Last season was a regrettable one in Chicago. Head coach Matt Nagy failed to defend his NFC North title thanks in part to a concerning regression from quarterback Mitchell Trubisky. With little consistent air support and an offense that ranked 29th in the league in both points scored and yards gained, the Bears slid from 12-4 to 8-8 and missed the playoff for the eighth time in the last nine years.
Fixing those problems this spring will be tough. Chicago doesn’t have a first-round pick thanks to its trade for Khalil Mack in 2018, and it has limited cap space to make any major moves in free agency.
Chicago Bears (8-8), missed playoffs
The Bears continue to field a championship-caliber defense, though some tweaks will be necessary to turn a top-10 unit back into a top-five squad. That means general manager Ryan Pace, resolute in his backing of Trubisky for the 2020 season, will have to focus his attention to a flagging offense that struggled to live up to expectations.
Before free agency:
- Quarterback: Pace may be publicly content to roll with Trubisky, but a glut of available veteran quarterbacks will give him the opportunity to find a player who can push the young passer in training camp and/or step into the starting lineup should he underwhelm once more.
- Tight end: Prized free agent signee Trey Burton missed eight games in 2019 and has caught more than 37 passes in a single season only once in his career. Former second-round pick Adam Shaheen has failed to turn into a dependable starter. Jesper Horsted is an interesting young talent, and Demetrius Harris adds athleticism and blocking, but neither is ready to carry the load at the top of the depth chart. Adding a member of a solid free agent class would give the Bears another trusted target downfield.
- Offensive guard: Longtime starter Kyle Long is stepping away from the game at age 31. Depth option Ted Larsen is a free agent. The Bears could use some extra help up front to keep their QBs upright and to clear holes for second-year back David Montgomery.
What Windy City Gridiron wants most this offseason: Stability and competency at the QB spot would put this team squarely in the playoff race. Missing on the Trubisky pick could have set this franchise back even further, but with so many decent QBs available this offseason they can right the ship. Getting a right guard would help stabilize the running game too. — Lester A. Wiltfong Jr.
After free agency:
The Bears kicked off the offseason by getting their Trubisky insurance — and it wasn’t cheap. Chicago not only traded a fourth-round pick for Nick Foles, but also assumed the final three seasons of his four-year, $88 million contract in the process. Pace may be publicly content to roll with Trubisky, though Foles could wind up getting the call at the first sign of trouble. Chicago’s other big additions this March were tight end Jimmy Graham and Robert Quinn. That would be much more impressive if it were 2017.
- Offensive guard: The Bears have the tailbacks to boast an aggressive and efficient ground game. They need blockers to clear a path for them (and take some pressure off the team’s aerial attack, too).
- Safety: Eddie Jackson is a stud, but he’s lost his running mate — Adrian Amos and now Ha Ha Clinton-Dix — in each of the past two offseasons.
- Linebacker: Nick Kwiatkoski and Leonard Floyd both departed this offseason, leaving gaps in Chicago’s second level.
After the draft:
The Bears took one step closer to fielding an all-tight end team when they drafted Notre Dame’s Cole Kmet at No. 43 overall. They bolstered the secondary with two nice additions at cornerback: Utah’s Jaylon Johnson (second round) and Georgia Southern’s Kindle Vildor (fifth round).
With the rest of their selections coming on Day 3, the Bears waited to address guard until late in the draft. Back-to-back seventh-round picks Arlington Hambright and Lachavious Simmons offer versatility along the offensive line. Chicago did not end up targeting a linebacker.