The 2019 NFL offseason is officially underway, and for the first time in what seems like ages, the Chicago Bears don’t enter it with a ton of needs.

After a 12-4 season which saw them make the playoffs for the first time since 2010, the Bears’ roster is in much better shape than it has been in recent years. That doesn’t mean that there can’t be work done to improve the roster, however.

Despite a lack of cap space and early-round draft capital, Chicago still has a few weak spots on their roster that they would be wise to upgrade this offseason. Though one shouldn’t expect a frivolous shopping spree like that of the Los Angeles Rams last year, Ryan Pace will look to be as aggressive as he can be this year to put the Bears over the hump.

To take a deep look at where they stand at every position, I decided to bring back my offseason outlook that I did twice last year. For those unfamiliar with the concept, I will rank every position of the Bears’ roster by how big of a need they are, as well as provide free agent and draft prospects for every position—except for long snapper, since I’ve yet to familiarize myself with draft prospects there, and center, as I haven’t seen many late-round true centers yet.

Unlike last year, this year’s list was very hard for me to compile. The Bears have very few outstanding needs, and even those needs pale in comparison to positions like wide receiver and edge rusher heading into last year’s offseason. That said, these rankings are not definitive by any means. Rather, see them as a general idea as to which positions should be focused on more than others.

So, without further ado, let’s get started.

15. Defensive line

Current players:

Hicks and Goldman are one of the best interior defensive line duos in the league, but 2018 saw Nichols join them as the reliable third starter the Bears have long lacked on the defensive line. Expect the Delaware alumnus to see a significant rise in playing time next year after an impressive rookie season. Robertson-Harris is an exclusive rights free agent—meaning he can’t negotiate with other teams if the Bears tender a qualifying offer—so he will surely be back next season. He and Bullard serve as talented depth pieces.

Best free agents:

Draft targets:

14. Quarterback

Current players:

Trubisky didn’t light the league on fire in the 14 games he played this year, but he showed significant improvement and did well enough to lead the Bears to a playoff berth. Daniel was serviceable when filling in for Trubisky, so his roster spot is safe this year. Chicago could look to bring back Tyler Bray—who is currently a free agent since he is ineligible for a futures contract—or sign an undrafted free agent to potentially develop into Daniel’s heir apparent, but that’s far from a priority right now.

Best free agents:

Draft targets:

13. Center

Current players:

The Bears only have one true center on their roster, but that one center put together a very good season this year. Whitehair cut down on his snapping mistakes from the year prior en route to his first Pro Bowl appearance. Don’t expect the team to add a true center as anything more than a camp body.

Best free agents:

12. Long snapper

Current players:

Is Scales good? I have no idea. Either way, a restricted free agent long snapper isn’t a hot commodity for NFL teams, so he’ll likely return to Chicago.

Best free agents:

11. Wide receiver

Current players:

The Bears have a dangerous three-headed monster at wide receiver in Robinson, Gabriel and Miller. With Robinson’s physicality and size, Gabriel’s speed and Miller’s precise route running, the trio puts the team in a good position heading into the offseason. Expect Bellamy to be brought back mostly for special teams and locker room purposes, but also expect the Bears to let White, their 2015 first-round pick, leave in favor of Wims. Anything more than a late-round draft pick or a minuscule free agent signing at wide receiver is unlikely.

Best free agents:

Draft targets:

10. Tight end

Current players:

Dion Sims hasn’t officially been released yet, but the news has broken that the team is expected to let him go to save money. Burton put together a solid first season with the Bears, solidifying himself as one of the better starting tight ends in the league. Shaheen has been disappointing so far, but he will likely receive another year to prove himself. Given the convenience of his contract, Braunecker is more likely to return to Chicago than Brown. The Bears could look into adding another tight end next offseason if Shaheen has a bad year in 2019, but they probably won’t do so this year.

Best free agents:

Draft targets:

9. Inside linebacker

Current players:

Smith and Trevathan are essentially locked in as the Bears’ starting inside linebackers next year. The rookie put together an impressive first season in the league, while the veteran had arguably his best season since joining the team. Little is known about Iyiegbuniwe’s abilities on defense in the NFL, but he was a very good special teams player in his rookie year and could be in more for playing time next year. If Chicago is confident enough in him, they could release Kwiatkoski, a move that would save just under $2 million. In that case, a depth signing or a late-round draft pick could be an option for them.

Best free agents:

Draft targets:

8. Punter

Current players:

O’Donnell is a decent punter. He’s far from elite, and he makes a few mistakes here and there, but he’s a serviceable player who can pin opponents inside of their own 20-yard line pretty well. Time will tell if the Bears choose to move on from him, but my guess is they bring him back on a cheap deal.

Best free agents:

Draft targets:

7. Offensive tackle

Current players:

Many mock drafts between now and the draft will say that offensive tackle is a premier need for the Bears, but they simply don’t need to draft one highly this year. Leno is coming off of a great Pro Bowl season, while Massie recently got his contract extended and will be around for at least another two years—they woul’dnt actually save money by cutting him until after the 2020 season. Sowell isn’t a stellar swing tackle option, but he’s passable. Keep an eye on Coward in training camp and the preseason, as he showed promise during that time this past year in his first year as an offensive lineman.

Best free agents:

Draft targets:

6. Edge rusher

Current players:

Mack is one of the best players in the NFL, and he proved that with a dominant first season in the navy and orange. Floyd started heating up in the second half of the year and showed some of the promise that got him drafted ninth overall in 2016. The problem with this group stems from the depth, or lack there of. Lynch overachieved this year and could end up being too expensive for the Bears to keep. Irving and Fitts are still unproven, while Acho could be released—or at least have his contract restructured—due to his recent season-ending pectoral injury, as well as the fact that Chicago could save nearly $2 million by letting him go. The Bears would be wise to invest in a rotational pass rusher at some point in the draft this year.

Best free agents:

Draft targets:

  • Christian Miller, Alabama (Round 4)
  • Jalen Jelks, Oregon (Round 5)
  • Ben Banogu, TCU (Round 5)
  • Sutton Smith, Northern Illinois (Round 5)
  • Jamal Davis, Akron (Round 7)

5. Offensive guard

Current players:

Daniels looked like a future stud in the latter half of his rookie season, and he could develop into a long-term cornerstone for the Bears’ offense. Long’s contract is too big to be given to someone who has missed 26 games in the past three seasons, so though outright releasing him is unlikely due to the difficulty of finding a replacement, they could try to restructure his contract to save money. Witzmann filled in well for Long at right guard, and Kush is a versatile backup, but both will be hitting free agency. Some additional depth could be helpful if one of them leaves, but it’s unlikely they’ll be able to find a replacement for Long this year without using their third-round pick on a guard.

Best free agents:

Draft targets:

  • Connor McGovern, Penn State (Round 3)
  • Dru Samia, Oklahoma (Round 3)
  • Terronne Prescod, North Carolina State (Round 5)
  • Hjalte Froholdt, Arkansas (Round 7)
  • Garrett Brumfield, LSU (Round 7)

4. Cornerback

Current players:

All things considered, the Bears have a great starting trio of cornerbacks. However, the talent at the position could become thinner if Callahan leaves. One of the best nickel corners in the NFL, he will likely bring in a sizable contract this offseason. Whether or not that contract comes from the Bears remains to be seen. Fuller is a star and Amukamara is a good complement, but the latter will likely be gone after next season, as Chicago can save $8 million by releasing him next offseason. As of now, they have no replacement for him on the roster. Cornerback will almost surely be invested in at some point in the draft and/or free agency, but keeping Callahan could soften that need a bit.

Best free agents:

Draft targets:

3. Safety

Current players:

The safety tandem of Jackson and Amos is one of the best in the league, but the latter is a free agent and could prove to be too expensive for the Bears to keep. If he leaves, then they will more than likely have to add a new strong safety to compete for the starting job with Bush, whether it be a veteran free agent or a mid-round rookie. Regardless of who starts, they will be aided greatly by the presence of Jackson, who played at an elite level in 2018. Houston-Carson serves as a valuable special teamer who can take some defensive snaps in dire situations. If Amos is brought back, then don’t expect the Bears to target a safety in the draft. If he leaves, then they could look for a replacement as early as Round 3.

Best free agents:

Draft targets:

  • Amani Hooker, Iowa (Round 3)
  • Jaquan Johnson, Miami (FL) (Round 3)
  • JoJo McIntosh, Washington (Round 5)
  • Saquan Hampton, Rutgers (Round 7)
  • Evan Worthington, Colorado (Round 7)

2. Running back

Current players:

For my pre-free agency outlook article last year, running back was the position with the smallest need. Now, it’s their second biggest need. Not only does that show how great of an offseason the Bears had, but it also shows how much of a question mark Howard’s fit in the offense has become. His spot on the 2019 roster is far from of a lock, and it has become more likely that he will start the season on another team. Whoever the Bears add—as a free agent or as a third- or fourth-round pick—will team up with Cohen, who is a valuable piece of their offense. Chicago would also be smart to consider adding some depth to the running back position, as Cunningham is a free agent, and Mizzell is coming off of a rough year.

Best free agents:

Draft targets:

1. Kicker

Current players:

Kicker might not be the most important position on the football field, but it’s the only position the Bears don’t have any promise at right now. Cody Parkey will be gone when the new league year begins on March 13, and Jones is likely just a camp body. Whether it be in the form of a veteran free agent or a rookie, Chicago needs to add talent at the kicker position this offseason, and they shouldn’t be conservative in doing so.

Best free agents:

Draft targets:

Source


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