The NFL offseason is officially upon us. The Chicago Bears and general manager Ryan Pace have their work cut out for them, with multiple holes to fill on both sides of the ball. The Loop Sports staff took a look at some options the Bears could take advantage of this offseason as well as some predictions for next year.
What should the Bears do with the eighth pick in the draft?
James Fox: I can tell you what they shouldn’t do and that’s draft Calvin Ridley. It’s easy to say take BPA (best player available). Trading back would be option #1 for me unless Chubb or Minkah was somehow on the board. Could be that an ILB type like Roquan or Edmunds is BPA at #8. I’d be more than happy with Edmunds depending on free agency.
Dan DeYoung: I agree with you that Ridley should not be the pick. The BPA at eight would have to be Quenton Nelson. I do really like Edmunds and Smith. I’d be happy with any of those guys.
David Wildman: I agree with that assessment James. That being said, I maintain that Ryan Pace should trade back in the draft to a team in the mid-teens, then select a guy like Ridley. If we’re sticking at eight, then yeah, Nelson is the guy.
Jack Soble: I think it’s very hard to say before the free agency period is over, but if the draft was today and Nelson was available at #8 then I would run to the podium. Could very well be the best guard in the league by year two. His game tape is that good.
Dan: He is very fun to watch. If we do not sign a replacement in free agency then this would be my pick. I love that he is being compared to a player like Larry Allen, I would not complain about getting a clone of him.
David: It also doesn’t hurt that we signed his O-line coach from college. I love Nelson. That being said I still think we should trade back.
Dan: I’ve seen rumors that the Bills may try to trade up if we can get both their 21st and 22nd picks I would be pumped.
Jack: Trading back is an intriguing idea and one I wouldn’t be against but it doesn’t seem to be Ryan Pace’s style, at least in the first round. If a game wrecker like Nelson is available or if he falls in love with an edge rusher I would prefer that.
James: I would likely make that deal with the Bills as well.
Jack: The Bills deal would give me thoughts about moving down but they would be making it with a QB target in mind and I’d be surprised if we don’t see three or four QBs taken in the top seven. It depends on where Cousins goes and I honestly think the Bills are the best fit for him. With a not terrible QB (and anyone who watched their wild-card game knows that Tyrod Taylor needs to go) I think they can win a playoff game or two.
Who should Bears fans keep an eye on at the Combine?
Dan: The two guys that I will be watching are Tremaine Edmunds and Roquan Smith. I think both are very similar in value, but the combine could change that.
James: I will watch all of the WR’s, OT’s, CB’s and pass rushers closely. So much depends on their free agent period. One guy that I love that fits the Fangio profile is Colorado CB Isaiah Oliver.
Jack: I’ll be watching the receivers closest. When he was in Kansas City, Matt Nagy was more partial to guys who tested well at the combine especially in the 40-yard dash. Track speed is different from game speed and every combine number should be taken with a grain of salt but speedy receivers are more likely than not to be targeted by the Bears.
Dan: I agree with you there Jack. Like you said you cannot use the 40 as a make or break for a prospect but you still have to make note of it.
James: I think EDGE and OT would be my preferences for the eighth pick and there likely isn’t a guy not considered a reach there in that spot. It’s a bit frustrating.
David: Like Dan and Jack said, I’m gonna be really interested in seeing how those two linebackers do at the Combine. Linebacker would be an interesting direction to go at eight.
Jack: Correct me if I’m wrong here but I think Edmunds can be a versatile linebacker and rush off the edge on a consistent basis. He certainly has the measurables to do it. If he shows himself to be a freak athlete at the combine he’s definitely in play.
Dan: You’re correct on that Jack. One of my favorite parts about him is that is that he is so versatile. The fact that he is only 19 also helps his draft value as teams can mold him into whatever they want him to be.
Who are your favorite wide receivers to target in free agency and the draft?
David: Well I was big on Landry but of course he got tagged. I think looking at the draft we’re looking at guys that we could take in the early second round. Two guys I like at that spot are Courtland Sutton out of SMU and Equanimeous St. Brown from Notre Dame. Two big bodies that can go up and get it.
Dan: I am not expecting Allen Robinson to hit the open market, but if he does I would love to sign him. Getting a receiver like Albert Wilson would be nice. To have a guy that is already familiar with Matt Nagy and his offense would be solid. I am a big fan of picking a wide receiver with our second round draft pick. I agree with you David on Courtland Sutton, he is raw but has a ton of potential. I also really like Anthony Miller from Memphis with that pick. I see similarities to Antonio Brown in him.
Jack: In terms of free agency John Brown of Arizona is someone who really intrigues me. Has the speed and deep threat ability that Nagy loves and the last time he was equipped with competent quarterbacking he had a 1,000 yard season. In the draft, I’ve heard Texas A&M’s Christian Kirk compared to Golden Tate and I’d more than welcome that in Nagy’s offense.
Dan: I really like Kirk but I don’t believe he will be available with our pick. He will most likely be the second wide receiver drafted, and the last time that less than two wide receivers were selected out of the first round was 2008. He is a great player though and I would love to have him.
Jack: I’ve heard some say Sutton will be the second WR drafted. I’ll be interested to see how he does at the combine but if he doesn’t run well he might not be a good fit in the offense.
Dan: The combine will be a pretty big factor for these guys. A few could get themselves into the first round. Look out for DJ Chark out of LSU and Michael Gallup of Colorado State to be guys in the middle rounds that Chicago could take.
Jack: Last year I fell in love with Ryan Switzer early in the draft process and am still slightly salty that he isn’t a Bear. The Bears should look for that kind of undersized savvy route runner in the mid rounds.
Besides the wide receiver position, what other positions should the Bears target in free agency?
James: I think they’ll be in search of offensive line upgrades. Zach Fulton is an easy target. Can play G or C and played for Nagy in KC and Hiestand in Tennessee. OT to replace Massie is an option as well. Massie isn’t a great scheme fit but there’s no sense in dumping him without clarity.
James: I expect them to bring back Fuller and let Prince walk. Curious to see how much they spend on the other side. Breeland and Colvin are interesting. Might be too expensive. I’ve heard Bears could have some level of interest in Vontae Davis as well. EDGE is super important. I’d look at Jeremiah Attaochu from LAC and Marquis Flowers from NE.
Jack: If Robert Quinn is cut, Ryan Pace should bring him in for a visit and not let him leave the building. Outside of that, there isn’t much in terms of a bona fide pass rusher out there. Shaq Barrett of Denver is an RFA and I would give him an offer sheet. Adding pass rush to complement Floyd, if (very big if) he stays healthy, should turn the Bears into a pretty ferocious defense.
Jack: Given how barren the WR pool appears to be Burton is a must have for me as well. Would much rather pay him than shell out top dollar to Marqise Lee or Paul Richardson. Burton and a couple of underrated scheme fit like Brown and Wilson to go along with Cam Meredith would make for a not bad cachet of weapons.
Dan: Ryan Pace seems to be readying himself for a big free agency period. With that being said if we drop Prince like James mentioned a name that wouldn’t shock me to see is Malcolm Butler. I want to bring back Kyle Fuller too, but we should not put all of our stock into Fuller. If Fuller regresses our pass game could be in big trouble. If Fuller plays great and lives up to his contract than great, we have to great cornerbacks.
Jack: Personally, Aaron Colvin of Jacksonville excites me more than Butler. Likely to be cheaper and when Bill Belichick doesn’t want someone I don’t want him either.
James: Fuller is younger than Johnson and Butler too and I think he’s better. I think they’ll lock him up in some fashion.
Dan: I agree that we should bring him back, and it should be a long-term deal, but we should sign another cornerback if we have all of this cap space. It’s looking likely that the wide receiver position will not have a ton of top talent so it wouldn’t surprise me if we put a decent amount of money towards cornerback.
Jack: I would double down there and say we should sign two fairly high priced corners in addition to bringing Fuller back. In today’s NFL and in the Bears’ scheme, the third CB is more important than the third DL. I would go after two of Colvin, Philly’s Patrick Robinson, and LA’s Nickell Robey-Coleman.
Which Ryan Pace draftee are you most excited for next year?
David: I agree James, I really liked what I saw out of Shaheen last year when he actually got a chance before he got hurt. I’m really looking forward to what he can do next year in Nagy’s offense. I think he’ll be an exceptional fit for what Nagy wants to do.
James: Another outside the box name is OG Jordan Morgan.
Dan: I’m very interested in what Nagy will be doing with Cohen. Along with Shaheen, I think they were underutilized in our offense and could really take big steps next season. Hopefully, Nagy can turn Cohen and Shaheen can turn into Hill and Kelce.
David: Next year will be huge in showing us what we really have in some of Pace’s picks. We saw the flashes last year, but Nagy certainly feels like the right guy to bring out the best in some of these guys.
Jack: Trubisky is the obvious answer to this question and I think he will have a Jared Goff/Carson Wentz (people forget that Wentz had a very similar year with very similar flaws as Trubisky when he was a rookie) type of a leap from year one to year two.
David: One other guy I want to mention is obviously Leonard Floyd. We’ve seen tantalizing potential out of him, but I think next year is put up or shut up for him. If he has another year defined by injuries and under production that would likely mean another miss in the first round by Pace. That would be a disaster.
Jack: I think he played very well when healthy last year and sack numbers don’t tell the whole story with him as he had plenty of hurries, but you’re right that he needs to prove he can stay on the field.
David: You’re absolutely right. He was disrupting the quarterback a lot last year. That being said, he was brought on to bring down the quarterback, not just disrupt him. We need more tangible production from him in my opinion.
Dan: Speaking of guys from the 2016 draft class, I’m hoping to see Jonathan Bullard step up in our defensive line rotation. There was a lot of hype around him when we drafted him and a lot hasn’t come of it
David: That’s right. A ton of hype. He started making some plays last year though. I’m actually expecting a pretty big step from him last year as a run stuffer.
Jack: I would bring Unrein back as depth but I would go into training camp with Bullard as the third DL behind Goldman and Hicks. He has some potential with an excellent burst off the line.
Dan: I think Unrein is a bit underrated. He doesn’t make a ton of flashy plays but he opens a lot up for other guys rushing.
James: Roy Robertson Harris should have a fairly large role as well.
Jack: To anyone reading this I would say buy low in your fantasy drafts on Cohen and Shaheen. They will have big years in this offense.
Dan: I think many will be drafting Cohen high. Shaheen could absolutely be a sleeper though.
David: Well as long as we’re on the topic, who do you view as the best Bear to take in a fantasy league next year? My vote is for the receiver we don’t have yet (Fingers crossed).
Jack: This is the most obvious answer but Jordan Howard had a bit of a down year fantasy wise (11th or so among RBs I think) and if he gets anywhere near the third round of my draft I’m taking him.
Dan: Good chance that I will be picking Trubisky later in the draft. He could explode in Matt Nagy’s offense for fantasy.