When the Chicago Bears fired longtime GM Jerry Angelo this past offseason, the front office stated that the team was looking to close a "talent gap" that was growing between the Green Bay Packers, the Detroit Lions and the rest of the teams in the division (via the Chicago Tribune).
Apparently, the Bears felt like they were on the wrong side of that growing gap, and wanted to close it while gaining ground on teams within the division and increasing their chance at making the Super Bowl.
Well, the offseason is pretty much over. Moves have been made, and we are a month out from the start of the preseason, where we will get to see new Bears in action.
With that being said, how well did the Bears do this offseason, and is the talent gap really closing in the NFC North?
On the offensive side of the ball, the Bears seem to have done quite a bit to close the talent gap.
For starters, the addressed the obvious need at WR by adding Brandon Marshall to their roster via trade with the Miami Dolphins. They also drafted Alshon Jeffery in the second round of the NFL draft. Both players can help immediately and contribute to winning the division.
Aside from WR, the Bears added veteran and former first-round draft pick Jason Campbell as Jay Cutler's backup starter, hoping to provide some stability for the offense and prevent last season's fiasco from happening all over again.
According to Pro Football Talk, negotiations still continue with starting running back Matt Forte, but the Bears signed veteran running back Michael Bush, who is expected to help on third downs and short-distance runs, replacing Marion Barber from last season.
Every aspect of the offense was addressed, except the offensive line. However, the Bears are expecting Gabe Carimi and Chris Williams back this season, both former first-round picks who have been plagued by injury in the NFL.
While the Bears may not have Aaron Rodgers, it looks like they have definitely done their job in closing the talent gap on offense.
On defense, the Bears went out and added veteran OLB Geno Hayes, as well as a variety of secondary players. They also drafted OLB/DE Shea McClellin in the first round of the draft and safety Brandon Hardin in the second round.
The Bears had an average defense last season, but these additions should help the defense do better this season. It helps that the Packers did not make very many moves to improve their defense this offseason after ranking as one of the worst in 2011.
The Bears may not have made as much noise in free agency on defense as they did on offense, but again, the gap seems to be closing on defense.
On special teams, the Bears suffered a major loss last season when WR/KR Johnny Knox went down with a season-ending back injury, and suffered an even bigger blow when news broke that Knox could possibly miss the entire 2012 season recovering from surgery.
The Bears also lost veteran Corey Graham in free agency to the Baltimore Ravens, right after Graham made it to his first Pro Bowl.
However, despite those losses, the Bears did a marvelous job at replacing both, bringing in Eric Weems to help return kicks and punts and signing Devin Thomas from the Giants to help replace Corey Graham.
Both are league veterans and have made names for themselves on special teams. The Bears have always had an advantage over other teams on special teams, and this season should be no different.
Finally, the coaching has changed.
While the Bears moved Mike Tice to offensive coordinator, replacing Mike Martz, the Packers lost Joe Philbin to the Miami Dolphins, where he will become head coach. Even though the Packers brought in quarterback coach Tom Clements to be their new offensive coordinator, it is still too early to decide who gets the edge in terms of new coaches.
Long story short, the Chicago Bears have done all they can this offseason to close the apparent talent gap between teams in the NFC North. The organization was looking to improve their roster, and they did. They were looking to improve their front office and coaches as well, and they definitely did.
For now, consider the talent gap closed, and look for an exciting new season of football in the NFC North, now with three legitimate playoff contenders all fighting for the one top spot in the division.
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