>\n\nWorst to First: 11. Chicago Bears \n\n\n\n

Worst to First: 11. Chicago Bears

Written by Ben Morgan on 04/09/2010

On the first day of Free Agency this year Chicago Bears fans could have been forgiven for waking up and thinking Dan Snyder had bought the team. No-one's going to accuse the Bears Management of sitting on it's hands in free agency this year. They went in early and expensively wrapping up Julius Peppers to a huge money deal. The Bears have made some extremely brave decisions the past couple of years. The obvious one being bringing in Enfant Terrible Jay Cutler to pout and whine at lower altitudes. The pros and cons of that trade have been talked about better and longer elsewhere and I won't get into it. I deal with the here and now and the near future (ie the draft, and not much beyond it). So what we have is a Front Office not afraid to gamble and not afraid to go after big names. Which is useful to know when it comes to guessing who they're gonna draft.The downside? In making those brave decisions they've given up some drat picks and again don't pick until the 3rd round. Just like 2009. This obviously throws up problems because you're not the 11th worst team in the league because you're stacked at every position. But, as we'll see there are a couple of key areas of concern but with some good coaching, a bit of luck with injuries and some self belief, there may not be as many holes on this team as you'd think.

Let's run the rule over the Bears...

 
2010 Free Agent Losses 2010 Free Agent Additions
Alex Brown DE (Saints,UFA-cut), Nathan Vasher CB (Chargers,UFA-cut)
Tim Jennings CB (Colts,RFA), Brandon Manumaleuna TE (Chargers,UFA), Julius Peppers DE (Panthers,UFA), Chester Taylor RB (Vikings,UFA), 
2010 Unsigned Free Agents 2011 Potential Free Agents
Mark Anderson DE (RFA), Dusty Dvoracek DT (RFA), Kevin Jones RB (UFA-cut), Danieal Manning S (RFA), Darrell McClover LB (UFA), Jason McKie FB (UFA-cut), Fontel Mines TE (UFA-cut), Adewale Ogunleye DE (UFA), Orlando Pace OT (UFA-cut), Adrian Peterson RB (UFA), Tyler Reed OG (UFA-cut), Nick Roach OLB (RFA), Pisa Tinoisamoa LB (UFA), Jamar Williams OLB (RFA)
Anthony Adams DT (UFA), RIchard Angulo TE (RFA), Devin Aromashodu WR (RFA), Josh Beekman OG (RFA), Kahlil Bell RB (XRFA), Josh Bullocks S (UFA), Desmond Clark TE (UFA), Rashied Davis WR (UFA), Corey Graham DB (RFA), Caleb Hanie QB (RFA), Patrick Mannelly OT (UFA), Brad Maynard P (UFA), Kevin Payne DB (RFA), Eric Peterman WR (RFA), Tim Shaw LB (RFA), Matt Toeaina DL (RFA), Eddie Williams RB (RFA), Garrett Wolfe RB (RFA)

Quarterbacks No Need
You've got Jay Cutler now deal with it. Well to some extent the Bears are giving Cutler every chance to succeed. In comes Mike Martz to be the Offensive Co-ordinator. That's going to be interesting because purely from a physical standpoint Cutler should fit what Martz wants in a QB to a tee. Pretty accurate with an arm capable of throwing deep and outside. Attitude wise? Well it could get interesting there. Neither Martz nor Cutler have the best reputation when it comes to interpersonal relationships. There could be fireworks off the field but there should also be some fireworks on it too. If the Bears can get some consistent WR play as well this could be a big improvement for all concerned. My one quibble? I'm not sure how well the pass, pass then pass again system Martz favours is going to go over playing outside in Chicago in the dead of Winter. The problem with QB for the Bears comes in the form of a lack of any depth under Cutler. With only Brett Basanez and Caleb Hanie behind Cutler, if Martz and Marc Bulger are still on speaking terms you have to hope he's on the phone right now. Hanie's a developmental type with some nice tools but has little experience and probably not the guy you want walking to the Huddle in 2010. Maybe 2011... As far as draft needs do there is none but they could use a vet to backup Cutler.

Runningbacks No Need
It's not like Matt Forte has set the world alight. A lot was expected of him following a good rookie season. He didn't deliver. He was down on yards, average and TDs. But he was banged up and wasn't helped by poor OL play, especially at the goal line. The addition of Chester Taylor shouldn't do much more than give another guy with similar skill set to split the carries. What Taylor and Forte both have in common is great hands out of the backfield. That's going to be very important under Martz and with those 2 guys and Kahlil Bell and Garrett Wolfe probably still around as well, there's just not much need to spend a draft pick on a RB at the moment. Better to sort that OL out I think.

Wide Receivers No Need
The knock on the Bears offense recently has been the WR play. And that's an argument with plenty of merit. But the widemen have been getting steadily better and the Bears now sit on a deep group of guys with upside, if not proven ability. Last year they drafted 2 WRs in Juaquin Iglesias and Johnny Knox. The year before they spent a third rounder on Earl Bennett. Also last year they were fortunate to bring in Devin Aromashodu from the Colts. He's got good size and really became a target for Cutler late in the year. That should continue and he figures to have an important role. Once you throw Devin Hester into the mix as well that's a group you can work with and develop. Whilst none of them are ever going to be Torry Holt the successful Rams offense got guys in exploitable matchups by running good routes and having multiple passing options. The Bears certainly aren't lacking for options there. Hester's going to remind Martz of Az-Zahir Hakim in a big way and with the other 4 guys gaining experience this is not a position they're likely to address in the draft. Could they use a veteran presence? Yeah sure, but that may impinge the development of a young group, at any rate I don't see a WR in the draft as an option here. 

Tight Ends No Need
Firstly the Bears are pretty stacked at TE. Greg Olsen, Desmond Clark and Brandon Manumalaemalaualma. Secondly and perhaps most importantly, when has Martz ever called his TE's number in the passing game anyway? The guy with the unspellable name has history with Martz and he's a very good blocker. Something Martz's TEs do rather a lot of. What that could mean is anyone's guess right now but Greg Olsen would have plenty of trade value and could potentially attract even a second round pick. Something the Bears don't have right now. Whatever happens with the current personnel I can't in all honesty say there's any need here at all. Not until Martz starts using TEs with any regularity anyway.
 
Offensive Line Major Need
The Offensive Line takes most of the heat for the poor performance of the Offense last year. It's not entirely unwarranted either. They struggled to open lanes for Matt Forte and Cutler had to face a fair bit of heat. Olin Kreutz is coming off surgery that he (and most Bears fans) hope will rejuvenate a once great career. If he can come back to his form of a few years ago that's going to make a massive difference to the Line. Josh Beekman should be back at Left Guard which will no doubt please Forte as Beekman is a very good run blocker. Chris Williams should be fine at LT but the right side of the line is a problem. Frank Omiyale and Kevin Shaffer will battle it out for the RT slot but the Bears would be well advised to use their 3rd rounder on the best Guard they can get. A guy like Mike Johnson or Jon Asamoah might still be around. I'm not too keen on the RT situation either but at least Omiyale has some experience there. There's a fair few guys who could fit on the Interior of the line, maybe even a C/G prospect who could play RG and eventually replace Kruetz? It looks a pretty deep class and is probably the main position the Bears should look to with their limited draft picks. You can still find a day 1 starting Guard in round 3. It's tough to say that for many other positions outside of Kicker/Punter.

Defensive Tackles Minimal Need
Tommie Harris has slipped the last couple of years but he's still the Bear's best DT and for once he's injury free this off season. Expect a return to past glories in 2010. Alongside him there's the useful pairing of Anthony Adams and Marcus Harrison and last year's pick up Jarron Gilbert. So they're not lacking numbers or quality. They just need some better health and more consistency. With Anthony Adams a free agent in 2011 this is definitely a position they could look to add some depth but I would be surprised if it's with their 3rd rounder.

Defensive Ends Minor Need
For a team that tragically lost Gaines Adams and also cut Alex Brown loose the Bears DE situation doesn't look too bad. Signing Julius Peppers gives the Bears an instant upgrade on one side. They could really use Mark Anderson recapturing some of the mojo of his 12 sack rookie season and Israel Idonije has been moved out wide this year. I like Anderson to come in on obvious passing downs and just harrass the QB. Opposite Peppers he's not going to see too many double teams that way.. Idonije is a big guy, like 3-4DE type big guy. I think they could split the job pretty effectively at LDE, most likely with Idonije starting and taking the obvious rushing downs. Backing up the top 3 is ultra athletic Henry Melton. He's a long term project as a Defensive End entering his second year. Obviously keeping this group is putting some faith in Idonije and Anderson but with so few draft picks I'm not sure they have a lot of choice. At best they're going to be picking up a developmental type guy in the mid to late rounds.
Linebackers No Need
When a guy who is arguably your 5th choice LB gets 20 tackles in a game, you've got an embarrassment of riches. With Brian Urlacher having almost a full 12 months to heal his body he should come back in perfect shape. Lance Briggs is a star and Nick Roach, Hunter Hillenmeyer and Jamar Williams will challenge for the rest of the playing time. It's even possibl Pisa Tinoisamoa might come back too. It's a great situation and if the big guys up front can get the job done this lot could wreak havoc and put the Bears back in the top Defense stakes.

Cornerbacks Minor Need
On the front line the Bears have two good performers in Charles Tillman and Zachary Bowman. No problems there. Once you hit the nickel and dime packages though, things aren't quite so rosy. They'll be hoping D.J. Moore can step up, he was a draft pick a year ago. They've also signed Tim Jennings but he wasn't that good in Indy. Corey Graham is also on the roster and is probably the nickel guy right now. It's a situation that could certainly be improved beyond the starters but the likelihood of managing that through the draft? Well it's limited. But sometimes you get lucky. It wouldn't surprise me at all if one of the Bears few picks goes on a CB. 

Safeties Major Need
This is a muddy position at best. It's not like they're short of numbers having used multiple picks in recent years on the position. It's just that no-one's really panned out in the way they'd hoped. They could be ok at Strong Safety where it looks like Danieal Manning will have first stab at the job in 2010. Al Afalava should provide good depth there too. But at Free Safety they have 3 guys, none of whom look capable of doing the job. Craig Stelz, Josh Bullocks and Kevin Payne. Even with spotty Safety play the Bears were an above average pass defense last year. Without finding a Free Safety in free agency they're probably not going to improve on last year. It's extremely unlikely any safety they could get with their current draft picks would be an improvement over what they already have either. I look at this as a Major Need but without a pick in the first 2 rounds it's going to be one that goes unfilled.

Specialists MInor Need
Robbie Gould is a solid NFL Kicker and in the middle of a long term deal. Brad Maynard though could be in line for some competition. His punt average has never been great though he does have a decent knack for pinning opponents inside the 20 without overcooking too many into Touchbacks. Even so he looks to me to be the weakest link in what is traditionally a very strong Bears Special Teams unit. I'm sure the Bears have more spots to find than grabbing a punter at some point in the draft though.

Return Game No Need
Between Devin Hester, Johnny Knox and Danieal Manning Chicago don't struggle for return options

Dream Day One
 No picks on Day One    
 
   
Player Visits
 Akwasi Owusu-Ansah CB Indiana (PA)
Jeffrey Fitzgerald DT Kansas State
Joe Hawley OL UNLV
Nic Richmond OT Texas Christian

Nate Allen S South Florida
George Johnson DT Rutgers
Jeff Linkenbach OT Cincinnati
Robert Johnson S Utah
Naaman Roosevelt WR Buffalo
Matt Mayberry LB Indiana

Last Edited: 04/08/2010




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