Moves the Chicago Bears Will Regret Not Making This Offseason
The Chicago Bears had a very eventful offseason and improved their defense in almost every way, but there are some moves they didn't make that could come back to bite them.
One could argue that the Bears have as much top-line talent of any team in the league but very little depth. It can be tricky to know where a team needs depth or what price it should pay to acquire it, and the Bears could easily end up regretting not having more at at least one key position.
Overall, general manager Phil Emery has done a very good job improving the Bears roster. They're not perfect, but who is?
The Bears still have the draft where they could address some of these areas, but here are some places where they may wish they would have done more.
No Second Tight End
Offensive tackle Eben Britton revived his career in this role last season, but the Bears should be looking for an upgrade.
The Bears brought Britton back after he received little interest in free agency. He did a nice job blocking in this role, but was no threat as a receiving tight end. He is also their primary backup along numerous spots on the offensive line and should be given a chance to battle for the starting job at right tackle.
Of course, should Britton be forced into action along the line, they could always move another linemen in as a blocker, but the need for a second tight end goes beyond that.
What happens to the Bears offense is Martellus Bennett were to be injured? It's not a good thought.
The only viable option the Bears have right now is Dante Rosario, and whether or not he actually classifies as a viable option is debatable. Fendi Onobun has a ton of potential, but the Bears can't go into this season with their fingers crossed hoping the metaphorical light comes on for this superb athlete.
The need for tight end depth goes beyond the potential for injuries on the Bears offense. If they were to add a legitimate threat as a second tight end, they would become that much more difficult to defend, especially in the red zone.
Owen Daniels would've been a nice option as a second tight end and H-back, but he signed with the Baltimore Ravens. There are still some options available, such as former Carolina Panthers blocking tight end Ben Hartstock. Former New York Giant Bear Pascoe seems to be too good of a fit for it to ever actually happen.
An interesting player to keep an eye on is Green Bay's Jermichael Finley. He suffered a neck injury last season and has yet to be cleared, but might come cheap if he is. He wouldn't fill the void as a blocker, but he's a big, athletic body who would make the Bears offense that much scarier.
Not Getting Insurance for Matt Forte
If Matt Forte goes down, the Bears offense might be done for.
The Bears have a lot of great offensive weapons, but it can be argued that Forte is the best and most valuable. He is both their bell cow and their best when it comes to making big plays.
He's coming off of a career year in which he totaled 1,933 yards from scrimmage and 12 touchdowns. With that came 363 touches; he's not going to be able to survive that kind of beating much more.
It's hard to blame the Bears for letting Michael Bush go. Their short-yardage back seemed to be allergic to the line of scrimmage as he had a hard time adjusting to their new blocking scheme.
If there is one position in which the Bears are going to pay a premium to a backup, this should be it. They should make sure that backup fits what they like to do offensively, however, unlike Bush.
Michael Ford has potential and produced a number of big plays in college, but...
Darren Sproles would've been an interesting fit, and Darren McFadden may have been worth kicking the tires on, especially for what he signed for. The Bears could really regret letting James Starks go back to Green Bay where he always seems to break long runs against them. There are a number of veterans who could fill in in a pinch, but they're all still available for a reason.
The Bears could get good value at the running back position in the draft, but it's rare that backs enter the league capable of picking up blitzes and knowing the intricacies of a complicated offense like the one the Bears run. They would also likely have to spend a pick that could otherwise be spent on another position.
Not Replacing Josh McCown
This isn't about letting Josh McCown leave, but rather not replacing him with another experienced player.
Tampa Bay was willing and able to offer McCown more than the Bears both in terms of playing time and money. It's hard to blame him for leaving, just as it's hard to blame the Bears for letting him go.
He had by far the most success of his career last year. It may have been unsustainable, but he deserves credit. A good contract and a chance to start are things he certainly earned.
As of now, the Bears have only Jordan Palmer and Jerrod Johnson behind starter Jay Cutler. Considering Cutler has managed a full 16 games just once since he arrived in Chicago, there is a good chance his backup will see the field.
Palmer was fine in the Bears fourth preseason game last season, but he wasn't exceptional and it wasn't much of a real test. He's never seen significant action in the NFL and was well off the radar before the Bears signed him and later brought him back after Cutler was injured.
While the thought that head coach Marc Trestman is a "quarterback whisperer" is nice, it also ignores the fact that he had talent with which to work. McCown was a third-round pick, who would've likely gone higher had he played at a larger college.
He has started two AFC Championship Games, thrown over 25 touchdown passes once in a season and over 3,000 yards twice. He did that despite playing with inferior talent and coaching in New York. All Bears fans have seen what a difference coaching and a supporting cast can make.
There are other options still available. Brady Quinn has continued to bounce around the NFL; Kevin Kolb had success in a West Coast offense in Philadelphia, and Matt Flynn doesn't seem to be getting much attention despite doing a good job in Green Bay once again this season.
Another interesting name is Josh Freeman. If he's willing to work to tap into his talent, Trestman can revive his career.
The Bears seem content to go into the season with just Palmer and Johnson. Unless they know something nobody else seems to—as they did with McCown—it could be a big mistake.
Passing on Top Talent at Safety
It's rare that truly elite safeties hit the open market in NFL free agency, but three were available this year and the Bears didn't come away with any of them.
In Jairus Byrd, T.J. Ward and Donte Whitner, three of the best safeties in the entire league were unrestricted free agents, but the Bears didn't even get a visit. Instead they signed New York Giants reserve Ryan Mundy and Green Bay castoff M.D. Jennings.
Mundy and Jennings both have talent, and it's hard to argue with a team choosing to upgrade their defensive line first. But it isn't very often that teams have the opportunities to grab top safeties.
If you combine the salary-cap hits of the safeties the Bears did sign (Mundy, Jennings, Craig Steltz and Danny McCray) it totals $3.51 million, exceeding the hits of both Byrd ($3.5 million) and Ward ($3.25 million).
All three are due significantly more money in future seasons, something that may have prevented the Bears from signing Jared Allen, but either way they ended up with a superior player. With Lamarr Houston and Willie Young already on board, it's worth questioning whether the Bears needed safety help more than they needed the extra pass rush that Allen should provide.
The Bears could have signed a safety and drafted along the defensive line, where the top-line talent appears to be better than it does at safety.
The consensus top two safeties—Alabama's Ha Ha Clinton-Dix and Louisville's Calvin Pryor—will likely be available when the Bears pick, but there's no telling what they're going to turn out to be. Neither have the kind of speed and athleticism that Bears general manager Phil Emery typically prefers or that players taken as high as the Bears drafting should.
The Bears could trade back or try to wait until the second round, but there's no guarantee that a starting-caliber player will drop to them.
They could end up going into next season with a combination of Conte, Jennings and Mundy. That might be enough with their revamped defensive line. Then again, it might not be.