Bears' Biggest Keys to Having Successful NFL Offseason
This is an important offseason for the Chicago Bears. Not only because they have already hired a new general manager (Ryan Poles) and a new head coach (Matt Eberflus) but also because they have some substantial holes on their roster that they need to fill heading into the 2022 season.
Chicago has won eight or fewer games in eight of the past nine years, and it hasn't notched a playoff win since the 2010 season. But the Bears have some young core players they are building around, and they could make some moves this offseason that get them on an upward trajectory.
Will Chicago contend for a postseason berth in 2022? That depends on the moves it makes this offseason. But even if the Bears aren't a contender next season, they could still bring in players via free agency and the 2022 NFL draft who could help them get closer to playoff success.
Here's a look at the biggest keys to Chicago having a successful offseason.
Replace Robinson, Further Bolster Receiving Corps
Allen Robinson II seems unlikely to return to the Bears for the 2022 season. The 28-year-old wide receiver was terrific over his first three years in Chicago, but he couldn't produce at the same level in 2021, when he had 410 receiving yards and only one touchdown in 12 games.
Robinson is a free agent, and the Bears may look to add a top receiver who can become their No. 1 playmaker. They already have Darnell Mooney, who is coming off a strong sophomore season, but they need an elite playmaker for quarterback Justin Fields to throw the ball to.
Chicago may need to sign more than one wide receiver in free agency, though. Jakeem Grant Sr. and Marquise Goodwin are also hitting free agency, so the Bears are lacking depth at the position as well.
With a projected $26.2 million in available cap space, per Over the Cap, and the ability to create more before free agency begins, Chicago needs to use some of its resources to build a stronger receiving corps. That's what the Bears are lacking most on offense.
Add Players Across the O-Line to Protect Fields
While the Bears need to add players for Fields to throw the ball to, they also need to do a better job of keeping their soon-to-be 23-year-old quarterback on his feet. That was an issue in 2021, as Chicago allowed an NFL-high 58 sacks during the regular season.
There are some building blocks along the offensive line for the Bears, such as tackles Teven Jenkins and Larry Borom. But they are going to have several offensive linemen hitting free agency, and they already lacked depth at several positions up front, particularly on the interior.
Chicago is going to have to sign some free-agent offensive linemen considering it has only five selections in the 2022 NFL draft. The Bears could use one or two picks to strengthen their O-line, but they will likely still need to build depth via free agency.
It doesn't matter how Chicago gets it done, but it needs better blocking than it was during the 2021 season. Otherwise things could continue to be tough for Fields and the Bears offense.
Either Re-Sign Hicks or Draft His Replacement
One of the top Bears players set to hit free agency is Akiem Hicks, a 32-year-old defensive lineman who has spent the past six seasons with the team. He's been a key part of Chicago's defensive front, and if he doesn't return, it will leave a hole for the Bears to fill.
It's possible that Hicks will be pursued by several teams, which could make it more difficult for Chicago to afford to bring him back. He's also in the latter stages of his career, so if the Bears aren't ready to contend in 2022, it may not be the best investment.
Still, Hicks is an impact player, so if Chicago can find a way to bring him back, it should do so. If it can't, then it should look for a prospect during the 2022 NFL draft it can develop to fill that role.
The Bears may not have a first-round pick this year, but they could still add a strong defensive lineman in the second or the third round. So that should be something they consider if they can't bring Hicks back into the fold.