The meat of the NFL offseason is now over. The NFL draft concluded last Saturday in April, after the main waves of NFL free agency in March.
As we enter May, we enter the slow final wave of free agency, where several veterans will sign over the two months before training camp in July and preseason in August to push for spots as teams will eventually cut their rosters down from 90 to 53 plus a practice squad.
The Bears are likely not done, considering they still have many holes on the team and plenty of cap space; however, we can still say the majority of their work is done, so we should assess whether they accomplished what they needed to this offseason, and its completion short-term and long-term.
Priority 1: Get Justin Fields a WR1 100% complete
There were a number of options available for the Bears to try and fill this void; on the trade market, DeAndre Hopkins seemed like the most prominent name there, though Elijah Moore, Brandin Cooks, and Allen Robinson were all traded this offseason as well. The free agent market wasn’t great, but there were still solid options available in Juju Smith-Schuster, Jakobi Meyers, and DJ Chark.
Instead, though, Ryan Poles swung for the fences and used the number 1 overall pick to acquire not just a boatload of draft picks (more on that later) but also a star WR in DJ Moore. He is a guy who, until last season, had 1200 receiving yards a season in his career, and the best QB he’s played with is probably Teddy Bridgewater.
Plus, Moore will be able to quickly gain chemistry with Fields, as he excels in the routes Justin Fields loves throwing.
D.J. Moore helps Justin Fields attack the intermediate area of the field, an area he did well targeting in 2022:
– Fields led NFL with a 66.7% completion percentage on throws 10-19 yards downfield
– D.J. Moore's 172 targets 10-19 yards downfield from 2019-22 is 2nd-most in NFL
— Brad Spielberger, Esq. (@PFF_Brad) March 10, 2023
He’ll also make Fields more confident in letting it rip and taking fewer sacks, and throwing to NFL open receivers. This was a slam dunk move.
Priority 2: Acquire More Draft Capital 90% Complete
About the number 1 overall pick: Poles moved it to Caroline for the 9th pick, DJ Moore, the 61st pick, a 2024 first, and a 2025 second. That’s a lot of picks, and it’ll help the Bears quickly rebuild and give them a better chance of acquiring great rookie talent. Carolina will likely give the Bears another top-10 pick next season. Most analysts believed the Bears got a fair and better-than-expected return between the surplus picks and Moore. The Bears also, by passing on Jalen Carter, got a 2024 fourth from Philadelphia, and their trade-up on day 2 was compensated via their trade-down on day 3.
The reason this isn’t a perfect 100% is because of a couple of nitpicks, as well as a legitimate concern. I feel Poles could have gotten the 39th pick from Carolina instead of the 61st to make things easier for the Bears in the draft, and I think they could have acquired a 4th instead of a 5th from Baltimore in the Roquan Smith trade. But the Chase Claypool trade, which should have been for a third and not a second, hurt the Bears.
This, also Gabriel doesn’t realize this: they overpaid plain and simple, and he would have to perform extremely well to make it worthwhile
Look at the people talking about why the falcons messed up picking Bijan early or lions Gibbs early or the Texans trading up for Anderson https://t.co/nb8a1o0qnT
— Idrees Muhammad Kudaimi (@TotallyREALSpo1) May 2, 2023
Priority 3: Improve the OL after Fields was sacked 55 times 70% complete
The Bears had only two OL spots you could say they would feel comfortable with following last season: Braxton Jones at LT, who was PFF’s highest-rated rookie left tackle, and Teven Jenkins at RG, who enjoyed a great season once he earned the starting spot. Both were elite in run blocking and at least passable in pass protection and are young and will continue to ascend. RT, C, and LG were in very bad spots; however, and depth could always be better.
In free agency, Poles addressed the issue of LG: he signed Nate Davis from the Titans, a borderline pro bowl RG at his best in 2020 and 2022 but one who has had some injury concerns lately. It was decided Davis would play RG, and Jenkins would move to LG.
Poles did not sign any center to replace Sam Mustipher, nor did he draft one. It’s assumed Cody Whitehair will get that spot back, and while he should be better than Mustipher, he is not a long-term solution there. Lucas Patrick will be the top IOL backup, so depth is marginally better.
At RT, Poles selected Darnell Wright, number 10 overall. He was the consensus third-best tackle in the class, but some believe he is the second because Peter Skoronski may project as a guard. Either way, he should be a steady presence at RT, considering his performance against elite SEC rushers last season like Will Anderson.
The final 30% may revolve around improving the swing tackle position from Larry Borom, improving overall depth, or it may be pushed back to 2024 to get an elite center and draft another young OLineman.
Priority 4: Improve the DL, which was last in sacks, 50% complete
The Bears DL was dreadful last year. Robert Quinn was traded away, Al-Quadin Muhammad was invisible, the young edges Trevis Gipson and Dominique Robinson were incredibly inconsistent, and the DTs were eaten up constantly en route to being a bottom 5 team in the league against the run. The only DLineman who played average, at least, was Justin Jones. No wonder Ryan Poles tried giving Larry Ogunjobi that huge contract.
So Poles added quite a bit to this group. At DE in free agency, he added two guys who were solid rotational edge rushers in the AFC South, in DeMarcus Walker and Rasheeme Greene. At NT, he signed run-stuffing Andrew Billings from the Raiders. Then in the draft, Poles drafted not one, not two, but THREE defensive tackles: Gervon Dexter in round 2, Zacch Pickens in round 3, and Travis Bell in round 7. Clearly, the interior was a weakness, and Poles attacked it quite aggressively.
So why the 50%? Well, the unit still projects to be weak. Dexter and Pickens will need time, though I firmly believe at least one of them will become a great player. Billings offers nothing in pass rush, and the Raiders’ run defense wasn’t great with him. Jones is better than DT2, but he is currently DT1 still. DE is even worse; Greene and Walker are better projected as the third-best edge rushers on a team. I believe in Gipson and Robinson too, but Robinson needs a lot of development still. Hopefully, we see more of the Trevis Gipson from 2021. Otherwise, this DL unit is still near the bottom of the league in 2023. They needed a stud DLineman and weren’t able to add any.
Priority 5: Get Legitimate LBs 100% complete
After trading Roquan Smith and letting Nicholas Morrow and Matthew Adams walk, the Bears had just one proven NFL LB on their roster in, Jack Sanborn. So Poles attacked this in free agency early; he got TJ Edwards as the first signing by any team, a solid LB for the NFC Champion Eagles. He got Tremaine Edmunds, who was in the same draft as Smith but better fits the Bears’ 4-3 one-gap scheme compared to Smith, who thrives in a 3-4 two-gap scheme. And he got Dylan Cole as a backup and special teams replacement.
In the draft, they got one of the more intriguing players in Noah Sewell, who was a projected first-round pick before he struggled in a new scheme at Oregon last year. Now, LB may be the team’s strongest unit. You can’t fix all of a team’s holes in one offseason, but you can fix all of one unit’s holes, and that’s what happened at LB, acquiring a lot of speed and youth there.
Priority 6: Build up team depth 75% complete
Guys who were projected starters who played a lot last year moving down the depth chart is great for the Bears in case of injuries. Or even just signings that are meant as depth.
This includes guys like D’Onta Foreman or Roschon Johnson (replacing Trestan Ebner, the other was going to replace the starter in David Montgomery), Tyler Scott (replacing Dante Pettis), Equanimeous St. Brown (goes from WR2 to WR4 at best), Robert Tonyan (replaces Ryan Griffin), PJ Walker (replaces Trevor Siemien), Doug Kramer/Lucas Patrick (replaces Sam Mustipher), having 4 edge rushers now instead of just 3, the new bodies at DT, Noah Sewell (replacing Joe Thomas), Kindle Vildor (pushed down with the Tyrique Stevenson pick), and the other young DBs who played a lot last year (pushed down by the 3 DBs selected by Poles in the draft. There are still some weak spots which is why it is not 100%, but it is in a much better place than in 2022.
Priority 7: Get a returner 50% complete
This is mostly TBD. Pettis is back but far from assured a roster spot. The same goes for Velus Jones Jr though I would say his odds are better than Pettis. Tyler Scott has some experience returning punts, so he counts as 50% complete. Khalil Herbert could also return kickoffs like he has done well in the past. Nsimba Webster also has experience there.
I expect the Bears to make one more signing at WR for a guy who could compete for return man duties.
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