The Chicago Bears are in the middle of a playoff race, but a good general manager is always thinking ahead.
The offseason is quickly approaching, and the Bears have some tough decisions to make on both sides of the football. They have a ton of their own free agents and have to figure out a way to rebuild the defense while keeping the offense steady.
It's never too early to look at viable options next season. Here are eight players not currently in the organization that the Bears could bring in next year.
The Bears are dead last in the league at stopping the run. They have given up an NFL-record 100 yards to a player in six straight weeks.
Young linebackers Jon Bostic and Khaseem Greene are going to need some help up front. A good defensive tackle is always the best friend of a linebacker.
Randy Starks is a 10-year pro who, at 6'3" and 312 pounds, can plug the middle. He has been to the Pro Bowl twice in his career and has proven to be very durable. He'd be the perfect veteran to help solve the Bears' woes of stopping the run.
Current center Roberto Garza has rebounded to have a very nice season, but he's getting long in the tooth.
The Bears have rebuilt their offensive line nicely but need a young mauler up front to anchor that group going into the future.
Arkansas center Travis Swanson is 6'4" and 305 pounds with a good combination of size and athleticism. He does well in the running and passing game and has a bit of a mean streak to him. His attitude would fit well next to Kyle Long.
Swanson could be on the board in the third round if the Bears want him.
Safety has been a major issue for the Bears this season. Chris Conte and Major Wright have both struggled immensely.
It is toss-up on which safety position the team wants to replace in free agency. The logical choice is replacing Wright with a player who has a stronger presence in the box.
The Bears might as well go all-in at safety. Chris Conte is serviceable at best, but it's time the Bears put a playmaker in the back end of the secondary.
Ha Ha Clinton-Dix is the best safety in the draft. He comes with some slight character issues but is the kind of player the Bears need in order to revamp this defense.
Clinton-Dix has good size at 6'1'', 209 pounds and would be a starter come day one. If the team wants him, though, it's going to have to get him early. He will be off the board by the end of the first round.
All good things must come to an end. At this point, it is time for the Bears to say goodbye to Devin Hester.
Hester provides marginally above-average return skills but gives the Bears no value anywhere else. It would be wiser for them to replace him with a person who can give them more.
Dexter McCluster is an excellent returner who doubles as a good slot receiver. He could be downright dynamic in Marc Trestman's offense if he joined the Bears.
McCluster not only is a younger upgrade over Hester in the return game, but he also gives the team a viable explosive player out of the slot. His value is much greater than what Hester gives Chicago now.
The time has come for the Michael Bush era to end in Chicago. He has no role in this offense and looks like he's lost the explosion that made him so good with the Oakland Raiders.
The Bears still need a solid backup for Matt Forte. The last thing they want is to wear him down, because he has to handle the majority of the snaps over the course of the season. What the team needs is a physical runner who can run downhill and chew up some yards while giving Forte a breather. He needs to be versatile as well and catch the ball out of the backfield.
Carlos Hyde is an interesting player. At 6'0'', 242 pounds, he has the size and strength to churn out yards in the NFL. He doesn't have much speed but is a load to bring down and can be a good option when Forte needs a rest.
Hyde could be on the board in the fourth round.
Once upon a time, the Bears signed a pass-rushing free agent from the Carolina Panthers, and it worked out well. Julius Peppers is a little long in the tooth now, but it wouldn't hurt to go to that Carolina well once again.
It's likely Peppers will be released in the offseason. His production has taken a significant decline, and there's just too much money left on his contract.
Look no further than Greg Hardy to replace him. The 25-year-old end already has 25 career sacks in his fourth season.
The Bears would be getting Hardy much younger than they got Peppers. Hardy figures to be entering the prime of his career, making now the perfect time to bring him in.
The quarterback position is the biggest hot-button topic in Chicago. Will it be Jay Cutler or Josh McCown going forward?
That question will be answered when and if the Bears sign Cutler to a long-term deal.
They will do their due diligence by looking at guys in the draft. Don't be surprised if the Bears decide to take a quarterback in the second round.
A guy sitting there could be Jimmy Garoppolo. He may go to a small school, but he's drawn the attention of many NFL scouts.
At 6'3'', 222 pounds, he possesses an athletic build with a quick release that Marc Trestman would love. He has put up a ton of points at Eastern Illinois but has managed to stay efficient with the football. Sound familiar? He could definitely be a guy throwing passes to Alshon Jeffery sooner than later.