We are down to the final 4 teams in the NFL, and they are the San Francisco 49ers, the Cincinnati Bengals, the Kansas City Chiefs, and the Philadelphia Eagles. Each has had a lot success with their team-building strategy. When it comes to the Chicago Bears, there is one team in specific they can really follow in order to become a contender as soon as 2023, at worst 2024, and that is the Eagles.
The Eagles went 4-12 and, heading into the 2021 offseason, had their Super Bowl winning head coach Doug Pederson fired and their Super Bowl winning QBs both gone, one through free agency in Nick Foles, and one by trade in Carson Wentz. They were handing the keys to second-round rookie, Jalen Hurts, with Nick Sirriani as the new coach, who built an impressive staff. Hurts was talented, though there was doubt he could throw consistently at the NFL level. The Eagles had a lot of holes on their roster, but thanks to the Carson Wentz trade, some extra resources to retool the team, including the Colts’ first and third round picks. And then, the Eagles traded down from 6 to 12 with the Miami Dolphins, to net another 2022 first round pick. That came after a controversial final Sunday Night game where the Eagles blatantly tanked, putting in Nate Sudfeld against Washington, similar to how the Bears blatantly tanked by playing Nathan Peterman and Tim Boyle against Minnesota to net the first pick. The Eagles started filling holes in their roster; they drafted DeVonta Smith and Landon Dickerson, two prospects who did nothing but produce in college at the highest level. They also added Kenneth Gainwell and Milton Williams. They signed some lowkey free agents like Eric Wilson and Anthony Harris, and release big-name players who just weren’t producing at the same level. All eyes on the future.
With the proper rookie class boost and Jalen Hurts year 2 ascension, the Eagles went 9-8 and made the postseason. Sure, they lost quickly, but making it to the playoffs is still a great accomplishment. And now was the time to really invest in the team.
Another trade, with the New Orleans Saints, netted the Eagles another future first round pick. In the trade, the Saints received two 2022 first-round picks and a 2022 sixth-round pick while the Eagles received a 2022 first-round pick, a 2023 first-round pick, a 2024 second-round pick, plus 2022 third-round and seventh-round selections. This trade gave the Eagles a big time resource; the pick that became AJ Brown in the trade with the Titans, along with a third round pick. They also had a great draft, getting Jordan Davis (in a trade-up because they had so many extra picks), Cam Jurgens, and Nakobe Dean. And now with the dead money cleared, the Eagles could really fill other holes in the team with free agents; EDGE Haason Reddick, who broke out this year again, LB Kyzir White, WR Zach Pascal, DT Linval Joseph, CB James Bradberry, S Marcus Epps, and finally a trade for DB CJ Gardner-Johnson.
The Eagles focused on the OL, DL, WRs, and secondary, to strengthen their defense (led the league in sacks with 70) and to help Jalen Hurts (MVP candidate this season). They went 14-3, got the number 1 seed in the NFC, and are now looking to make the Super Bowl, and won’t go away anytime soon. It seemed like a lengthy rebuild was needed after the 2020 season, 3 years removed from the Super Bowl win, but the team quickly regrouped and finds itself in contention.
The reason we bring them up is because the Eagles are the model the Bears should follow. It won’t be the exact same of course, none are; for example, the Bears already have all the cap space but they didn’t make the playoffs last year. But they have the resources in place to be a top team in the NFL by 2024. They have oodles of cap space, nearly $120 million, and they could smartly not blow it all this offseason but spread it across the next two, really nabbing the best OLineman and DLineman (their secondary is already strong). They have the number one pick, which could allow them to trade back and accumulate many picks. More picks means more hits on good rookies, and more opportunities to trade a pick for a star player like the Eagles did with AJ Brown, or how the Bears did in 2018 with Khalil Mack. Add it all up and it’s more support for Justin Fields, a better prospect than Jalen Hurts but needs help to make the leap like he did.
The Eagles fixed their team in two offseasons because it’s basically impossible to do in one, which is why I was upset Ryan Poles didn’t make more of the 2022 offseason. But he can make up for it in 2023 and 2024; trade down, get some studs in the trenches right now and maybe a WR and LB, then in 2024 after Fields takes a leap get a star WR and really take off. Or some other version, it doesn’t have to be exactly like the Eagles. But the general model is there, and if Ryan Poles and Matt Eberflus follow it, the Bears can open up a Super Bowl window that lasts for as long as Justin Fields’s career.