By Greg Gabriel–
(670 The Score) With a 20-10 setback to the Lions on Saturday, the Bears sealed another double-digit loss season. Most likely, they’ll also have a top five or top seven pick in the NFL Draft in April.
Knowing that, what position should the Bears be concentrating on?
It’s a good question, but the reality is even though we’re only a few weeks away from the end of this forgettable season, we don’t know the answer. That’s because if the expected coaching change occurs, the player personnel philosophy could change. While what the coaches are looking for might not change much on offense, the scheme of the defense will be a huge variable.
If the Bears stay with a 3-4 scheme, they’ll continue looking for similar defensive players. If they switch to a 4-3 scheme, some of the players on the defense may no longer be fits. In searching for a head coach, Bears general manager Ryan Pace needs to have an eye on that individual finding a defensive coordinator who runs a 3-4 scheme, because the Bears have some good fits there and have played well when healthy. If the Bears stick with a 3-4, filling their needs will be a much easier task.
The primary routes of player acquisition in the NFL are through free agency and the draft. The personnel department has to determine what the strengths and weaknesses are of each are so that Pace can act in a manner to fill most of the Bears’ needs.
Teams can sign their own players coming out of a contract right up until the beginning of free agency in March, so there can always be some uncertainty leading right up to free agency. Over the last four years, about 100 underclassmen per season have declared for the draft. Underclassmen have until Jan. 15 to decide whether to enter. After that date, we can begin to discern the strengths and weaknesses of the draft.
For the Bears, a determination will need to be made on quarterback Mike Glennon. The contract he signed last March was a three-year deal, but most of the guaranteed money will have been paid by the end of this season. Keeping him around as an expensive backup isn’t a good idea with other important needs, as the Bears will need that cap space. It also means a backup quarterback will be on the Bears’ shopping list this spring.
Other than a backup quarterback, the Bears will also need at least one quality wide receiver. That position group lacks talent. Cam Meredith and Kevin White are expected to be back from injury come 2018, but the Bears can’t count on White in any way given his injury history. Still, he has a guaranteed contract, so he’ll most likely be on the squad.
The Bears also need at least one offensive lineman — preferably a tackle — and perhaps two. Injuries have affected the play of the line the last few seasons, and quality depth has to be found. While wide receiver may be the more glaring need, I wouldn’t use a first-round pick on one. I believe you can find a quality one elsewhere. The Bears did that with Alshon Jeffery, who was a second-round pick of theirs in 2012 and left for the Eagles last offseason.
I’m a believer that you build a team from the inside out, so drafting a lineman on either side of the ball is always smart drafting. That said, drafting a defensive back early would also be prudent.
Part of that is because uncertainty remains for the Bears at cornerback, as Kyle Fuller and Prince Amukamara are coming out of contract at season’s end. Whether the Bears choose to bring one or both back will determine whether they need other cornerbacks in free agency and the draft.
With the injury history of Pernell McPhee, Willie Young and Leonard Floyd, outside linebacker should also be looked at. Bringing back Lamarr Houston a few weeks ago was a prudent move by Pace, as Houston has made some big plays the last two weeks. He’s out of contract at the end of the season, and it remains to be seen if the Bears want him back.
One more quality defensive lineman would also be helpful, as a team can never have enough top linemen. Starter Mitch Unrein is out of contract at the end of this season and at 30, he may not be brought back in 2018. A player who has shown some promise in limited playing time is first-year man Roy Robertson-Harris, who’s big, long and athletic. The light is just turning on, and he could have a bright future.
Many questions remain, but what’s for certain is a Bears team that’s 4-10 will have plenty of needs to address.
Greg Gabriel is a former NFL talent evaluator who’s an on-air contributor for 670 The Score. Follow him on Twitter @greggabe.