Ted Larsen
  • Bears sign G Manuel Ramirez
  • Bears re-sign WR Deonte Thompson
  • Patriots acquire TE Martellus Bennett, 6th-round pick from Bears for 4th-round pick
  • Bears re-sign TE Zach Miller
  • Bears re-sign TE Rob Housler
  • Bears sign DT Akiem Hicks
  • Bears re-sign WR/KR Marc Mariani
  • Bears sign ILB Jerrell Freeman
  • Bears re-sign CB Sherrick McManis
  • Bears sign OT Bobby Massie
  • Bears re-sign RB Jacquizz Rodgers
  • Bears re-sign CB Tracy Porter
  • Bears sign ILB Danny Trevathan
  • Bears cut OT Jermon Bushrod

    Team Needs:
    1. Two Offensive Tackles: Chicago has to make some adjustments on offense, and it can start by fixing the tackle position. Two upgrades are needed, as Charles Leno and Kyle Long started there in 2015. Leno is just a backup-caliber player, while Long would be better served playing guard. Signed Bobby Massie

    2. Two Defensive Ends: The Bears made the switch to a 3-4 last season, but they lacked the proper personnel up front. Two defensive ends are needed to sandwich nose tackle Eddie Goldman.

    3. Inside Linebacker: As you can see, Chicago needs to bolster the interior of its defense. Shea McClellin was starting at inside linebacker last year, which was an absolute disaster. Signed Danny Trevathan and Jerrell Freeman

    4. Two Wide Receivers: Make it one receiver if the Bears manage to re-sign Alshon Jeffery. Even if Jeffery is brought back, a wideout will be a priority in free agency or the draft, as Jay Cutler doesn’t have much else to throw to. Franchised Alshon Jeffery

    5. Cornerback: Tracy Porter played well early in the season, but was exposed as the year went on. A replacement would be needed even if Porter didn’t happen to be an impending free agent. Re-signed Tracy Porter

    6. Tight End: The tight end spot needs to be addressed if Zach Miller isn’t retained. Cutler and Miller developed a great rapport late in the year, so losing Miller would hurt. Re-signed Zach Miller

    7. Quarterback: Cutler will play for the Bears for at least one more season. The Bears need to groom a quarterback to replace him in 2017 and beyond. Signed Brian Hoyer

    8. Running Back Depth: Jeremy Langford showed enough to prove that he can be the primary back going forward in the wake of Matt Forte’s expiring contract. The Bears should add some insurance behind Langford. Re-signed Jacquizz Rodgers

      Follow me @walterfootball for updates.

    2016 NFL Free Agent Signings:
    1. Danny Trevathan, ILB, Broncos. Age: 26.
      Signed with Bears (4 years)

      Danny Trevathan didn’t play all three downs most of the time this season, but only because Brandon Marshall is so great. Trevathan could have easily done this, as he had a great season in Wade Phillips’ system.

    2. Jerrell Freeman, ILB, Colts. Age: 30.
      Signed with Bears (3 years, $12 million)

      I don’t know what Jerrell Freeman did last offseason, but he should repeat whatever his workout regimen was because he improved dramatically in 2015. Freeman was constantly abused in the run game the year before, but he was an absolute force in that regard this past season. He was also solid in coverage.

    3. Akiem Hicks, DE/DT, Patriots. Age: 26.
      Signed with Bears (2 years)

      The Patriots obtained Akiem Hicks from the Saints for Michael Hoomanawanui. I’d say New England won that swap. Hicks was a solid rotational player who wasn’t a liability in any regard.

    4. Manuel Ramirez, G/C, Lions. Age: 33.
      Signed with Bears

      Manuel Ramirez was basically just thrown into the draft-day deal when the Lions and Broncos swapped picks. Ramirez, after all, struggled in Denver. However, he took advantage of his new situation and thrived whenever he was asked to step into the lineup.

    5. Brian Hoyer, QB, Texans. Age: 30.
      Signed with Bears (1 year, $2 million)

      Many may remember how Brian Hoyer crapped his pants against the Chiefs in an embarrassing playoff loss and wonder why he’s listed as a two-star free agent. Well, Hoyer had some decent moments in 2015. In fact, he threw 19 touchdowns to just seven interceptions. He should’ve never been a starter, but he’s a very solid backup.

    6. Bobby Massie, OT, Cardinals. Age: 27. — Signed with Bears (3 years, $18 million)
    7. Omar Bolden, S, Broncos. Age: 27. — Signed with Bears
    8. Ted Larsen, C, Cardinals. Age: 29. — Signed with Bears
    9. Nate Chandler, OT, Panthers. Age: 27. — Signed with Bears

    Chicago Bears Free Agents:

    Salary Cap: TBA.
    1. Alshon Jeffery, WR, Bears. Age: 26.
      Franchised by Bears

      Alshon Jeffery is one of the top free agents on the market. He’s a dynamic receiver who is just entering his prime. He logged 1,133 yards and 10 touchdowns in 2014 despite working with a lethargic Jay Cutler. He posted a 54-807-4 line in 2015, but played only nine games because of various injuries.

    2. Matt Forte, RB, Bears. Age: 30.
      Signed with Jets

      Matt Forte will be regarded as a top-level free agent by the public, but the fact of the matter is that he’ll turn 31 during the 2016 season. Forte has averaged 3.9 and 4.1 YPC the past two seasons as well. Forte is still fantastic as a pass-catcher out of the backfield, but he’s a bit overrated heading into free agency.

    3. Matt Slauson, G, Bears. Age: 30.
      Signed with Chargers (2 years)

      It’s a bit puzzling as to why the Bears cut Matt Slauson. He was owed less than $3 million, and he was still playing well this past season. Slauson just turned 30, so it’s not like he’s going to completely regress in the next couple of years.

    4. Zach Miller, TE, Bears. Age: 31.
      Re-signed with Bears (2 years, $6 million)

      Zach Miller came out of nowhere to serve as a reliable target for Jay Cutler in 2015. The problem is that Miller turns 32 in October, so his success figures to be short-lived.

    5. Jermon Bushrod, OT, Bears. Age: 32.
      Signed with Dolphins (1 year)

      The Bears signed Jermon Bushrod to a ridiculous $36 million contract a few years ago. He wasn’t bad, but definitely did not live up to his contract. He’s a strong backup at this point in his career.

    6. Tracy Porter, CB, Bears. Age: 30.
      Re-signed with Bears (3 years, $16.5 million)

      Tracy Porter played well at the beginning of the season, but really fell off toward the end of the year, which was predictable given how the rest of his career has gone. Porter turns 30 in August, so things are looking bleak for him going forward.

    7. Antrel Rolle, S, Bears. Age: 33.
      Antrel Rolle was just average this past season for the Bears. He can still be a solid backup, but at 33, his best days are well behind him.

    8. Patrick Omameh, G, Bears. Age: 26. — Signed with the Jaguars
    9. Marc Mariani, WR/KR, Bears. Age: 29. — Re-signed with Bears (1 year)
    10. Alan Ball, CB, Bears. Age: 31.
    11. Ryan Mundy, S, Bears. Age: 31.
    12. Shea McClellin, DE/OLB, Bears. Age: 27. — Signed with Patriots (3 years)
    13. Vlad Ducasse, G, Bears. Age: 28. — Signed with Ravens
    14. Jarvis Jenkins, DE/DT, Bears. Age: 28. — Signed with Jets (3 years, $6 million)
    15. Will Montgomery, C, Bears. Age: 33.
    16. Jacquizz Rodgers, RB, Bears. Age: 26. — Re-signed with Bears
    17. Sherrick McManis, CB, Bears. Age: 28. — Re-signed with Bears
    18. Josh Bellamy (RFA), WR, Bears. Age: 27. — Re-signed with Bears
    19. Rob Housler, TE, Bears. Age: 28. — Re-signed with Bears
    20. LaRoy Reynolds (RFA), OLB, Bears. Age: 25. — Signed with Falcons
    21. Deonte Thompson, WR, Bears. Age: 27. — Re-signed with Bears
    22. Greg Scruggs, DT, Bears. Age: 26.
    23. Nick Becton (RFA), OT, Bears. Age: 26.

    NFL Free Agent Tracker:
    Top 90 | QB | RB | FB | WR | TE | OT | G | C | DE | DT | OLB | ILB | CB | S | K/P | FA Grades | FA Rumors

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