2019 NFL Offseason: Chicago Bears

Chicago Bears (Last Year: 12-4)

2019 NFL Season Preview:

Veteran Additions:
RB Mike Davis, G/C Ted Larsen, CB Buster Skrine, S Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, K Chris Blewitt, K Eddy Pineiro.
Early Draft Picks:
RB David Montgomery, WR Riley Ridley. Bears Rookie Forecast
Offseason Losses:
RB Jordan Howard, G Eric Kush, CB Bryce Callahan, S Adrian Amos, K Cody Parkey.

2019 Chicago Bears Offense:
Much of what the Bears do in 2019 depends on how much Mitchell Trubisky is able to progress. The third-year quarterback is obviously talented, given that he was the No. 2 overall pick in the 2017 NFL Draft, but he hasn’t been able to put it together mentally yet. Trubisky looks great sometimes, especially when he’s scrambling, but there are far too many instances in which he throws off his back foot and gets into trouble because of that. Trubisky was incredibly inconsistent in 2018, but he’s young enough to make a big improvement to his game. It also helps that he’ll be entering his second season in Matt Nagy’s system, so there’s definitely reason for optimism.

Trubisky had a decent supporting cast last year, which remains unchanged, save for one difference. The Bears traded their starting running back, Jordan Howard, to the Eagles. They then spent their initial draft selection, a third-rounder, on replacement David Montgomery. The Iowa State product seems like a better fit for Nagy’s scheme than Howard was. Montgomery is adept as both a runner and a receiver; he caught 58 passes for the Cyclones over the past two seasons. He’s also capable of handling a full workload in between the tackles, so he will be a nice complement to Tarik Cohen, an electrifying pass-catching weapon out of the backfield.

Otherwise, things are the same for the Bears on this side of the ball. Trubisky’s top three receivers will once again be Allen Robinson, Taylor Gabriel and Anthony Miller. Robinson didn’t have the best statistical season as the team’s No. 1 receiver – he caught 55 passes for 754 yards – but his performance against the Eagles in the playoffs (10 catches, 143 yards) gives some hope that his numbers will improve in 2019. Gabriel is a gadget player who can be used all over the field, while Miller figures to improve now that he’s no longer a rookie. Miller flashed at times in his first season, so a big leap is possible. Meanwhile, tight end Trey Burton will have to do more to prove that he’s worth the $32 million contract Chicago gave him last offseason.

The offensive line also remains intact, which is a good thing because the Bears have one of the best blocking units in the NFL; Chicago was seventh in adjusted sack rate last season, so there won’t be any excuse for Trubisky if he struggles in 2019. There was some question as to whether or not right tackle Bobby Massie would return, given that he was a free agent, but he re-signed with the team for a $30.8 million contract this offseason. This may have been a slight overpay, but chemistry is key when it comes to offensive lines, so retaining Massie was a wise move. Charles Leno, the bookend across from Massie, has improved every season in his career and is now one of the better blind-side protectors in the NFL.

The Bears are also strong in the interior. Guard Kyle Long is the best of the bunch when healthy, but he has a checkered injury history; he missed half of 2018 and hasn’t played more than 10 games in a single year since 2015. He’ll be joined by second-year guard James Daniels, who figures to make improvements to his game in his sophomore campaign, and center Cody Whitehair, who has been a solid player throughout his young career thus far.

2019 Chicago Bears Defense:
The Bears were expected to have one of the better defenses in the NFL prior to this past season – their three defensive areas combined for 10 stars in last year’s season preview – and yet, this was before the trade for Khalil Mack. Acquiring Mack put Chicago over the top. He’s one of the top edge players in the NFL, and his dominant performance – 12.5 sacks in 14 games – shifted the balance of power in the NFC North.

Mack is only 28, so he’s expected to perform on an All-Pro level for the next three or four seasons. At the moment, however, he’s the only stellar edge rusher on the roster. Former first-round pick Leonard Floyd has been a major disappointment. One would think that Floyd would be able to benefit from Mack’s presence, but he logged just four sacks in 2019. The Bears were expected to add another outside linebacker this offseason to compete with Floyd, but they failed to acquire one.

The Bears, however, have some dominant players on the defensive line. This includes Akiem Hicks, who registered 7.5 sacks in 2018, a healthy number for a 3-4 defensive end. Hicks is one of the top players at his position in the entire league. He’ll once again start alongside Bilal Nichols, who performed very well as a fifth-round rookie last year, and Eddie Goldman, who is one of the best run pluggers in the NFL.

Mack and Hicks generating tons of pressure made things very easy for a talented secondary last season. Three of the five most-prominent members of the defensive backfield will return in 2019: Kyle Fuller, Prince Amukamara and Eddie Jackson. Fuller struggled early in his career, but has improved every year and should now be considered a decent No. 1 cornerback. Amukamara is also talented, but has a dubious injury history, having played just one full season in the pros. Jackson, meanwhile, is a dynamic, play-making safety. There aren’t many players at the position better than Jackson in the NFL.

Two key defensive backs departed this offseason: slot cornerback Bryce Callahan and safety Adrian Amos. The Bears were able to properly replace Amos, signing Ha Ha Clinton-Dix. The former Packer and Redskin is a very good player, but not nearly as great as Amos, so it’s a slight downgrade. However, Chicago did not find a viable substitute for Callahan. The best it could do was sign Buster Skrine, who was torched routinely when he was with the Jets.

Skrine will be a major liability for the Bears, but perhaps the improved play of the linebackers can help counter that. Roquan Smith, chosen in the first round of the 2018 NFL Draft, had a solid rookie campaign, but is expected to take the next step in his development. He has the potential to be one of the best linebackers in the league, so it would be shocking if he didn’t improve greatly in his sophomore campaign. He’ll continue to play next to the rock-solid Danny Trevathan.

2019 Chicago Bears Schedule and Intangibles:
Robbie Gould has been missed, to say the least. Chicago has endured kicking woes since he left, which includes Cody Parkey’s repeated goal-post hits. He missed a kick that would’ve sent the Bears into the second round of the playoffs, though the ball was slightly deflected. Regardless, Chicago will have a new kicker in 2019, though it’s currently unclear who that will be.

The Bears were much better than their opponents on punt returns, thanks to Tarik Cohen, but they struggled on kickoff returns.

Pat O’Donnell was one of the league’s worst punters in 2016, ranking 28th in net yardage. He improved to 24th in 2017 and then 17th last year.

Three of the Bears’ first five games will be on the road, though those games are against Denver, Washington and Oakland, with the Raider contest being in London, so it’s a not a bad early slate. However, the Bears come off their Week 6 bye to battle the Saints, Chargers and Eagles in consecutive weeks, which will be very difficult. Chicago later has a difficult four-game stretch in which it takes on the Cowboys, Packers (road), Chiefs and Vikings (road).

2019 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.

2019 Chicago Bears Positional Rankings (1-5 stars):
Offensive Line
Running Backs
Defensive Line
Special Teams

2019 Chicago Bears Analysis: The Bears have one of the best rosters in the NFL. In fact, if the quarterback position is excluded, it could be argued that Chicago has the best team in the NFL. However, quarterbacks cannot be ignored, so Mitchell Trubisky will need to make some big strides in 2019. If Trubisky improves and stops throwing off his back foot, they can win Super Bowl LIV. If not, Chicago may not win the division, especially if Aaron Rodgers can remain healthy for the entire year.

Projection: 11-5 (2nd in NFC North)

2018 Projection: 10-6. 2018 Actual Result: 12-4.
2017 Projection: 4-12. 2017 Actual Result: 5-11.
2016 Projection: 8-8. 2016 Actual Result: 3-13.

NFL Draft Team Grade: C+ Grade

Goals Entering the 2019 NFL Draft: The Bears don’t draft until the third round, so there’s not much they can do in the 2019 NFL Draft to improve their roster. One thing is possible, however, and that’s finding an upgrade at running back, which Chicago sorely needs. Cornerback depth must be replenished as well.

2019 NFL Draft Accomplishments: It’s difficult to analyze the Bears, as they made just three selections prior to the seventh round of the 2019 NFL Draft. As expected, they went after a running back and a cornerback with two of those picks. The runner was Iowa State’s David Montgomery, who is a nice prospect who could be productive in Chicago’s offense. However, the Bears traded up for him, which didn’t seem very necessary. Already lacking resources, Chicago should’ve preserved its picks.

The cornerback choice, Duke Shelley, would’ve been chosen earlier if it wasn’t for an injury. As for the third pick prior to Round 7, wide receiver Riley Ridley was a huge steal in the fourth frame. He easily could’ve been taken early on Day 2 without any sort of criticism.

The Bears did a fine job in the 2019 NFL Draft when factoring in their limited resources. Trading up was the lone egregious error.

NFL Draft Individual Grades:

73. David Montgomery, RB, Iowa State C+ Grade
David Montgomery is a talented running back who was projected to be chosen late in the second or early in the third round. Montgomery is a better runner than Jordan Howard, whom he will be replacing. Montgomery has nice vision and patience for a runner, which is important for a player at his position. That said, I’m not a huge fan of the Bears surrendering so much to move up to this spot.

126. Riley Ridley, WR, Georgia A+ Grade
This is one of the best picks of the third day of the 2019 NFL Draft thus far. Riley Ridley fell because he didn’t test well at the combine, but who cares? Ridley was a terrific player at Georgia. He’s an awesome route runner, so he profiles as someone who overachieves in the NFL. He should do well in Chicago.

205. Duke Shelley, CB, Kansas State C Grade
The Bears lost Bryce Callahan in free agency, so it makes sense for them to target another slot cornerback to compete with Buster Skrine. The problem is that Shelley was not a very draftable prospect, and there were some better cornerbacks still available.

222. Kerrith Whyte, RB/KR, Florida Atlantic B Grade
Kerrith Whyte didn’t get to carry the ball very much at Florida Atlantic because of Devin Singletary. Whyte is not a very good runner, but he was dynamic as a return specialist in college. I imagine the Bears drafted him for that role, and if so, this is a promising selection.

238. Stephen Denmark, CB, Valdosta State A Grade
Stephen Denmark’s upside is off the charts. He played cornerback for just one year at Valdosta State, so he’s still learning the position. He then put himself on the radar with an amazing pro day, testing as one of the top athletes in the 2019 NFL Draft class. Denmark is obviously raw, but has the upside to develop into a potential starter.

Follow @walterfootball for updates.

Season Summary:
Oh, if only the goal posts were an inch wider! All the upstart Bears needed to do was hit a 43-yard field goal to beat the Eagles and advance to the second round of the playoffs, but Cody Parkey doinked his attempt off the upright. On the bright side, the Bears are young and talented, so they should be a force for years to come.

Offseason Moves:
  • Bears sign S Ha Ha Clinton-Dix
  • Bears sign G/C Ted Larsen
  • Bears sign WR Cordarrelle Patterson
  • Bears sign CB Buster Skrine
  • Bears sign RB Mike Davis
  • Bears sign K Chris Blewitt
  • Bears cut K Cody Parkey

    Team Needs:
    1. Edge Rusher: Chicago could benefit from another edge player to join Khalil Mack and Leonard Floyd, especially with Aaron Lynch heading for free agency.

    2. Safety: Chicago’s top impending free agent is safety Adrian Amos. Keeping him on the roster will be crucial. If he departs, it’ll be tough to replace him. Signed Ha Ha Clinton-Dix

    3. Slot Cornerback: Bryce Callahan is another important free agent-to-be. He’s an important part of Chicago’s defense, so he’ll need to be replaced if he leaves. Signed Buster Skrine

    4. Right Tackle: The Bears have an excellent offensive line, so it’ll be important for them to keep it intact. Re-signing Bobby Massie is important. Re-signed Bobby Massie

    5. Wide Receiver: It’s not a pressing need, but the Bears could stand to add another play-maker to the receiving corps. Signed Cordarrelle Patterson

    6. Kicker: Cody “Mr. Upright” Parkey was a miserable 23-of-30 in 2018, hitting just one of his two tries from beyond 50. He also missed three extra points. And, of course, he was guilty of missing the crucial kick that would’ve beaten the Eagles.

      Follow me @walterfootball for updates.

    2019 NFL Free Agent Signings:
    1. Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, S, Redskins. Age: 26.
      Signed with Bears (1 year)

      Ha Ha Clinton-Dix was inexplicably traded from the Packers to the Redskins during the season. Clinton-Dix improved Washington’s secondary. He’s an excellent cover safety. He might miss some tackles, but he’s a defensive play-maker.

    2. Cordarrelle Patterson, WR, Patriots. Age: 28. — Signed with Bears (2 years, $10 million)
    3. Mike Davis, RB, Seahawks. Age: 26. — Signed with Bears (2 years, $6 million)
    4. Buster Skrine, CB, Jets. Age: 30. — Signed with Bears

    Chicago Bears Free Agents:

    Salary Cap: TBA.
    1. Adrian Amos, S, Bears. Age: 26.
      Signed with Packers (4 years, $37 million)

      Adrian Amos isn’t quite an elite safety, but he’s pretty close and young enough to move up in status. He’s a terrific player and should command a huge contract this offseason unless he’s franchised.

    2. Bryce Callahan, CB, Bears. Age: 27.
      Signed with Broncos (3 years, $21 million)

      Bryce Callahan is one of the top slot cornerbacks in the NFL. He was lost late in the year with a broken foot, but he should be 100 percent by the time training camp starts.

    3. Mike Burton, FB, Bears. Age: 27.
      Pure run-blocking fullbacks are a rare breed, but Mike Burton is one of the best remaining. He’s excellent at opening up wide running lanes.

    4. Bobby Massie, OT, Bears. Age: 30.
      Re-signed with Bears

      Bobby Massie was once considered a liability as a starter on the offensive line, but he has improved each year. He’s become a solid right tackle who pass protects very well. Given the weak tackle class in the 2019 NFL Draft, some team might offer him more money than he’s worth.

    5. Roy Robertson-Harris (RFA), DE/DT, Bears. Age: 26.
      Roy Robertson-Harris has plenty of potential. As a rotational player, he stuffed the run well and collected three sacks. There’s a chance a team signs him to a decently sized contract a year from now.

    6. Pat O’Donnell, P, Bears. Age: 28.
      Re-signed with Bears

      Pat O’Donnell was 28th in net punting in 2016, but improved to 24th (2017) and 17th (2018). It’s nice that he’s trending upward.

    7. Aaron Lynch, DE/OLB, Bears. Age: 26.
      Re-signed with Bears

      Aaron Lynch is a talented edge player who stops the run very well. However, he has an extensive history of injuries and off-the-field issues, which makes him a risky player to have on the roster.

    8. Cody Parkey, K, Bears. Age: 27.
      Cody Parkey was very accurate with the Dolphins in 2017, going 21-of-23. He was far worse with the Bears, hitting 23-of-30 attempts. That does not include the doinked kick off the upright in the playoff loss to Philadelphia. There’s a chance Parkey signs elsewhere, but the nail in the coffin of his career could’ve been his willingness to appear on live TV and allow sketchy news people to treat him like a helpless victim.

    9. Eric Kush, G, Bears. Age: 29. — Signed with Browns
    10. Sam Acho, DE/OLB, Bears. Age: 30.
    11. Benny Cunningham, RB, Bears. Age: 29.
    12. Joshua Bellamy, WR, Bears. Age: 28. — Signed with Jets
    13. Ben Braunecker (RFA), TE, Bears. Age: 25. — Re-signed with Bears (2 years)
    14. Bryan Witzmann, OT, Bears. Age: 29.
    15. Marcus Williams, CB, Bears. Age: 28.
    16. Kevin White, WR, Bears. Age: 27. — Signed with Cardinals
    17. Dion Sims, TE, Bears. Age: 28.
    18. Daniel Brown, TE, Bears. Age: 27. — Signed with Jets

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

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