It’s the practice of Chicago Bears general manager Ryan Pace to address every need area during free agency, so the draft becomes entirely about acquiring best available players. Salary dumps and free-agent losses ran so deep this year in specific spots that Pace couldn’t adequately plug every vacancy.
Cutting guard Josh Sitton and outside linebackers Willie Young and Pernell McPhee surprised few, but very little was done to find replacements.
The only real addition made to replace Young and McPhee was signing Aaron Lynch, who had only 2.5 total sacks the last two years. He did have six as a rookie with the 49ers in the system of current Bears coordinator Vic Fangio in 2014, but this looks like more of a depth move than adding an impact player.
The Bears entered free agency with wide receiver and cornerback as two huge question marks, but dramatically improved both spots. Transition tagging and then signing cornerback Kyle Fuller after matching a Packers offer, and re-signing cornerbacks Prince Amukamara and Marcus Cooper, completely diminished any cornerback need.
One of free agency’s biggest moves was signing vertical threat Allen Robinson, while the addition of wide receiver Taylor Gabriel added a speed dimension previously lacking. Now, quarterback Mitchell Trubisky has dangerous targets, and if the offense gets anything out of rehabbing/returning receivers Kevin White and Cameron Meredith, they will have sufficient receiver depth.
Here is a closer look at where the Bears are, how they got here and a shot at what they should do with their first pick in the draft.
2017 finish: 4th NFC North (5-11)
TOTAL OFFENSE: 287.4 (30th)
RUSHING: 111.8 (16th)
PASSING: 175.7 (32nd)
TOTAL DEFENSE: 319.1 (10th)
RUSHING: 108.1 (11th)
PASSING: 211.0 (7th)
- Guard: Not only did they part ways with Josh Sitton, but Kyle Long’s return to full strength isn’t guaranteed. The Earl Watford signing was a move for a swing tackle/guard, not a starter. A possible solution is moving center Cody Whitehair to guard, and playing Hroniss Grasu at center. But Grasu has been a colossal disappointment his first three years and Whitehair has proven better at center than guard.
- Pass rusher: The Bears had 42 sacks last year, but Leonard Floyd and Aaron Lynch are their only viable outside rushers, with Sam Acho merely a fourth or fifth outside ‘backer type. Floyd’s career has been one injury for every two or three sacks, so numbers and quality are drastically needed here.
- Inside linebacker: Starters Danny Trevathan and Nick Kwiatkoski have been injury prone. With backup Christian Jones now in Detroit, and troubled Jerrell Freeman released, all depth has vanished on the inside.
KEY PERSONNEL TRACKER (As of April 6)
–OLB Sam Acho: Potential UFA; $5.5M/2 yrs, $2.95M guaranteed/$500K SB.
–CB Prince Amukamara: Potential UFA; $27M/3 yrs, $18M fully guaranteed/$3M SB/$3M RB.
–QB Tyler Bray: UFA Chiefs; $795K/1 yr, $45K SB.
–CB Marcus Cooper: FA Bears; $2.5M/1 yr (had been released by Bears).
–RB Benny Cunningham: UFA; 1 yr, terms unknown.
–CB Kyle Fuller: FFA; $56M/4 yrs, $18M SB/$7M RB 2019/$5M RB 2020 (matched Packers offer).
–DB Sherrick McManis: UFA; 2 yrs, terms unknown.
–P Pat O’Donnell: UFA; $1.5M/1 yr, $500K RB.
–T Bradley Sowell: Potential UFA; $3M/2 yrs, $850K guaranteed/$600K SB.
–TE Trey Burton: UFA Eagles; $32M/4 yrs, $22M guaranteed ($4M injury only at signing, $7.5M SB).
–QB Chase Daniel: UFA Saints; $10M/2 yrs, $7M fully guaranteed/$2M SB/$2M RB ($6M/$3M guaranteed in 2019 voids if Daniel pays Saints $5M between day after Super Bowl and 10 days after Super Bowl).
–WR Taylor Gabriel: UFA Falcons; $26M/4 yrs, $14M guaranteed/$4M SB.
–LB Aaron Lynch: UFA 49ers; $4M/1 yr, $1.25M SB.
–K Cody Parkey: UFA Dolphins; $15M/4 yrs, $9M fully guaranteed/$2.25M SB.
–WR Allen Robinson: UFA Jaguars: $42M/3 yrs, $25M guaranteed.
–G Earl Watford: UFA Bears; 1 yr, terms unknown.
–T/G Tom Compton: UFA Vikings; $900K/1 yr, $250K guaranteed/$50K SB.
–S Quintin Demps (released).
–LS Andrew DePaola: UFA Raiders; $4.27M/4 yrs, $875K guaranteed/$580K RB.
–LB Jerrell Freeman (released).
–QB Mike Glennon (released).
–LB Christian Jones: UFA Lions; $6.35M/2 yrs, $2.8M guaranteed/$1.75M SB.
–LB Pernell McPhee (released).
–K Cairo Santos: UFA Jets; $2M/1 yr, $500K SB.
–G Josh Sitton: UFA Dolphins; $13.5M/2 yrs, $8.45M guaranteed/$5.435M RB.
–DE Mitch Unrein: UFA Buccaneers; $10.5M/3 yrs, $4M fully guaranteed/$2M RB.
–WR Markus Wheaton (released).
–WR Kendall Wright: UFA Vikings; terms unknown.
–LB Willie Young (released/failed physical).
*NFLDraftScout.com analysts suggest (No. 8 overall)
Rob Rang (April 5 mock draft):
–Tremaine Edmunds, LB, Virginia Tech. It is perhaps appropriate that Bears’ legendary middle linebacker Brian Urlacher was voted into Canton this year as Chicago could find itself in position to add a similar physical specimen in the 6-foot-4, 250-pound Edmunds, a freakish athlete, who at just 19-years-old is still just scratching the surface of his potential.
Dane Brugler (April 6 mock draft):
–Quenton Nelson, G, Notre Dame. Nelson is a future Pro Bowler and the safest player in the draft. His offensive line coach for the Irish, Harry Hiestand, was recently hired by the Bears in the same capacity — he will love this pick.
Agree? Disagree? Still shopping?
Based on the team’s current status, those are our suggestions for that first pick. To double check or find another candidate see full mocks and ratings at NFLDraftScout.com.