2017 NFL Offseason: Chicago Bears

Chicago Bears (Last Year: 3-13)

2017 NFL Season Preview:

Veteran Additions:
QB Mike Glennon, QB Mark Sanchez, WR Kendall Wright, WR Victor Cruz, WR Markus Wheaton, TE Dion Sims, OT Bradley Sowell, DE/DT Jaye Howard, NT John Jenkins, CB Prince Amukamara, CB Marcus Cooper, S Quintin Demps.
Early Draft Picks:
QB Mitchell Trubisky, TE Adam Shaheen, S Eddie Jackson, RB Tarik Cohen, G Jordan Morgan. Bears Rookie Forecast
Offseason Losses:
QB Jay Cutler, QB Brian Hoyer, QB Matt Barkley, WR Alshon Jeffery, WR Eddie Royal, C Ted Larsen, DT Will Sutton, DE/DT Cornelius Washington, ILB Christian Jones.

2017 Chicago Bears Offense:
It’s becoming quite apparent that the Bears don’t know what they’re doing, and that’s not mere speculation. When the team paid Mike Glennon way more than any other team was offering, it was assumed that Chicago was planning on giving the 27-year-old a shot to be the quarterback of the future. Instead, Chicago squandered resources to move up for Mitchell Trubisky. General manager Ryan Pace and head coach John Fox apparently had a major disagreement on this, and it’s easy to see why the party that didn’t want to select Trubisky was so against the move. There have been so many instances recently where reaching for a mediocre quarterback prospect over a better player has backfired. It’s highly likely that people will look back in five years and wonder what Chicago was thinking when it chose Trubisky over Solomon Thomas or Jamal Adams.

Glennon has told the media that he believes the Bears to be his team, and they are for now. The problem is that Glennon isn’t very good either, so Chicago will likely give Trubisky a chance at some point in 2017. Trubisky is not ready to play, however, but there is a silver lining, and that would be that Trubisky will be protected extremely well in the interior, and he’ll be compleneted by a strong rushing attack.

The trio of Josh Sitton, Cody Whitehair and Kyle Long were spectacular this past season. Sitton and Long were expected to perform on a high level as renowned guards, but Whitehair was a bit of a surprise. Just a second-round rookie, Whitehair was one of the top centers in the NFL, and he can only improve upon his first season.

The strong interior offensive line only helps Jordan Howard, who was also exceptional in his first year. Howard took over for the ineffective Jeremy Langford in Week 4 and never looked back, finishing with 1,313 rushing yards and six touchdowns. He did this on just 252 carries, meaning he averaged a highly impressive 5.2 yards per attempt. Howard also proved to be an effective pass-catching option, as he snatched 29 receptions.

That said, there are some glaring problems on offense beyond the quarterback situation. The interior offensive line was discussed, but the edge blocking figures to be very problematic. Charles Leno and Bobby Massie are slated to be the starters, and that’s an issue because neither is very good. Both were sub-par performers in 2016, and there’s no reason to believe that either will improve. The Bears did nothing to address this position during the offseason.

Another area Chicago neglected for the most part was the receiving corps. Kendall Wright and Markus Wheaton were signed, but both are failed players who may not contribute much. The Bears will go into the season with Kevin White and Cameron Meredith as the starters. White has done nothing during his 2-year career thus far, though Fox told the media that White had been having a strong offseason. Meredith, meanwhile, flashed this past season, catching nine or more passes in four games. The Bears like his potential, but Meredith will have to step up this year in the wake of Alshon Jeffery’s departure. Second-round rookie tight end Adam Shaheen may have to contribute as well, given Zach Miller’s durability issues. Miller is effective when healthy, but he missed the final six games last year. Shaheen is very athletically gifted, but also extremely raw.

2017 Chicago Bears Defense:
The strength of Chicago’s offense is the interior blocking and rushing attack, but the strength of the overall team is the defensive front seven. The Bears are loaded with talent here, and that was the case last year. Injuries sabotaged Chicago’s chances in 2016, so the team will be hoping there’s not a repeat of that this upcoming season.

The root of the Bears’ injury woes occurred in a Week 2 Monday night affair versus the Eagles. It was a blood bath, as two linebackers, both starting safeties, the primary nose tackle and the nickel corner were all knocked out. Oh, and Jay Cutler got hurt, too.

The inside linebackers going down had to be most painful, as they are the heart of Chicago’s defense. Both Danny Trevathan and Jerrell Freeman are excellent, but Trevathan was lost for a couple of games, and then he was knocked out for the season in late November with a knee injury. The Bears, however, have not been optimistic about his chances of being ready for training camp. If he can’t go, Chicago’s run defense will suffer, as Freeman specializes more in coverage. The Bears don’t really have a viable backup behind the two linebackers.

Speaking of the run defense, Eddie Goldman was the aforementioned nose tackle who got hurt versus the Eagles. He played in just six games this past season, so his presence will be huge in 2017. He’s projected to start along with the stellar Akiem Hicks and one of the following: Mitch Unrein, Jonathan Bullard or Jaye Howard. Unrein is fairly decent versus the run, but doesn’t do much else. Bullard was a third-round pick in 2016, but struggled as a rookie. Howard, meanwhile, performed well in 2015, but struggled last year because he dealt with an injury.

Pernell McPhee is another Bear who was injured this past season, as he was limited to just nine games because of various maladies. McPhee told the media that he has lost 25 pounds this offseason in an attempt to remain healthy. If he can stay on the field, it’ll be a huge boon for the Bears, as he could be their top edge rusher. Leonard Floyd could also hold that distinction; he was the team’s first-round pick in 2016, and he recorded seven sacks in 2016. Willie Young is expected to provide solid depth, while Lamarr Houston may not make the final roster because of a couple of knee procedures.

If everyone stays healthy, the Bears will have one of the better front sevens in the NFL. The secondary, meanwhile, was atrocious last year, but Chicago picked up a couple of players to help in that regard. The first was Prince Amukamara, who has had durability issues of his own. Amukamara is very effective when healthy, so the Bears made a nice move to add him for one year, as he poses no risk. The solid Bryce Callahan will be in the slot, but it’s unclear whom Amukamara will start across from. Kyle Fuller, a 2014 first-round pick, missed the entire 2016 campaign with a knee injury. Cre’von LeBlanc, who was just OK last year, could beat out Fuller.

The second defensive back the Bears acquired was Quintin Demps, who performed well for the Texans. Demps has had an up-and-down career, but he figures to be an upgrade next to Adrian Amos. Fourth-round rookie Eddie Jackson could compete for a starting job in a year or two.

2017 Chicago Bears Schedule and Intangibles:
There surprisingly is no disparity between Chicago’s home and road records recently. Over the past seven seasons, the Bears are 29-29 as hosts and 28-28 as visitors. They were a dreadful 1-7 at home in 2015, but improved to 4-4 last year.

The Bears outgained their foes on both punts and kickoffs in 2015, but the complete opposite was true this past season.

Robbie Gould was missed, to say the least. Connor Barth was a poor replacement, hitting just 18-of-23 tries, including 1-of-3 from 50-plus.

Pat O’Donnell was one of the league’s worst punters in 2016, ranking 28th in net yardage.

The Bears have a very difficult schedule to start, going against the Falcons, Buccaneers, Steelers and Packers in the first four games. It at least gets easier down the stretch, but Chicago could be out of contention before that.

2017 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.

2017 Chicago Bears Positional Rankings (1-5 stars):
Offensive Line
Running Backs
Defensive Line
Special Teams

2017 Chicago Bears Analysis: The Bears have some great things going for them. Their interior offensive line is elite; their ground attack is pretty potent; and their front seven is very talented. However, they also have some serious holes, namely the quarterback position. It’s unlikely that either Mike Glennon or Mitchell Trubisky will be able to lead the Bears anywhere close to the playoffs.

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

2017 Projection: 8-8. 2016 Actual Result: 3-13.

NFL Draft Team Grade: F Grade

Goals Entering the 2017 NFL Draft: The Bears spent a ton of money on Mike Glennon, so why would they spend a first-round on a pedestrian quarterback prospect? Glennon is not the answer, but neither is Mitchell Trubisky or Deshaun Watson. Chicago has to add talent to its secondary, receiving corps and offensive tackle group.

2017 NFL Draft Accomplishments: This section is misleading because it says “2017 NFL Draft Accomplishments.” The Bears didn’t accomplish anything outside of setting their franchise back five years.

I can’t believe how bad Chicago’s draft was. Of the five picks the team made, three earned Millen grades. I can’t say this for certain, but I’m almost confident that it’s the highest percentage (60%) of Millen grades I’ve given to one team for any draft class. Thus, Chicago may have obtained the worst prospective NFL Draft class of all time.

The disaster began early when the Bears allowed the 49ers to con them into trading up to No. 2. They then made the mistake that numerous incompetent teams have made over the years, as they reached for a middling quarterback prospect over a superior talent. This has always backfired. Take a look at some examples from this decade alone:

– The Jaguars picked Blaine Gabbert over J.J. Watt
– The Titans picked Jake Locker over J.J. Watt and Tyron Smith
– The Vikings picked Christian Ponder over Robert Quinn
– The Dolphins picked Ryan Tannehill over Luke Kuechly
– The Bills picked E.J. Manuel over Tyler Eifert
– The Jaguars picked Blake Bortles over Khalil Mack

There are many more examples of this, so shame on the Bears for not learning from the mistakes that incompetent front offices have made over the years.

The rest of Chicago’s picks were lackluster, save for the Eddie Jackson selection. What’s worse is that the Bears failed to take care of their goals. They didn’t pick up a tackle; they failed to find a receiver; and outside of Jackson, they didn’t address the secondary, particularly the problematic cornerback position.

At any rate, I’ve said enough. This is the easiest “F” team grade I’ve ever given. I’m not even naming it a Millen. It’s that bad.

NFL Draft Individual Grades:

2. Mitchell Trubisky, QB, North Carolina: MILLEN TRUBISKY Grade
I… I don’t even know anymore. WTF are the Bears doing!? They paid Mike Glennon so much money, and yet they gave up the No. 3 overall selection, two thirds and a fourth… for a mediocre quarterback prospect? Wow.


This is one of the worst draft moves ever made. If the Bears just took Trubisky at No. 3, that would be bad, but not horrible. Actually, it would be horrible, but this is a franchise-ruining selection. Trubisky over Solomon Thomas echoes Blaine Gabbert over J.J. Watt and Blake Bortles over Khalil Mack. Way to pull a Jaguars, Chicago.

45. Adam Shaheen, TE, Ashland: KIELBASA CHEESESTEAK MILLEN Grade
Ugh. Adam Sheehan? He’s a freak athlete … but that’s about it. I had him in the fourth round, as he’s a project. This is a major reach, and it doesn’t even fill a prominent need. The Bears had to find a tight end eventually because of Zach Miller’s injury history, but Chicago had other glaring holes to address.

112. Eddie Jackson, S, Alabama: B Grade
The Bears moved up five spots for this selection, and the Bears finally get their safety. Better late than never, I guess. Eddie Jackson is an instinctive safety who has special-teams ability. Unfortunately, he has injury concerns. He’s worth the risk in the fourth round, however.

119. Tarik Cohen, RB, North Carolina A&T: FLY, KIELBASA, FLY MILLEN Grade
The Bears had an awful draft heading into Day 3, and that has continued, apparently. Tarik Cohen was a late-round prospect at best, and I had him as a UDFA. Cohen is a very, very poor man’s Darren Sproles, but may not make the roster. I’m not sure what Chicago is doing.

147. Jordan Morgan, G, Kutztown: B- Grade
Three of Chicago’s four picks heading into this one earned Millens, so they desperately needed to bounce back. Well, they finally did. This isn’t a great pick, but Jordan Morgan at least fits the range, as I had him chosen 19 selections later than this. He doesn’t fill a need either, as Chicago’s interior offensive line is great, but he’ll provide solid depth.

Season Summary:
The Jay Cutler era began in 2009. It started off well, with Chicago making an appearance in the NFC Championship, but it’s gone downhill ever since. The Cutler era is finally coming to an end, as the Bears will try their hardest to move on with a new quarterback in 2017 and beyond. Fortunately for Chicago, the team has a solid running game and strong defense as a foundation to build on.

Offseason Moves:
  • Bears sign WR Victor Cruz
  • Bears cut DT Will Sutton
  • Bears cut WR Eddie Royal
  • Bears sign OLB Dan Skuta
  • Bears announce retirement of QB Jay Cutler
  • Bears sign DE/DT Jaye Howard
  • Bears sign OT Bradley Sowell
  • Bears re-sign DE/OLB Sam Acho
  • Bears cut CB Tracy Porter
  • Bears sign CB B.W. Webb
  • Bears sign QB Mark Sanchez
  • Bears re-sign WR Deonte Thompson
  • Bears re-sign S Chris Prosinski
  • Bears sign NT John Jenkins
  • Bears sign WR Kendall Wright
  • Bears sign CB Marcus Cooper
  • Bears re-sign ILB Christian Jones
  • Bears re-sign CB Johnthan Banks
  • Bears re-sign K Connor Barth
  • Bears sign CB Prince Amukamara
  • Bears sign TE Dion Sims
  • Bears sign WR Markus Wheaton
  • Bears cut QB Jay Cutler
  • Bears sign S Quintin Demps
  • Bears sign QB Mike Glennon
  • Bears re-sign C Eric Kush

    Team Needs:
    1. Quarterback: This is obvious. The Bears are finally moving on from Jay Cutler, so they have to find a franchise quarterback somehow. That may not happen until 2018 because of the weak class. Perhaps Chicago can obtain a rental in Tony Romo in the meantime. Signed Mike Glennon

    2. Two Offensive Tackles: Once the Bears manage to obtain a franchise quarterback, they’ll have to surround him with better protection. Their offensive tackle situation was horrible in 2016, and it might even get worse because Charles Leno is an impending free agent. Leno is not a good blocker, but he’s the best tackle they had.

    3. Wide Receiver: Alshon Jeffery is a free agent, but the Bears might be able to re-sign him at a reduced rate because of all the time he’s missed. However, they’ll have to find another receiver as insurance. They can’t count on Jeffery any longer. Signed Kendall Wright and Victor Cruz

    4. Edge Rusher Depth: Chicago didn’t put a lot of pressure on opposing passers from the edge when Pernell McPhee was out of the lineup. This should change.

    5. Cornerback Depth: The Bears have some promising, young cornerbacks on their roster, but they could stand to add some depth. Signed Prince Amukamara, B.W. Webb and Marcus Cooper

    6. Tight End Depth: Zach Miller is a solid tight end, but he has landed on injured reserve in consecutive years now. Signed Dion Sims

    7. Kicker: Chicago had to feel pretty stupid when replacing Robbie Gould with Connor Barth backfired. Re-signed Connor Barth

    8. Punter: Pat O’Donnell was one of the NFL’s worst punters in 2016.

      Follow me @walterfootball for updates.

    2017 NFL Free Agent Signings:
    1. Prince Amukamara, CB, Jaguars. Age: 28.
      Signed with Bears

      Prince Amukamara signed a 1-year “prove it” deal with the Jaguars last offseason. Prove himself he did, as Amukamara missed just a couple of games. He performed on a high level in 2016 and is certainly worthy of a substantial contract.

    2. Quintin Demps, S, Texans. Age: 32.
      Signed with Bears (3 years, $13.5 million)

      Quintin Demps has improved steadily over the past couple of years. He was a journeyman for a while, but he found a home in Houston. He’s coming off a great year, but he turns 32 in June, so a decline could be coming soon.

    3. Jaye Howard, DE/DT, Chiefs. Age: 28.
      Signed with Bears

      Jaye Howard was a solid rotational player prior to 2016 – he recorded 5.5 sacks the year before – but struggled this past season with a hip injury. Just 28, Howard should be able to rebound.

    4. Mike Glennon, QB, Buccaneers. Age: 27.
      Signed with Bears (3 years, $45 million)

      Adam Schefter reported that Mike Glennon could receive $13-$15 million per year on his next contract, which is just insane. Glennon has a career completion percentage of 59.4 and a YPA of 6.5. Neither are good marks. He’s thrown 30 touchdowns compared to only 15 interceptions, but as we’ve seen from Nick Foles’ 27:2 2013 campaign, those sorts of figures can be fluky.

    5. Kendall Wright, WR, Titans. Age: 27.
      Signed with Bears (1 year, $4 million)

      Kendall Wright had a terrific 2013 campaign, catching 94 passes for 1,079 yards, but he’s been a train wreck since. He’s a knucklehead who isn’t taking his career seriously, but the potential is there for him to be a solid No. 2 receiver.

    6. Victor Cruz, WR, Giants. Age: 30.
      Signed with Bears

      Victor Cruz was once a very talented receiver, but a torn patellar tendon has wrecked his career. Cruz caught just 39 passes for 586 yards and a touchdown last year, and he turned 30 in November. It’s possible that he could continue to rebound, but it’s more likely that he’ll continue to be a shell of his former self.

    7. Dion Sims, TE, Dolphins. Age: 26. — Signed with Bears (3 years, $18 million)
    8. B.W. Webb, CB, Saints. Age: 27. — Signed with Bears
    9. Dan Skuta, OLB, Jaguars. Age: 31. — Signed with Bears
    10. Markus Wheaton, WR, Steelers. Age: 26. — Signed with Bears
    11. Marcus Cooper, CB, Cardinals. Age: 27. — Signed with Bears
    12. John Jenkins, NT, Seahawks. Age: 28. — Signed with Bears
    13. Bradley Sowell, OT, Seahawks. Age: 28. — Signed with Bears
    14. Mark Sanchez, QB, Cowboys. Age: 30. — Signed with Bears

    Chicago Bears Free Agents:

    Salary Cap Space: $62.3M.
    1. Alshon Jeffery, WR, Bears. Age: 27.
      Signed with Eagles (1 year, $14 million)

      Alshon Jeffery is a very talented, big receiver, but he hasn’t been able to stay on the field. Whether it’s an injury or a PED-related suspension, the Bears haven’t been able to trust him very much. The silver lining is that Chicago might be able to retain him at a reduced rate.

    2. Jay Cutler, QB, Bears. Age: 34.
      Announced retirement

      It’s difficult to rate Jay Cutler, as he has all the talent in the world, but suffers from severe mood swings. When Cutler is focused, he’s great, but he sometimes appears to be lethargic and disinterested, likely stemming from his diabetes. Still, Cutler has thrown 53 touchdowns to 34 interceptions the past two years, and he can still be a capable starter if a coaching staff knows how to deal with his condition.

    3. Brian Hoyer, QB, Bears. Age: 31.
      Signed with 49ers

      Brian Hoyer got a lot of flak for what happened in Houston, but the fact remains that he led a team to the playoffs. In six starts in 2016, Hoyer threw six touchdowns to zero interceptions and also completed 67 percent of his passes. He’s a very strong backup.

    4. Tracy Porter, CB, Bears. Age: 31.
      Tracy Porter has played well in the past – especially on the NFL’s biggest stage – but has declined recently. He had some bright moments last year for Chicago, but struggled mightily at times as well.

    5. Will Sutton, DT, Bears. Age: 25.
      Will Sutton has been disappointing as a pro thus far, but to be fair, he was miscast in Chicago’s 3-4 defense. Perhaps Sutton will be able to notch his first sack ever in a 4-3. He’s still just 25, so there’s still time for him to prove himself.

    6. Ted Larsen, C/G, Bears. Age: 30. — Signed with Dolphins
    7. Cornelius Washington, DE/DT, Bears. Age: 27. — Signed with Lions
    8. Eric Kush, C, Bears. Age: 27. — Re-signed with Bears
    9. Matt Barkley, QB, Bears. Age: 26. — Signed with 49ers
    10. Christian Jones (RFA), ILB, Bears. Age: 26. — Re-signed with Bears
    11. Marquess Wilson, WR, Bears. Age: 24.
    12. Johnthan Banks, CB, Bears. Age: 27. — Re-signed with Bears
    13. Mike Adams, OT, Bears. Age: 27.
    14. Connor Barth, K, Bears. Age: 31.
    15. Chris Prosinski, S, Bears. Age: 30. — Re-signed with Bears
    16. Logan Paulsen, TE, Bears. Age: 30. — Signed with 49ers
    17. Sam Acho, DE/OLB, Bears. Age: 28. — Re-signed with Bears
    18. Deonte Thompson, WR/KR, Bears. Age: 28. — Re-signed with Bears
    19. Eddie Royal, WR, Bears. Age: 31.
    20. Demontre Hurst (RFA), CB, Bears. Age: 26. — Signed with Titans
    21. David Fales (RFA), QB, Bears. Age: 26. — Signed with Dolphins
    22. Nick Becton, OT, Bears. Age: 27.


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