2017 was a lost year for Chicago. John Fox was a lame duck of a head coach and it surprised no one that he was replaced. His replacement was Kansas City Chiefs offensive coordinator Matt Nagy, who brings with him one of the most exciting and forward-thinking schemes in the NFL. Combining that gameplan with the talented second-year quarterback Mitchell Trubisky gives the Bears a lot of hope heading into 2018, but there is still a lot of work to be done.
The Bears have won just 14 games in the last three years and not had a winning record since 2012. The reason behind that is a poor roster full of holes. To fix it they have $51 million in cap space and the eighth overall pick, where should they focus their attention if they want to right the ship this year?
Chicago’s wide receiver depth chart is perhaps the worst position in the NFL, even worse than Cleveland’s quarterbacks. Their leading receiver in 2017 was Kendall Wright, with 59 catches and 614 yards. He is a free agent this year. After that was Tarik Cohen, a running back, and then Josh Bellamy with 24 catches and 376 yards. He is also a free agent.
As things stand their depth chart features Markus Wheaton, who caught three passes in 2017, and Kevin White who caught two… So yea, this is where they have to focus.
Their problem is that both free agency and the top of the draft are somewhat devoid of playmaking wide receivers. With Jarvis Landry getting the franchise tag early from Miami it leaves just Allen Robinson, who is coming off a torn ACL, Sammy Watkins, and Paul Richardson as widely recognizable players with anything to offer.
As part of a complete unit those guys are nice, but they can’t carry a passing game, unless Robinson returns to 2015 form.
Taking any rookie wide out at #8 looks like a stretch at the moment. The most likely candidate is Alabama’s Calvin Ridley, who is a sharp player but he isn’t a dominating burner or physical monster. Of course, once the Combine is over someone may emerge as a rising talent, but going in that direction carries a lot of risks. Chicago may have to wait a year to truly rebuild their receiver depth chart.
The Bears have invested pretty well in linemen recently, with Kyle Long and Cody Whitehair, but where they have struggled is at tackle.
While they re-signed Charles Leno to a four-year, $37 million extension that was more out of necessity than performance, and right tackle Bobby Massie has been an inconsistent turnstile for most of his stay in Chicago.
This is where the Bears can really take a step forward this offseason. Nate Solder is a free agent and cannot be franchise tagged by the Patriots. He is a proven high-end left tackle, and while he will be expensive he will be a worthwhile investment given he is one of the better run-blocking left tackles as well and still the right side of 30.
If they can’t land him them Notre Dame tackle Mike McGlinchey would be a solid choice in the draft and at least able to improve the right tackle spot, if not be an upgrade on Leno who can then flip to right tackle.
The Bears have, so far, decided not to bring back Kyle Fuller which is an odd decision give that he had the best year of his career in 2017 and their cornerback depth chart is thin to say the least.
Marcus Cooper is the only recognizable name in it and he is not who you want to be leaning on for 16 games. Still, there are a lot of interesting names in the free agent market for the Bears to go after. Malcolm Butler will likely be the most sought-after but veterans like Patrick Robinson and Brent Grimes may still have something to offer, while there is still potential in Morris Claiborne if the Bears are willing to take a risk.
Draft wise, the likes of Denzel Ward and Josh Jackson lead the way and both would not be surprising picks at #8 for the Bears.
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