These Chicago Bears are toothless and desperately need reinforcements to regain its bite. The Bears have captured eight NFL titles since its founding in 1920. However, Chicago won its lone Super Bowl championship in 1985 when former head coach Mike Ditka led “The Monsters of the Midway” over the New England Patriots 46-10. The Bears fired Ditka after a pitiful 5-11 showing in 1992. Overall, “Iron Mike” had a 106-62 record in 11 seasons in Chicago and he helped the storied franchise amass six divisional crowns. Following Ditka’s termination nearly a quarter-century ago, Dave Wannstedt, Dick Jauron, Lovie Smith, Marc Trestman and John Fox have coached the Bears. In total, those five men only guided Chicago to five playoff appearances. More troublingly, the team is downtrending and hasn’t secured a spot in the postseason since 2010. While numerous factors have caused the Bears’ longstanding futility, nothing has hindered the late George Halas’ organization more than its subpar drafting and unwise free-agent signings.
It’s seemingly inevitable that Chicago’s C-level executives will relieve Fox of his duties on Black Monday. Consequently, until Fox’s successor is hired and the new leader’s coaching philosophy is known, it’s difficult to identify who the Bears should target once free agency commences on March 12. Still, at a minimum, Chicago must upgrade its cast of receivers, pass rushers, pass defenders and blockers up front. The Bears are currently projected to be roughly $48 million under the salary cap, according to OverTheCap.com. With a decent amount of funds at his disposal, let’s determine which players general manager Ryan Pace should recruit this off-season.
The Bears must acquire solid wide receivers to complement young signal-caller Mitch Trubisky. The 23-year-old Trubisky, who Chicago drafted out of North Carolina with the second pick last April, has only started 23 games since he became a Tar Heel in 2014. With such a skimpy résumé, Trubisky needs wideouts who can spread the field and compensate for his inexperience. Considering youth, health and skills, Pace should concentrate on Miami Dolphins star Jarvis Landry and underused Los Angeles Ram Sammy Watkins. The 25-year-old Landry is arguably the league’s premier slot receiver and the 24-year-old Watkins is utterly explosive downfield. The 5-foot-11, 210-pound Landry and 6-foot-1, 210-pound Watkins are different talents who would provide Trubisky with invaluable options and accelerate his maturation process.
Mitch Trubisky has to remain upright and feel comfortable in the pocket to succeed. Josh Sitton, Kyle Long and Cody Whitehair are all formidable blockers who provide Trubisky with ample protection. Conversely, left tackle Charles Leno Jr. and right tackle Bobby Massie are liabilities who could stunt Trubisky’s growth. New York Giants rental D.J. Fluker is a significant upgrade over Massie and New England Patriots guard Nate Solder is better than Leno Jr. The 29-year-old Solder and 26-year-old Fluker would enhance the Bears’ entire attack.
For financial and quality purposes alone, Pace should pursue Denver Broncos outside linebacker Shaquil Barrett and Seattle Seahawks defensive end Sheldon Richardson. The 25-year-old Barrett, who went undrafted in 2014 out of Colorado State, is an overachiever brimming with potential. The 6-foot-2, 250-pound Barrett is strictly overlooked because of Von Miller’s brilliance on the gridiron. Meanwhile, the 27-year-old Richardson is an overpowering force who can disrupt offensive schemes. Richardson is also something of a troublemaker and he can be an off-field distraction. Nevertheless, the 6-foot-3, 295-pound Richardson is at a crossroads and he could become a ferocious Bear.
Ideally, the Bears can obtain more than one standout player to man its secondary. Nonetheless, if that proves to be impractical, Pace should concentrate on gaining New England Patriots cornerback Malcolm Butler. The 27-year-old Butler, a 2015 Pro Bowler and 2016 second-team All-Pro selection, can cover any receiver in the sport. Moreover, as evidenced by his game-winning interception in Super Bowl XLIX, Butler thrives in critical moments.
The Bears are not going to secure the rights to all of the aforementioned players. In fact, Pace will be fortunate to land one-quarter of the names in this article. Still, the above athletes could make the Bears menacing again.
BY COLIN LINNEWEBER