Chicago Bears 2013 potential offseason moves


Phil_Emery

It’s never too soon to think about how the Bears can improve for next season. I have some suggestions for GM Phil Emery.

I think with 2 key moves in the offseason, the Bears can find themselves on the right side of lopsided final scores like we saw in Jacksonville, only against much better opponents than the Jaguars.

Don’t mistake my constructive criticism for a lack of excitement about the current team. But the truly great teams never stop focusing on how they can get better, no matter how good they are. That constant drive to be better than the day before separates the elite teams from the championship teams.

There are 11 players on the roster who can potentially test the open market, but only Brian Urlacher stands out as a guy the Bears must resign.

It’s impossible to imagine Urlacher wearing anything other than navy and orange, and he has already stated he wants to finish his career as a Bear. And unfortunately for Brian, age and injuries are catching up to him in a way that may disinterest many potential buyers.

I have total confidence in Phil Emery that he can strike a short term deal with Urlacher that both sides can be pleased about. Urlacher can fulfill his wish of being a life-long Bear, and the team won’t be financially handcuffed by a long term deal.

Other than Urlacher, the rest of the list of Bear’s free agents is made up by Johnny Knox, Henry Melton, and a few other serviceable players who the Bears should have no problem resigning. But if they don’t resign all of them, who cares? It will be an easy job to replace a guy like Khalil Bell or Geno Hayes.

I don’t intend to focus on how the Bears can fill minor holes in their roster. I’m looking at how the Bears can make an immediate impact on their roster with 2 crucial moves.

The first move that the Bears must make is addressing the offensive line, particularly left tackle. I don’t know how many years back you can go where this statement would still apply, but it’s about time they do something about this shoddy bunch up front.

The line has been mediocre this season, but they’ve had their fair share of nasty moments in only 5 games. In one of my previous articles, I noted that the Bears have the lowest strength of schedule in team history this year. It’s good that they’re taking advantage of lowly opponents, but we can’t project that the line will hold up just as well against the better defenses the Bears will face down the road.

The Bears should try to fill this gap on the line in free agency versus in the draft. Drafting linemen can be a crapshoot. The jump from the NCAA to the NFL is extremely hard to make, and many guys never find a way to overcome this talent gap. That’s why a young free agent with NFL experience would be the best route for the Bears to take.

Luckily for the Bears, the crop of free agent offensive linemen in this upcoming offseason is loaded with young, proven talent.

Top 2013 Free Agent Offensive Tackles*

-          Jake Long, Dolphins (26 yrs old): 4 time Pro Bowler, 1 time 1st Team All Pro

-          Ryan Clady, Broncos (26): 1 time Pro Bowler, 1 time 1st Team All Pro

-          Sebastian Volmer, Patriots (28): 1 time 2nd Team All Pro

-          Branden Albert, Chiefs (28): 2008 15th Overall Pick

-          Andre Smith, Bengals (26): 2009 6th Overall Pick

-          Jermon Bushrod, Saints (29): 1 time Pro Bowler

All of these players are either right in the middle of or are just hitting their prime. Even if we’re to assume that Jake Long and Ryan Clady are most likely going to resign with their respective teams, you would still have 4 stud left tackles to choose from who are listed in the “Top 50 NFL Free Agents of 2013”*.

Take your pick; any name on the list will be a better pass protector than J’Marcus Webb. Both the passing and running games would benefit, and any of these players could serve as mentors to right tackle Gabe Carimi.

The mentoring aspect leads me to my 2nd crucial move the Bears should make this offseason: using their 1st round pick on a middle linebacker.

I just made the case for why Brian Urlacher will most likely return to the Bears next season, but that shouldn’t detract from the Bears looking in to someone who can take his place in the near future.

If the Bears keep up their winning ways they’ll have a low 1st round pick. But that doesn’t mean there won’t be plenty of talent at the linebacker position to choose from. The crop of middle linebackers slated for the 2013 draft has been declared by some to be the deepest pool of talent at the position in decades.

The Bears should have no problem finding Urlacher’s future replacement somewhere in this list of names:

Top Middle Line Backer Prospects for 2013 NFL Draft**

-          Manti Te’o, Senior, Notre Dame

-          Shayne Skov, Senior, Stanford

-          C.J. Mosley, Junior,Alabama

-          Alec Ogletree, Junior,Georgia

-          Kevin Reddick, Senior,North Carolina

These 5 players, and a few others I didn’t list, all have the talent to go in the 1st and 2nd rounds. Not many other teams in next year’s draft will be looking for help at the linebacker position either.

It will be up to the front office to decide which of these players would fit best in the 4-3 defensive scheme the Bears run, but if the Bears do decide to draft an inside linebacker, he will be one lucky man. Not only will he get to learn from a living legend in Brian Urlacher, he will have a defensive unit surrounding him that is one of the best in the NFL.

As the season progresses, bigger needs may arise for the Bears to address in the offseason. But as it stands right now, signing a franchise left tackle and drafting a top middle linebacker prospect would put this team in position to win in the present and well into the future.

Do you agree with my proposed moves? Or are there more important needs you feel the Bears should address first?

 

*List of Top Free Agent OTs and Top 50 Free Agents according to NFLTradeRumors.com

**List of Linebacker Prospects according to SBNation.com

 

Comments

  1. Tht is a very good article. I agree with a lot of it

  2. William McRann says:

    Left Tackle is necessary. One that you can groom, and as you mentioned ILB. I would like to see a quality Center. Another CB in case of injuries Tillman is still producing at a high level. TE is a position I would like to see more production. Also a good pulling Guard would be nice

  3. joey-flaherty says:

    @DrT: Thank you!

    @William McRann: I agree with your point about CB, Tillman isn’t getting any younger. And the whole line needs help, so I think if they get LT improved they can also spend a later draft pick on a Guard. But your TE idea is interesting, I think as the season progresses and we see how the TE factors into Tice’s offense, that very well may jump up the list of priorities. But as it stands right now, the TE isn’t used enough for me to worry about who’s playing there as long as they can block. The talent at WR should make up for any lack in the passing game like it has so far, and Knox is supposed to return next year. We’ll see.

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  5. I agree 100% with your assessment of the bears but if the draft i so deep in middle linebackers then why waste a first round pick? Why not get cutler some real competition at the critical quarteback position? Everybody else must compete on the team for their positions and i do not understand the free pass we give cutler. I think we should draft or trade up to get the best quaterback that fits into trestmans plans. Then draft the ml in the second round. No more free lunches for cutler.

  6. CD Mitchell says:

    i like this article, OL and LB are very key positions the Bears need to focus on, also i think more competition at TE, WR and S, the secondary seems to stay hurt ie Wright, i think we need a bigger more physical SS, Conte is fine, but competition is always good, and TE was a waste, Davis should be cut immediately and Rodriguez should be given a chance, with a mid round draft pick to challenge, and finally WR we just need to add speed and height to what we have, and give Joe Anderson a chance.

  7. so here it is: i agree- resign urlacher and melton. u can trim fat to save some money (ie hester, k.davis, spaeth etc..) and sign a LT for SURE! the only one that might be available in the draft is Lane Johnson and a) his stock is rising, b) he is still raw, and c) we havent had ANY luck drafting a T in the 1st round recently. if they can get an albert, bushrod, or vollmer i say DO IT. clady and long are either staying or too much $. then here is the draft:
    1) Cooper – G (now with him and free agent L:T u just upgraded ur line tremendously)
    2) A.Brown – LB
    4) G.Escobar or Kelce – TE
    5) T.Mathieu (provides depth in secondary and replaces hester as punt return– just gotta look past his off-field issues- its just a little weed lol)
    6) M.Goodwin – WR

    sign a few roster filler material and we good to go!

  8. I couldn’t have said it any better than that!

  9. Mike, if you agree with the assessment why would you move up to draft a QB, when QB was not listed as a critical need? We only have 5 picks and can’t afford to trade up & give up a draft pick (I would trade down & pick up one of the top TEs in RD1). Maybe you don’t like Cutler, but he is not the problem and I don’t see any QBs in the draft as an upgrade over Cutler. We got Trestman to address the offense and Cutler’s development, so that should improve the play at QB. You can’t put 2 QBs on the field, but you need more than 1 OL and LB, especially when the current roster is underperforming or old. I do agree not to draft a MLB in round 1, but maybe round 2.

  10. joey-flaherty says:

    @Mike: Drafting a quarterback in the first round would be a very interesting proposition. I don’t necessarily think we give a “free pass” to Cutler. He was well on his way to elite status in Denver by the time he got here. His play earned him that “pass” and the potential that we are still waiting to fully see is what keeps him locked in as the starter. There’s also the fact that the guys on the depth chart behind him (Campbell, McCown) are well past their serviceable years as starters in the NFL. I think Trestman is salivating at the chance to bring out the best in Cutler, that little something extra that we’ve been waiting to see. However, I can see the Bears grabbing a QB in the 2nd round seeing that the talent pool at QB is a bit weak this year and most QBs will last that long anyway. He can be the guy to mold for the future in case Cutler continues to come up short. That’s actually the topic of my next article, so stay tuned.

  11. joey-flaherty says:

    @C.D. Mitchell: Competition is always a good thing, which is what I think the Bears can provide in the later rounds of the draft and with marginal free agent contracts. For instance, they just signed Tom Nelson, who’s a safety who last played for the Eagles. But I think the positions that need MARQUEE names to come and fill them in are left tackle and middle linebacker. Then after that, I agree with your thoughts on safety, wide receiver, and especially tight end. For the safeties, don’t forget Brandon Hardin will be returning from injury and will add to the mix. Rodriguez and Anderson should and probably will get second looks, but I’m not sure Davis should be cut outright. He can be serviceable in a rotation… hopefully.

  12. joey-flaherty says:

    @CBAZ: Sounds like you’ve thought about this offseason quite a bit! On the Hester front, I agree. Cutting him and giving him a fresh start is what he needs and deserves. Sad but true. And very solid points about Lane Johnson, those are exactly the same thoughts I had when I considered which LTs were available in the draft. Now, about your mock draft:

    1) Cooper, G –> He’s a legit top 10 talent so chances are slim that he falls to 20. But if he’s there, then pounce.
    2) A.Brown, LB –> Brown’s stock is rising FAST, some people even have him slated as the Bears 1st round pick. But he’s one of those stud linebackers I mentioned, so he makes sense here.
    4) G.Escobar or Kelce, TE –> Both are second tier guys who are more pass catchers than blockers. I’d be alright with either.
    5) T.Mathieu –> “It’s just a little weed” haha. I think he could provide some relief in the return game if nothing else. Not sure if the Bears are the type of team to take on a social pariah and all of the negative press surrounding that, that job is generally left to the Bengals or Raiders.
    6) M.Goodwin, WR –> This guy has speed for daaaaays, I’m all for this pick.

    @Ed: Thank you sir!

  13. joey-flaherty says:

    @Marc: I agree when you say Cutler isn’t a main problem. That’s why I propose we take a flyer on some guy in the 2nd, 3rd, or maybe 4th round. But I like you proposition of trading up in the 1st round. If we can do so and still hang on to our 2nd round pick, we can go TE 1st, LB 2nd. That would be ideal. “You can’t put 2 QBs on the field, but you need more than 1 OL and LB, especially when the current roster is underperforming or old.” Amen to that.

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