Chicago Bears: Ranking Remaining Offseason Priorities
The first rookie minicamp is in the books, and the season will be here before you know it. The Chicago Bears have done a solid job reshaping this team but still have some work to do.
Keeping the star receiver happy and bringing back a longtime veteran are all on head coach Marc Trestman's mind.
Here are the five priorities in the order the Bears must address them before their opening meeting against the Buffalo Bills.
5. Re-Sign Patrick Mannelly If He's Healthy
It has been a long and successful career for Patrick Mannelly, but injuries have stalled his return for a 17th season.
If Mannelly can get healthy, the Bears absolutely need him. This special teams unit is going through a transition period with new players coming in, and it could use a veteran captain such as Mannelly.
The longest-tenured player in team history deserves a proper send-off, and the Bears still need a long snapper. They had three players participate in rookie minicamp.
4. Find a Defensive Identity
Last year's poor effort on defense cost the Bears a playoff berth. Defensive coordinator Mel Tucker recently said there will be major changes, but are they for the better?
Tucker will look to step away from the Tampa 2 and will likely run multiple looks with his new personnel. Regardless of whether the Bears run a 4-3 or 3-4, they need to adapt an identity.
What is this defense going to stand for? Is it going to be relentless in getting after the quarterback? Maybe it's the kind of defense that keeps you out of the end zone.
Either way, Tucker needs to inject some life back into this unit and let his players know they need to play with an edge this season.
3. Blend in the Rookies with the Veterans
This current roster has a good mix of young players and seasoned veterans. If the Bears want to make it to the postseason, they are going to need major contributions from both groups.
Kyle Fuller is expected to make an impact right away. This year's first-round pick will see a ton of time on the field covering receivers in the slot.
Brock Vereen could be a starting safety come opening day, Ka'Deem Carey will be counted on to give Matt Forte some much-needed rest, Pat O'Donnell will have the pressure of pinning guys, such as Aaron Rodgers, deep in their own territory, and there are two rookies up front on the defensive line who have to play well if the Bears want a bounce-back year on defense.
General manager Phil Emery was wise to get all his rookies under contract right away. He can now turn the roster over to Trestman and get everybody to jell together. A guy like Will Sutton can be just as important as Jared Allen.
2. Find Another Safety
Three new safeties have been added via free agency and the draft, but nobody can yet feel really comfortable about the position going into the season.
Chris Conte struggled last year and is currently recovering from shoulder surgery. Ryan Mundy is a likely starter, but he doesn't have much starting experience and could be best served with a more experienced player opposite him.
M.D. Jennings was one of the league's worst starting safeties last year, Craig Steltz is largely a backup and special teams player and Brock Vereen is very talented, but he would be best-served not being forced into a starting role right away.
Veterans are up for grabs all the time. There will still be plenty of chances between now and the start of the season to bring in more competition. Given the uncertainty surrounding the current group, it wouldn't hurt to throw another name into the mix.
1. Re-Sign Brandon Marshall
Since being traded to the Bears back in 2012, all Brandon Marshall has done is go to back-to-back Pro Bowls, catch over 200 receptions, haul in 23 touchdowns and be a leader and perfect teammate.
Going beyond the stats, Marshall has stayed out of trouble and has even taken young players, such as Alshon Jeffery and Marquess Wilson under his wing.
Marshall is now going into the final year of his deal, and it would be best-served for both sides to get a deal done. The Bears would like to keep Marshall happy, and they could get a team-friendly deal before players such as Jordy Nelson and Demaryius Thomas sign their next deals. Both are slated to become unrestricted free agents the same time as Marshall.