With the Chicago Bears addressing two of their biggest needs by signing tight end Martellus Bennett and left tackle Jermon Bushrod, two very big needs have been resolved—firming up the offensive line and adding a playmaking tight end for the offense.
There's still more work to do, though, even around those two needs.
So let's take a look at the five most pressing needs post-free agency.
5—Wide Receiver Depth
Sure, adding Bennett is a big help, and with Brandon Marshall in the house, you've got playmakers for the passing game (add Matt Forte in as well). However, you aren't exactly rolling deep beyond that. Earl Bennett is solid but unspectacular, Alshon Jeffery is unproven as yet and we know Devin Hester isn't going to reliably step up.
Which means the team needs some more depth. Luckily for Chicago, this is a pretty deep wide receiver draft. They can go in the first round, though I doubt they will, but there should be some playmakers sitting around in the second as well.
They might be able to sneak in another free-agency signing, but all the game-changers are gone and were too expensive anyway.
So expect them to address this in the draft, probably on the second day or early third with a player who might be a tad raw but with a lot of upside.
This may change depending on what happens with Israel Idonije. Julius Peppers doesn't seem to be slowing down, but he's very expensive and not getting younger (or cheaper). The jury is out on Shea McClellin, though I still contend he will come around as time goes on (he played better than his stats will tell you).
Regardless, the team needs to start preparing for the day when Peppers is gone, and even if McClellin is a big-time playmaker this year, they still need another guy on the other side.
It's worth looking at some prospects for the draft or keeping an eye out for a free agent with some upside. The draft has a few high-upside guys who could tempt them in the first round as well, which will make April very interesting.
Chicago's quarterbacks are Jay Cutler and...Josh McCown?
Actually, I might even bump this up when I read this again later.
The truth is, this is both a big and not-so-big need (hence it being right in the middle here). We hope that Cutler will spend less time being decimated in dropbacks and therefore less likely to get hurt, but you know the old adage: "Hope for the best, prepare for the worst."
Nobody in their right mind wants Josh McCown guiding the Bears' season for long—that's just asking for 2011 all over again.
The Bears should find an alternative, and more than likely given the choices out there now, it will come during the draft.
Still, this isn't the best draft class, so stability and ability to step in should outweigh "upside."
It's a tough role to fill, but they'd better find a way to do it somehow.
Yes, even after Bushrod arrives. In part because Bushrod has had his struggles but mostly because one man won't fix this offensive line.
They need to improve at center and guard, and I wouldn't be shocked if J'Marcus Webb didn't end up the long-term solution at right tackle.
More than likely, this is another need filled via the draft, but it's always possible that they find a cheap but solid guard or center in free agency now that things have calmed down.
No matter what or how or who, the offensive line needs to continue it's rebuilding. The Bears cannot be content with the way things are. They have a ways to go to fix this and make sure that Cutler and the "skill players" are put in a position to succeed.
You can go ahead and sign Brian Urlacher and this still remains a high-priority need, because Urlacher only has so much left in the tank and replacing him is no small task.
The team needs to figure out two things for the post-Urlacher world. First, can you replicate the mental part of what he does? Is there a middle linebacker prospect (or free agent) who can step in and run the defense the way Urlacher does?
If the answer is yes then you have to figure out how long that's going to take and how it happens. If the answer is no, well we move onto the next point.
If you can't do that, the question becomes: How do you adjust the defense to account for that?
Someone will have to pick the slack up somewhere, be it someone like Lance Briggs or Julius Peppers, or another younger player at another position—especially in the long run.
It was bound to happen eventually, and now it's become a more pressing issue. The torch is being passed whether the Bears are ready or not.
What didn't the Bears handle in free agency? Where should they focus their attention in the draft? Let us know down in the comments.
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