The free agency dust has mostly settled, so let’s take a minute before attention shifts to the draft to evaluate where the Bears’ roster currently stands. Taking stock of who they have will help identify the largest remaining needs for the draft (and small free agent moves that can still be made).
The table below is my best guess at Chicago’s depth chart right now.
A few quick notes:
- Don’t worry too much about who’s listed as starter/2nd string (especially Foles/Trubisky and Burton/Graham). That’s just my best guess at who I think is better if everybody is healthy.
- I included players who have not officially been announced, and there’s always a slim chance something could fall through with one of them. This includes Isaiah Irving, and Robert Quinn (and honestly maybe more that I didn’t realize).
The Financial Situation
We don’t actually know Chicago’s exact cap situation right now because of Nick Foles. Adam Schefter reported the Bears and Foles agreed to a restructured contract, but nobody has seen details yet (update: details are starting to come out, and it looks like Foles has an $8M cap hit for 2020, which would give the Bears about $8-9M in cap space before the Ifedi signing). We also don’t know exactly what the cap hit for Germain Ifedi will be.
Spotrac and Over The Cap, the two main NFL cap sites, are both operating under the assumption that Foles’ Jacksonville contract transferred over, and they both list the Bears with under $2 million in cap space right now. Restructuring Foles could clear up to $10 million, and there are other moves the Bears could do to push cap money to the future, but Ryan Pace has already aggressively moved money to the future this off-season. So the Bears still have a little bit of wiggle room, but probably aren’t handing out any big free agency contracts at this point.
One other thing to keep in mind: only the top 51 cap hits count against the cap in the off-season, and the Bears currently have more than 51 players under contract. So if they sign a free agent for a minimum-level deal (somewhere around $1 million cap hit if you include a small signing bonus), it only adds about $300,000 to their cap, because it displaces somebody already counting as $675,000 from the top 51.
OK, let’s look at what the Bears’ biggest immediate needs for 2020 are based on the depth chart above. These are the spots Chicago should probably focus most of their attention on with small free agent moves and the two meaningful draft picks they have.
- Wide receiver: Everybody talks about how bad Chicago’s tight ends were last year, and with good reason, but Javon Wims quietly produced at a similarly terrible efficiency. I bring this up because Wims is currently slotted as a starter, which is less than ideal. Maybe Riley Ridley pushes him from that spot, but he did nothing as a rookie last year, and the Bears desperately need a WR with speed after cutting Taylor Gabriel. In what is supposed to be a loaded draft class, this feels like a spot that probably gets addressed in the draft, but a cheap veteran addition wouldn’t be a bad idea either. (Side note: Cordarrelle Patterson is not the answer. He’s never produced like a starting WR with 4 different NFL teams, including with Bill Belichick in New England. He’s a bit player, so please stop talking about him as their answer at WR2 in the comments).
- Offensive line: Germain Ifedi has a lot of starting experience, but nobody actually thinks he played well in Seattle (though at least one Seattle writer thinks he could be better in a new setting). Chicago’s depth on the OL is also incredibly shaky right now. Only Rashaad Coward has any experience, and he was bad last year. I can only assume Ifedi would be the swing tackle if Leno or Massie went down. They should honestly look to add a cheap veteran tackle still in free agency and spend a 2nd round pick on an offensive lineman.
- Cornerback: Artie Burns has some starting experience, but I can’t find anybody from Pittsburgh who thinks he’s anything but terrible. He’s competing for a starting spot opposite Kyle Fuller with Kevin Toliver and Tre Roberson, and maybe Duke Shelley gets in the mix too. This feels like a spot where a 2nd round pick could enter the fray and have a decent chance to play early.
- Safety: Deon Bush and Jordan Lucas are currently battling for a starting spot. Both have some playing experience, but neither has been particularly great. I don’t expect another veteran to be signed, but a 2nd round pick (or maybe even a 5th rounder) could be added to the mix.
- Edge Rusher: Khalil Mack and Robert Quinn might be the best starting duo of edge rushers in the NFL. Their current 3rd edge – Barkevious Mingo – has 5 sacks in the last 6 years. The 4th edge rusher is currently Isaiah Irving, who has 1 career sack in 3 seasons with the Bears. I don’t know if they have the resources to meaningfully upgrade here, but I won’t be upset if they spend a high pick on a pass rusher they like.
There are obviously other needs (tight end is a huge one looming for the future, depth can be improved pretty much across the board), but those are the spots where I see the largest potential issues for the Bears in 2020 as of right now. Accordingly, most of my draft attention over the next month will be focused on these positions, and if you’re looking to use your stay-at-home time to read up on NFL draft prospects, I recommend focusing here.