2018 NFL Offseason: Chicago Bears

Chicago Bears (Last Year: 5-11)

2018 NFL Season Preview:

Veteran Additions:
QB Chase Daniel, QB Tyler Bray, WR Allen Robinson, WR Taylor Gabriel, TE Trey Burton, DE Aaron Lynch, K Cody Parkey.
Early Draft Picks:
LB Roquan Smith, C/G James Daniels, WR Anthony Miller, LB Joel Iyiegbuniwe, DE/DT Bilal Nichols. Bears Rookie Forecast
Offseason Losses:
WR Markus Wheaton, G Josh Sitton, DE/OLB Pernell McPhee, DE/OLB Willie Young, LB Jerrell Freeman, S Quintin Demps.

2018 Chicago Bears Offense:
The Bears struggled to score last year, averaging just 16.5 points per game. It was clear something had to change, and that was the coaching staff. John Fox ran things like it was still in the mid-90s, unimaginatively running the ball as much as possible and neglecting to be creative with the passing attack. Fox’s unwillingness to change prompted his firing, and Chicago’s front office smartly went completely in the opposite direction, hiring Matt Nagy.

Nagy did a great job as the Chiefs’ offensive coordinator last year, and he will bring Chicago’s offense into the 21st century. He’ll utilize more RPOs with Mitchell Trubisky, who has underrated mobility; Trubisky rushed for 248 yards last season. His passing numbers were meager – 59.4 completion, 6.6 YPA, 7:7 touchdown-to-interception ratio – but with no experience or support from his coaching staff, it’s not a surprise that the North Carolina product struggled.

Trubisky was also stricken with a horrible receiving corps. Thanks to injuries to Cameron Meredith and Kevin White, his top wideouts last year were Kendall Wright and Josh Bellamy. The front office did a marvelous job of overhauling this group. White will return, but he may not even be much of a factor, given how many other receivers were obtained. The big name is Allen Robinson, who caught 80 passes for 1,400 yards and 14 touchdowns in 2015. Those stats were somewhat bogus because of garbage time, but Robinson is a very talented receiver and is much better than anyone Trubisky had to work with last year. Robinson tore his ACL in 2017, but that occurred in the season opener, so he should be ready for Week 1.

Taylor Gabriel and Anthony Miller also figure to be upgrades. Gabriel showed some major potential in 2016, catching 35 balls for 579 yards and six touchdowns in Atlanta. However, his numbers declined last year because new Falcons offensive coordinator Steve Sarkisian couldn’t figure out how to use him. Nagy will have more success doing so. Meanwhile, Miller was a second-round pick this past April. He was very productive at Memphis, and he has the upside to become Chicago’s No. 1 wideout one day.

The Bears also spent lots of money upgrading tight end, as they inked former Eagle Trey Burton to a 4-year, $32 million contract. Burton’s career-highs are 37 catches and 327 yards, but that’s because he was stuck behind Zach Ertz in Philadelphia. Burton thrived last year when Ertz got hurt, so he, as well as incumbent tight end Adam Shaheen, should be potent threats for Trubisky.

Speaking of potent threats, Tarik Cohen showed last year that he can go the distance whenever he gets his hands on the football. Fox’s staff didn’t give Cohen the ball nearly enough, so it’s highly doubtful that Nagy will make the same mistake. Cohen will handle the receiving duties out of the backfield, while Jordan Howard will reprise his role as the early-down back; he accumulated 1,122 rushing yards in 2017.

Chicago’s front office also spent a resource upgrading the offensive line, selecting James Daniels with the 39th-overall pick in the 2018 NFL Draft. Daniels is a skilled blocker out of Iowa who can play either guard or center. It sounds like he’ll start off at left guard, starting in the interior with center Cody Whitehair and right guard Kyle Long. Whitehair had a brilliant rookie campaign in 2016, but struggled a bit last season. He could rebound, as could the talented Long, who has missed 14 games the past two years because of various injuries.

As for the tackles, the Bears don’t have a great tandem by any means, but blind-side protector Charles Leno has been solid for them the past couple of seasons. Right tackle Bobby Massie seems to be the weak link up front, but he’s not a major liability.

2018 Chicago Bears Defense:
Despite the struggles of the Bears’ offense, the team as a whole was competitive in most games, as more than half the losses came by single digits. The reason for this was the defense, which surrendered just 20 points per game despite some injuries.

Although Chicago’s stop unit performed well last season, the front office decided that it wasn’t good enough, opting to select Georgia linebacker Roquan Smith eighth overall. Smith is a very instinctive linebacker who thrived in the college football playoffs. He’ll be a major addition, and he’ll give the Bears one of the top inside linebacker tandems in the NFL, with Danny Trevathan being the other starter. Trevathan is a great player, and it was apparent how much Chicago missed him when he was out of the lineup for three games in the middle of the season. The Bears couldn’t even stop Brett Hundley without Trevathan.

The Bears have a stacked defensive front to protect these prolific linebackers, and that group is led by Akiem Hicks, who is coming off a monstrous 2017 campaign. Hicks will start alongside nose tackle Eddie Goldman and 3-4 end Jonathan Bullard, both of whom are solid. Goldman and Bullard both specialize in clamping down on the run.

Meanwhile, Chicago’s secondary is also packed with talent. The team has a tremendous young duo at safety in Eddie Jackson and Adrian Amos. Both are 25-year-olds coming off brilliant seasons – especially Amos – so the sky is the limit for that duo. The Bears don’t have much depth behind them, so that’s a slight concern.

The primary cornerbacks will all return from last year despite it seeming as though one of Kyle Fuller or Prince Amuakamra would leave via free agency. The Bears managed to retain both, so they should continue to play well, although injuries are always a worry with the latter. Bryce Callahan, meanwhile, will reprise his role as the team’s primary nickel. He has done a great job in that regard the past couple of years.

The sole weak point of Chicago’s stop unit is the edge rush. The team lost Pernell McPhee and Willie Young this offseason and failed to replace them. Leonard Floyd, who had 5.5 sacks in 10 games last year, is the only viable outside pass-rusher on the team. The other starter might be Sam Acho, who accumulated just three sacks in 2017. The talented, but troubled Aaron Lynch signed on with a 1-year contract, so perhaps he’ll compete for a starting job.

2018 Chicago Bears Schedule and Intangibles:
There surprisingly is almost no disparity between Chicago’s home and road records recently. Over the past eight seasons, the Bears are 32-34 as hosts and 30-34 as visitors.

The Bears were dead even with opponents on punts and kickoff returns based on averages and touchdowns (two apiece).

Robbie Gould has been missed, to say the least. Chicago has endured kicking woes since he left. The new kicker will be Cody Parkey, who was 21-of-23 last year, though he missed three extra points.

Pat O’Donnell was one of the league’s worst punters in 2016, ranking 28th in net yardage. He improved to 24th last year.

The Bears have a mixed schedule, as they open with the Packers and Seahawks, but then get to take on the Cardinals, Buccaneers and Dolphins in the next three games. The Patriots come next, but then things get easier again versus the Jets, Bills and Lions (home).

2018 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.

2018 Chicago Bears Positional Rankings (1-5 stars):
Offensive Line
Running Backs
Defensive Line
Special Teams

2018 Chicago Bears Analysis: The Bears, as mentioned, were very competitive last year. They nearly beat Atlanta in the opener. They defeated Pittsburgh, Carolina and Baltimore. Their tilt against the Vikings on a Monday night game down to the wire. They gave the Saints a challenge in New Orleans. The potential was certainly there, and with a more-experienced Mitchell Trubisky working with an upgraded coaching staff and receiving corps, the Bears seem like they could make some noise in 2018. A playoff appearance isn’t even out of the question, as Chicago is the NFL’s true dark horse for 2018.

Projection: 10-6 (2nd in NFC North)

2018 Projection: 4-12. 2016 Actual Result: 5-11.
2018 Projection: 8-8. 2016 Actual Result: 3-13.

NFL Draft Team Grade: B+ Grade

Goals Entering the 2018 NFL Draft: The Bears didn’t have a good record last year, but they were very competitive in most games, beating the Steelers and Panthers and nearly upsetting the Falcons and Vikings (in their first meeting.) They need to build around Mitchell Trubisky and also strengthen their defense even more, given all of the offensive talent in their division.

2018 NFL Draft Accomplishments: General manager Ryan Pace was charged with providing Trubisky with as much support as possible, so I imagine he would’ve hoped for Quenton Nelson to fall to him at No. 8 overall. The Colts snatched Nelson, but Pace found a great alternative, taking Roquan Smith instead. Smith is arguably the top defensive player in this class aside from Bradley Chubb, and he’ll be a force in the middle of Chicago’s defense moving forward.

The Bears’ next two picks were used to bolster Trubisky’s supporting cast. James Daniels, a steal in Round 2, will be an upgrade in the interior of the offensive line, while Anthony Miller should make for a fine replacement for Cameron Meredith. I wouldn’t have traded up for Miller, but he should help nonetheless.

Chicago’s day-three choices were used to provide upgrades to the front seven. The best choice was sixth-rounder Kylie Fitts, who should help strengthen the edge rush. Fitts was a steal, as he could’ve been chosen in the third frame.

I like what the Bears did overall. Pace found help around Trubisky and acquired upgrades for the defense. Getting Nelson would’ve been ideal, but the Bears couldn’t have done anything about that besides trading up, and that would’ve been a mistake.

NFL Draft Individual Grades:

8. Roquan Smith, LB, Georgia A Grade
I thought the Bears would want Tremaine Edmunds over Roquan Smith because Edmunds fits the sort of prospect Ryan Pace has drafted in the past. Smith has less upside, but I think he’s a much better player, at least the moment. Smith is a very intelligent linebacker who always seems to be in the right place at the right time. Chicago really struggled defensively when Danny Trevathan was hurt, so I love adding arguably the top player available who fills a need.

39. James Daniels, C/G, Iowa A+ Grade
What a steal! James Daniels is a player I felt as though could be chosen in the early 20s. Some had Daniels as the top center in this class following Billy Price’s injury. Daniels can also play guard, and that’s where I believe he’ll be stationed in Chicago, at least right away. The Bears had a big hole at guard, and Daniels will immediately fill that need.

51. Anthony Miller, WR, Memphis C Grade
The Bears didn’t have another second- or third-round pick, so they’ve somehow moved into this spot. I like the player they’re taking, as Anthony Miller is a skilled receiver who should be able to provide an upgrade. I’m going to tentatively grade this as a B+, but hopefully Chicago didn’t surrender too much to get the Memphis product. Update: Chicago surrendered a second-round pick from the 2019 NFL Draft, as well as a fourth-rounder, so I don’t like this very much.

115. Joel Iyiegbuniwe, LB, Western Kentucky B Grade
I had Joel Iyiegbuniwe in the third round to the Steelers, though I had them reaching a bit to address a need. This makes more sense, as Chicago needed another linebacker for depth purposes. They’re getting an athletic player who will at least play on special teams.

145. Bilal Nichols, DE/DT, Delaware B Grade
Bilal Nichols was seen as an early third-day prospect, so it’s a logical move for the Bears to take him at this spot. Nichols is a small-school player who will need to prove himself, but he could provide solid depth on the defensive line for a team that needed it.

181. Kylie Fitts, DE, Utah A Grade
I had Kylie Fitts in the third or fourth round of my mock drafts, so I love the value with this choice. Fitts is a very athletic edge rusher who could eventually emerge as a starter. It’s not a surprise to see Ryan Pace pick a player like this.

224. Javon Wims, WR, Georgia B+ Grade
Javon Wims lacks athleticism, but he could become a solid possession receiver in the NFL if he sticks around. Wims is a logical choice as a Round 6-7 prospect, and the Bears’ need at wideout could allow him to hang on to a job.

Follow @walterfootball for updates.

Season Summary:
The Bears once again missed the playoffs, but they’ve at least shown some promise with several talented young players, including quarterback Mitchell Trubisky. Now, they need to add weapons around Trubisky and hope that new head coach Matt Nagy gets the most out of the second-year quarterback.

Offseason Moves:
  • Bears sign WR Bennie Fowler
  • Bears sign QB Tyler Bray
  • Bears sign DE Aaron Lynch
  • Bears cut CB Marcus Cooper
  • Bears cut WR Markus Wheaton
  • Bears sign QB Chase Daniel
  • Bears sign K Cody Parkey
  • Bears sign TE Trey Burton
  • Bears sign WR Allen Robinson
  • Bears cut DE/OLB Willie Young
  • Bears cut DE/OLB Pernell McPhee
  • Bears cut S Quintin Demps
  • Bears cut G Josh Sitton
  • Bears cut LB Jerrell Freeman

    Team Needs:
    1. Two Wide Receivers: Kevin White hasn’t been able to stay healthy, while Cameron Meredith is coming off a brutal knee injury. The Bears will consider Calvin Ridley with their first-round pick. Signed Allen Robinson and Taylor Gabriel

    2. Two Cornerbacks: The Bears have some solid cornerbacks on their roster, but all but one of them are impending free agents. If Prince Amukamara and Kyle Fuller aren’t re-signed, Chicago will need to add some talent at this position this offseason. Re-signed Prince Amukamara

    3. Edge Rusher: Chicago could stand to add another pass-rusher for when Pernell McPhee or Leonard Floyd gets hurt again. Speaking of McPhee, he may not be around next year because of his contract and durability issues. Signed Aaron Lynch

    4. Right Tackle: The weak link of Chicago’s offensive line is right tackle Bobby Massie, who needs to be upgraded.

    5. Interior Offensive Line Depth: The Bears have a tremendous interior offensive line, but it gets substantially worse when one of the starters is injured because of poor depth. A capable blocker he can step in at guard and center should be obtained.

    6. Kicker: Cairo Santos is a free agent. Signed Cody Parkey

    7. Punter: The Bears have maintained one of the weakest punters in the NFL over the past few seasons.

      Follow me @walterfootball for updates.

    2018 NFL Free Agent Signings:
    1. Allen Robinson, WR, Jaguars. Age: 25.
      Signed with Bears

      Allen Robinson was a monster in 2015, catching 80 passes for 1,400 yards and 14 touchdowns. However, he hasn’t done much since. He had a lazy 2016 campaign, perhaps because he partied too much with Blake Bortles. He was on the field for one game this past season before tearing his ACL. That said, Robinson will turn just 25 in August, so he could still have a very bright future ahead of him.

    2. Trey Burton, TE, Eagles. Age: 26.
      Signed with Bears (4 years, $32 million)

      Trey Burton is an extremely athletic tight end who could be a very potent weapon on another offense. He’s been stuck behind Zach Ertz in Philadelphia, but he proved how good he is when Ertz was concussed, catching five passes for 71 yards and two touchdowns against the Rams.

    3. Taylor Gabriel, WR, Falcons. Age: 27.
      Signed with Bears (4 years)

      Taylor Gabriel is a speedy receiver with upside, but failed to develop after a strong 2016 season. Perhaps because of Steve Sarkisian, Gabriel’s yardage dropped from 579 to 378. Perhaps a better coordinator will make better use out of him.

    4. Aaron Lynch, DE, 49ers. Age: 25.
      Signed with Bears (1 year)

      Aaron Lynch registered a combined 12.5 sacks in his first two seasons, but has barely registered the stat sheet since. Lynch is physically gifted, but he has red flags for character, motivational and injury issues.

    5. Cody Parkey, K, Dolphins. Age: 26.
      Signed with Bears

      Cody Parkey doesn’t attempt many field goals from long distance, but he hit about 90 percent of his kicks in 2017, while missing just one extra point.

    6. Bennie Fowler (RFA), WR, Broncos. Age: 27. — Signed with Bears
    7. Tyler Bray, QB, Chiefs. Age: 27. — Signed with Bears
    8. Chase Daniel, QB, Saints. Age: 31. — Signed with Bears

    Chicago Bears Free Agents:

    Salary Cap: TBA.
    1. Bryce Callahan (RFA), CB, Bears. Age: 26.
      Tendered by Bears (original)

      Bryce Callahan is a skilled slot cornerback who has improved each year in the NFL. He’s only 26, so he should continue to get better. He’ll likely command a big contract in the near future.

    2. Josh Sitton, G, Bears. Age: 32.
      Signed with Dolphins

      Josh Sitton missed three games with an ankle injury this past season, but was otherwise terrific. Sitton has been one of the best guards in the NFL over the past decade. He’s 32 now, but interior linemen can play at a high level into their mid-30s, so Sitton should still have a few great years remaining in the tank. The Bears, unwilling to pay his $8 million option, will certainly miss him.

    3. Prince Amukamara, CB, Bears. Age: 26.
      Re-signed with Bears

      Prince Amukamara is very talented, but also extremely difficult to trust. He has played in just one full season throughout his 7-year career. He missed two games in 2017, but played very well otherwise.

    4. Kyle Fuller, CB, Bears. Age: 26.
      Re-signed with Bears

      Kyle Fuller has frustrated Bears fans, playing well at times, but struggling mightily in many games. Chicago understandably declined his fifth-year option, but Fuller finally put it together in 2017 with a strong season. The former first-round pick is just 26 (in February) and can still continue to improve.

    5. Jerrell Freeman, ILB, Bears. Age: 32.
      Announced retirement

      Jerrell Freeman has been popped for 14 combined games for PEDs over the past couple of seasons. In fact, he’ll have to serve the final two games of his sentence in 2018. Still, Freeman is a talented linebacker, and he could provide a team with some short-term help at the position.

    6. Cameron Meredith (RFA), WR, Bears. Age: 25.
      Signed with Saints (2 years)

      It’s difficult to rate Cameron Meredith. He’s a young receiver who has shown plenty of potential. He caught 66 passes for 888 yards in 2016. He seemed poised for a big 2017 campaign, but missed all of it with a torn ACL and MCL. It’s unclear if he’ll ever be the same player again, unfortunately.

    7. Pernell McPhee, DE/OLB, Bears. Age: 29.
      Signed with Redskins

      Pernell McPhee is productive when he gets to play – 14 sacks for the Bears over the past three seasons – but he’s had trouble staying healthy. McPhee has missed 12 games in that span, and given that he turns 30 in December, his durability likely won’t get any better.

    8. Cairo Santos, K, Bears. Age: 26.
      Signed with Jets

      It wasn’t Cairo Santos’ fault that he lost his job in Kansas City. Harrison Butker was just better. Santos has been an accurate kicker within 50 yards, but he’s been inconsistent from long range.

    9. Quintin Demps, S, Texans. Age: 33.
      Quintin Demps improved steadily prior to 2017, as he found a home in Houston. He left “home,” however, and struggled in Chicago. He was torched in three games before breaking his arm and landing on injured reseve. Demps could play better in 2018, but he’s 33 now, so the end of his career is approaching quickly.

    10. Mitch Unrein, DE/DT, Bears. Age: 31.
      Signed with Buccaneers (3 years)

      Mitch Unrein has never had two or more sacks in a season, but that’s not his strength. He’s a terrific run-stuffer as a five-technique in a 3-4 defense.

    11. Willie Young, DE/OLB, Bears. Age: 32.
      Willie Young registered 7.5 sacks in 2016, but saw that number drop to two this past season because he played in only four games, thanks to knee and triceps injuries. Young turns 33 in September, but could still be a decent rotational edge rusher.

    12. Mike Glennon, QB, Bears. Age: 28.
      Signed with Cardinals

      Mike Glennon had a career completion percentage of 59.4 and a YPA of 6.5 entering the 2017 season, so it seems so asinine that the Bears signed him to a big contract. Glennon predictably flopped as a starter, but should be a solid backup.

    13. Kendall Wright, WR, Bears. Age: 28. — Signed with Vikings
    14. Dontrelle Inman, WR, Bears. Age: 29.
    15. Chris Prosinski, S, Bears. Age: 31.
    16. Benny Cunningham, RB, Bears. Age: 28. — Re-signed with Bears
    17. Sam Acho, DE/OLB, Bears. Age: 29. — Re-signed with Bears
    18. Josh Bellamy (RFA), WR, Bears. Age: 29. — Tendered by Bears (original)
    19. Christian Jones, ILB, Bears. Age: 27. — Signed with Lions
    20. John Timu (RFA), ILB, Bears. Age: 26. — Re-signed with Bears
    21. Tom Compton, G, Bears. Age: 29. — Signed with Vikings
    22. Marcus Cooper, CB, Bears. Age: 28. — Re-signed with Bears
    23. Pat O’Donnell, P, Bears. Age: 27. — Re-signed with Bears
    24. Connor Barth, K, Bears. Age: 32.
    25. Sherrick McManis, CB, Bears. Age: 30. — Re-signed with Bears
    26. Markus Wheaton, WR, Bears. Age: 30. — Signed with Eagles
    27. Mark Sanchez, QB, Bears. Age: 31.
    28. John Jenkins, NT, Bears. Age: 29.
    29. Zach Miller, TE, Bears. Age: 33.

    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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