2024 NFL Season Preview: Chicago Bears

Caleb Williams

Chicago Bears (Last Year: 7-10)



Season Summary:
The Bears finished 7-10, but they were excellent to close the season when Justin Fields returned from injury. The offense was able to match the intensity of the defense, which was bolstered by the acquisition of Montez Sweat.



2024 NFL Season Preview:

Veteran Additions:
RB D’Andre Swift, WR Keenan Allen, TE Gerald Everett, OT Jake Curhan, G Matt Pryor, C Ryan Bates, C Coleman Shelton, DE Jacob Martin, S Kevin Byard, S Jonathan Owens.
Early Draft Picks:
QB Caleb Williams, WR Rome Odunze, OT Kiran Amegabjige, P Tory Taylor, DE Austin Booker. Bears Rookie Forecast
Offseason Losses:
QB Justin Fields, RB D’Onta Foreman, WR Darnell Mooney, TE Marcedes Lewis, G Cody Whitehair, C Lucas Patrick, DE Yannick Ngakoue, DT Justin Jones, S Eddie Jackson.

2024 Chicago Bears Offense:
There was some thought that the Bears would trade the No. 1 pick in the 2024 NFL Draft and continue to start Justin Fields, but the front office made it clear what its intentions were. It dealt Fields to the Steelers and then proceeded to meet with only one quarterback during the pre-draft process.

Caleb Williams is obviously extremely talented. He can make all the throws and navigate the pocket incredibly well. There have been negative reports about his practice performances, but that can be likened to Anthony Richardson failing to complete basic throws during the 2023 preseason and then thriving while healthy during real game action. It’s a slight concern, but likely overblown at the moment.

Besides, Williams has an incredible supporting cast. D.J. Moore had some explosive performances last year for Fields, while Cole Kmet was a dependable intermediate weapon. The Bears found a terrific complement for Moore, signing Keenan Allen after the star receiver was cut by the Chargers. And if that wasn’t enough, the Bears used the No. 9 overall pick on Rome Odunze. If Allen can stay healthy, and Odunze meets expectations, the Bears will have one of the best trio of wideouts in the NFL.

Allen and Odunze weren’t the only skill players Chicago acquired, obtaining D’Andre Swift as well. While this move wasn’t nearly as necessary as the Allen signing because Khalil Herbert and Roschon Johnson performed well last year, Swift offers an upgrade at running back if he can remain on the field. Staying healthy has been a huge problem for him, however. Chicago at least has quality depth behind him if he were to get hurt again.

Williams and Swift could receive quality blocking from the group up front. There are some unknowns, such as right tackle Darnell Wright, who was selected in the first round last year. Wright didn’t struggle very much as a rookie, but he wasn’t that good either. He has the potential to really improve his play. Meanwhile, left tackle Braxton Jones is also young. The 25-year-old missed some action last year, so Chicago will be hoping to get some better injury luck from him.

Speaking of injury luck, the Bears were far worse when guards Teven Jenkins and Nate Davis were out of the lineup last year. Jenkins and Davis missed five and six games, respectively, so the Bears need them to be more reliable in 2024. This especially applies to Jenkins, who has become one of the better guards in the NFL. The two guards will sandwich Ryan Bates, a mediocre center who was acquired from Buffalo this offseason.



2024 Chicago Bears Defense:
The Bears struggled to stop anyone in the opening half of the season, as they allowed an inexperienced Jordan Love and Baker Mayfield to look like the second coming of Tom Brady and Peyton Manning. Things changed as the season progressed, as Chicago’s stop unit improved exponentially.

There were two reasons for this. One was the addition of Montez Sweat at the trade deadline. The Bears made what some thought to be an odd move by being buyers at the deadline despite not being contenders, but the front office was just getting ahead of the game in 2024 free agency. Sweat was effectively a high-priced signing, and he paid immediate dividends by placing tons of pressure on opposing passers. The Bears, however, don’t have much else in the pass-rushing department. DeMarcus Walker, Sweat’s bookend, mustered only 3.5 sacks in 2023. Chicago was expected to add more edge-rushing talent this offseason, but that never occurred.

If the Bears find someone else to rush the passer, it’ll have to come from the interior. They used a 2023 second-round pick on Gervon Dexter, who has some potential. Dexter had 2.5 sacks as a rookie, but he’ll have to make major improvements to be a difference-maker on this defense. Dexter will start next to Andrew Billings, a quality run defender.

The second reason Chicago’s defense improved in the second half of the year was Jaylon Johnson’s return from injury. The star cornerback played hurt early and then missed some action. He returned to full strength in Week 7 and was lights out the rest of the season. As with defensive end, some help that was needed across from the star player was never acquired. However, Tyrique Stevenson, a second-round pick from a year ago, has loads of potential, so he could improve upon his mediocre rookie campaign. Another young corner, Terell Smith, flashed some potential as well as a fifth-round rookie. Meanwhile, Kyler Gordon performed well in the slot.

Chicago often has quality safety play, and that will continue to be the case with 2022 second-round pick Jaquan Brisker. The Penn State product will have to hold down the fort at the position with long-time Bear Eddie Jackson no longer on the roster. Chicago replaced him with Kevin Byard, who has regressed due to age recently.

The Bears are much stronger in the middle of the field when it comes to the linebacker position. This can’t be a surprise because the front office spent tons of money on Tremaine Edmunds and T.J. Edwards during the prior offseason. While Edmunds was a slight disappointment, Edwards exceeded expectations.



2024 Chicago Bears Schedule and Intangibles:
Cairo Santos was one of the top kickers in the NFL last year. He hit 35-of-38 attempts, including 7-of-8 from 50-plus.

In an effort to fix its punting problems, the Bears reached for a punter in fourth round, drafting Tory Taylor out of Iowa.

The Bears have the luxury of navigating through a last-place schedule. However, there are still some tough opponents on the slate, due to the nature of the division, as well as the fact that the AFC South and NFC West are both featured.




2024 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.



2024 Chicago Bears Positional Rankings (1-5 stars):
Quarterbacks
Offensive Line
Secondary
Running Backs
Defensive Line
Special Teams
Receivers
Linebackers
Coaching


2024 Chicago Bears Analysis: The Bears have loads of potential. Their receiving corps is outstanding, while their offensive line has plenty of room for improvement. The defense should continue to perform like it did during the second half of 2023. Caleb Williams and the defensive line outside of Montez Sweat are the only question marks. If Williams can overcome his struggles during OTAs, the Bears will be able to sneak into the playoffs.

Projection: 9-8 (3rd in NFC North)

2023 Projection: 7-10. 2023 Actual Result: 7-10.
2022 Projection: 1-16. 2022 Actual Result: 3-14.
2021 Projection: 6-11. 2021 Actual Result: 6-11.
2020 Projection: 3-13. 2020 Actual Result: 8-8.
2019 Projection: 11-5. 2019 Actual Result: 8-8.
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:

A- Grade

Goals Entering the 2024 NFL Draft: The Bears will land their franchise quarterback at No. 1. It gets more interesting after that, as Chicago has a well-rounded roster with some specific holes. Plugging those areas willbe key, but Chicago must focus on giving Caleb Williams as much support as possible so he can succeed quickly in the NFL.

2024 NFL Draft Accomplishments: The Bears had just four picks entering the draft, so they’re not an easy team to grade. I wish they would have acquired more assets by trading down from No. 9, but I can’t blame them for selecting a talented receiver like Rome Odunze to help Caleb Williams. And speaking of Williams, this entire Chicago draft was the beginning of a new era for the franchise. The Bears will have Williams on a rookie deal for the next four years, which will give them a great chance to win the Super Bowl. Chicago did well to surround Williams with talent before the draft with Keenan Allen, and then during the draft with a wide receiver and a tackle.

Despite the Bears having just four picks, it feels wrong to give them anything shy of a grade in the “A” range. In fact, this would be an “A” if the Bears hadn’t wasted a fourth-round pick on a punter. Chicago defined the next dozen or more years of its franchise with just four original selections, which is often very difficult to do.

NFL Draft Individual Grades:


1. Caleb Williams, QB, USC – A Grade

The Bears could have done something stupid like trade this pick away or select a lesser quarterback that the owner wanted for some reason. Instead, they selected the best quarterback prospect in this class, giving them a great 5-year window to win a Super Bowl while having their franchise signal-caller under a rookie contract.

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9. Rome Odunze, WR, Washington – B+ Grade

It’s a bit disappointing that the Bears didn’t trade down because they have just two picks after this. However, I can’t hate on this selection because Rome Odunze is a stud receiver, and giving a rookie franchise quarterback a stud receiver is never a bad idea. Even with Keenan Allen and D.J. Moore in place, this pick makes sense, as Chicago will have a lethal trio at receiver.


75. Kiran Amegadjie, OT, Yale – A Grade

Kiran Amegadjie is someone who could be a Pro Bowler in the future. He’s a lengthy tackle with a good skill set. He’s a big of a project, but I thought there was a chance he could go in the second round. I love this value for the Bears, who are doing a good thing by adding to Caleb Williams’ protection.


122. Tory Taylor, P, Iowa – MILLEN Grade

Punters grow on trees. You can find a good one anywhere, including some back alley in the slums. Wasting a fourth-round pick on a punter is irresponsible, especially when the drafting team has only four picks!


144. Austin Booker, DE, Kansas – A Grade

I love that the Bears traded back into the 2024 NFL Draft to obtain a pass rusher, given that they don’t have much in that department outside of Montez Sweat. Austin Booker was a productive player at Kansas, and I thought there was a chance he’d go in the third round.



Season Summary:
The Bears finished 7-10, but they were excellent to close the season when Justin Fields returned from injury. The offense was able to match the intensity of the defense, which was bolstered by the acquisition of Montez Sweat.






Offseason Moves:
  • Steelers acquire QB Justin Fields from Bears for 2025 conditional third-day draft pick
  • Bears acquire WR Keenan Allen from Chargers for 4th-round pick
  • Bears acquire G Ryan Bates from Bills for 5th-round pick






    Team Needs:
    1. Two Wide Receivers: Chicago has nothing at receiver outside of D.J. Moore, especially with Darnell Mooney headed for free agency. Fortunately for them, this draft class is loaded at the position. Traded for Keenan Allen

    2. Two Defensive Tackles: The Bears were much better defensively than expected last year. However, they still had one big weakness, and that was on the defensive line.

    3. Edge Rusher: Montez Sweat was a great addition, but the Bears didn’t have another pass-rushing threat on the edge.

    4. Center: There’s one weakness on the Chicago offensive line, and it’s right in the middle at center. Lucas Patrick is a free agent, but he needed to be upgraded anyway. Signed Ryan Bates

    5. Quarterback: The Bears need to figure out what they’re going to do with Justin Fields. They have the No. 1 pick, so it makes sense to draft Caleb Williams. If they keep Fields, they’ll have to re-sign him.

    6. Running Back: Khalil Herbert and Roschon Johnson are fine, but there’s room for improvement. Signed D’Andre Swift




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    2024 NFL Free Agent Signings:





    Chicago Bears Free Agents:

    Salary Cap: TBA.




    NFL Free Agent Tracker:
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