By Bryan Dietzler
The Chicago Bears season ended with the Bears not making the playoffs, which really wasn’t expected anyway in their first season under new head coach John Fox. It was expected to be a rebuilding year and that is exactly what it was. The Bears did better their record over the previous season by one game and seem to have started to head in the right direction. There is still much more to do however as this team still needs a lot of pieces and parts to make it a contender in 2016.
General Manager Ryan Pace is trying to build a team that’s going to be a winner for several seasons to come. He did well last offseason with the draft and with free agency bringing in some players that can help be building blocks for future seasons. Some of the good “finds” he had last year in both the draft and free agency include defensive tackle Eddie Goldman, safety Adrian Amos and outside linebacker Pernell McPhee. There are some other players not mentioned that seem to be able to be building blocks for this team but they need more skill and ability at several different positions.
The following is a look at the top three positions on the team where the Bears need to get the most help and should look for help at these positions in the draft. There is some talk about the players currently manning the positions for the Bears and what their status could be like for next season.
Inside Linebacker-This could be the neediest area on the team going into the offseason. Injuries and ineffective play hurt this unit in 2015 and there just doesn’t seem to be anyone good enough to be able to step up and play the position well. One of the starters at the position, Shea McClellin, is out of his contract and may not be resigned. Christian Jones played a majority of the season and had his moments but the Bears replaced him with John Timu towards the end of the season (perhaps because Jones wasn’t playing well enough or perhaps they wanted to see more of Timu) and it’s tough to tell what the Bears will do with Jones next season.
The Bears not only need a good starter or two at the inside linebacker position but they also need some depth. Timu may be just about the only player that they have at depth at that position. Chicago will need to spend some time and effort on this position during the offseason and they could get some help through the draft. There are many solid inside linebackers in the draft and the Bears could chose a few to help them bolster that position. Look for Chicago to address this position through the draft this offseason.
Guard-The Bears have shored up one guard spot with Matt Slauson and he is a very solid player at the position. The other guard spot was vacated by Pro Bowler Kyle Long as he moved to the right tackle position and it appears as if he isn’t coming back to that other guard spot. The Bears used a little bit of a combination at that guard positon as the season went on but didn’t lock the position down well enough to say that it was effective. Their depth was tested at this position all season and they will need to do something to clean it up and make it much more solid next year.
The Bears could choose to look for some help at this position in the draft and bring in a strong potential starter for this position. While they have higher needs in other places, they could quite possibly find someone to fill the role and start next season. Look for the Bears to try to draft a guard, if not to be the starter, at least for depth.
Cornerback-A lot of what happens here this offseason depends on what the Bears do with their players on one-year contracts. Tracy Porter, one of those players on a one-year deal, had a strong season and may be brought back by the Bears for another season. If he is then that alleviates some of the pressure that the Bears will have on this position. If they choose not to bring him back then they will have a quandary here. Kyle Fuller got better as the season went on and he looks like a lock to start at one of the two positions but if Porter doesn’t come back, they will be hurting opposite Fuller. The Bears will need to find a starter and some depth at the position either through free agency or through the draft.
It’s very likely that the Bears are going to look to the draft to add depth at this position. They will most likely bring Porter back and have their two starters set going into the 2016 season but the depth at position is weak. Alan Ball doesn’t look like a long-term answer for depth or starting potential (remember he started the season and eventually gave way to Porter who played much better than he did) and the Bears don’t have much after Ball. Getting some help in the draft will go a long way towards shoring up this position.
The Bears have other needs but the three listed above are three of the most pressing needs on the team that could be addressed through the draft. The Bears had their first draft under Pace last year and while the jury is still out on some of the guys he did draft a few players that made a decent impact this season so hopes are high that will continue and he will have a strong draft this year. The Bears should build through the draft to provide youth that will carry with the team for several seasons to come. Drafting smart will help put the Bears in a better position to win for the long term.