Bears' Biggest Keys to Having Successful NFL Offseason
The Chicago Bears were an 8-8 squad in 2020, which was good enough to obtain a wild-card berth in the new extended playoff format. However, Chicago couldn't make it past the opening round, which leaves the Bears facing a pivotal offseason.
General manager Ryan Pace and head coach Matt Nagy are both back for 2021, but Chicago has plenty of question marks otherwise. There's a huge question sitting at the quarterback position, where Mitchell Trubisky is scheduled to become a free agent.
The Bears also face the challenge of being a projected $1.8 million over the salary cap. Chicago is going to have to generate cap space just to financially navigate April's draft. That's only the first part of the equation.
Here you'll find a look at three other keys to a successful offseason for Chicago in 2021.
Find an Answer at Quarterback
If the Bears hope to have more than just a playoff cameo this season, they are going to have to find a viable starting quarterback. Ideally, it would be an upgrade over Trubisky, who has been mostly mediocre as a pro.
Trading for a star like Deshaun Watson or landing a premier prospect in the draft would bring promise to the Windy City, but financially a blockbuster trade may be out of the question.
This could lead Chicago to seek budget options in free agency or consider bringing back Trubisky, who does seem to have the support of some teammates.
"To go through all he went through— to get benched and then come back and do what he did—I think really shows his character," tight end Jimmy Graham told NBC Sports Chicago's Countdown to Kickoff (h/t Alex Shapiro of NBC Sports). "It shows how tough he is."
Trubisky was benched for Nick Foles during the 2020 regular season, though he regained the starting job. Whether it's Trubisky, Foles, Watson, a rookie or someone else, the Bears aren't going to go far unless they find themselves a quarterback.
Retain or Replace Allen Robinson II
Once Chicago has its answer at quarterback, the next step will be figuring out who will be its No. 1 receiver. Ideally, bringing back pending free agent Allen Robinson II will be in the proverbial cards. Despite seeing inconsistent quarterback play, Robinson still managed to rack up 1,250 receiving yards in 2020.
However, Robinson isn't going to come cheaply on the open market, and the Bears may have to turn elsewhere to fill the No. 1 receiver role.
While Darnell Mooney had a terrific rookie campaign in 2020, the 5'11", 174-pound pass-catcher doesn't possess the physical traits of a top perimeter target.
This is a position the Bears may be inclined to address through the draft. This year's receiver class is expected to rival last year's impressive group, and Chicago owns the 20th pick in Round 1.
There's no guarantee that Chicago will be able to get a Justin Jefferson-type rookie campaign out of a first-year player, but the draft would be a good place to start and end the search for a new No. 1 receiver.
Find Someone Who Can Make Plays in the Secondary
The Bears don't have many glaring needs on the defensive side of the ball—they ranked 11th in total defense in 2020—but adding a playmaker in the secondary would be beneficial. Chicago logged just 10 interceptions last season, 10th-fewest in the league.
Creating even a few more turnovers would help the Bears' chances of improving their record in 2021. Finding a ball hawk to roam the secondary could do just that.
Bringing in a big-name pass-defender like Richard Sherman or Patrick Peterson will be difficult given the cap situation. Again, the draft may be the best resource here.
If Chicago can land another playmaker for its secondary, though, it should take the defense from being playoff-caliber to a championship unit. Limiting opposing yardage is nice, but keeping points off the board—the Bears ranked 14th in that department—and perhaps putting a few defensive points on it will go a long way toward total team success.