2013 Team Needs: Chicago Bears
The 2013 Bears will have a new coach after going 10-6 only to miss out on the playoffs in 2012. Last year, Phil Emery was hired as GM and he gave Lovie Smith a one year trial period before he fired him.
Marc Trestman now takes over. He is an offensive-minded head coach for a team that has relied on its defense for many years. An elite offense would boost this Bears team into the Super Bowl conversations very quickly, but a scheme can only go so far. An influx of talent is needed at multiple positions on offense.
While you can go here to find a list of the Bears free agents, these are the three units that will need to be addressed this offseason foremost.
When a whole unit doesn’t have a positively graded player, starter or backup, usually that qualifies as a position of need. That is the case with the Chicago Bears. We recently ranked the Bears line 30th for 2012 after finishing 32nd in 2011. The most solid all-around starter on the line was, and I can’t believe I’m writing this, J’Marcus Webb. Everyone else is a candidate for replacement. Lance Louis and Roberto Garza couldn’t run block, whereas Gabe Carimi couldn’t pass block, and Chilo Rachal, Chris Spencer, Jonathan Scott, and James Brown were all dreadful in limited time.
It is a testament to how game-changing their defense was that Chicago’s offensive line could be this bad and the team still go 10-6. Only one team in the bottom 10 of our offensive line rankings made the playoffs, and that was the Colts. It’s hard to maintain a consistent offensive output when the offensive line can get flattened like the Bears did in some games. This has been a problem for too long in Chicago and it will be addressed.
Free Agent Fix: Andy Levitre
If I thought the Bears would go after a tackle, Jake Long would have been the pick, but a guard offers a cheaper price tag and the Bears may be content to let their young tackles develop or get another in the draft. What Levitre would bring is a dominant pass blocking presence that Chicago certainly lacks. The Bills guard was second among all guards in Pass Blocking Efficiency. Re-signing Louis as well would give the Bears plus pass blockers at the three interior positions and keep QB Jay Cutler from consistent pressure in his face.
The offensive line isn’t a position where a depth signing is needed. If they are going to make a move the guy better be a proven starter in the league. The Bears will assuredly use some draft picks to improve their line, but quality rookie starters are tough to find. I would be surprised if the Bears don’t sign a free agent offensive lineman.
Brian Urlacher has been the face of the Bears franchise for over a decade, but his contract has expired and his skills are depreciating. Nick Roach is also a free agent and has never been much more than an average linebacker in his six seasons. It is hard to think that the Bears would let Urlacher go, but what price is he worth now? Urlacher was the second-worst inside linebacker last season against the run, and durability is a serious issue now. Phil Emery knows he won’t get far handing out contracts for lifetime achievement. If the Bears want a seamless transition from Urlacher, they should start looking for a replacement soon. It is unclear yet what type of defense new coordinator Mel Tucker will be running, but outside of Lance Briggs the linebacker position should be a priority.
Free Agent Fix: Brad Jones
Finding a successor for Urlacher will most likely be done through the draft. If the Bears want to upgrade their outside linebacker position though, and be better situated if Urlacher gets hurt, Jones would be a quality signing. Jones played inside linebacker in a 3-4, but has the body type of a 4-3 outside linebacker. Last season was his first at inside linebacker and he showed he could drop well into coverage (+2.5 coverage grade) while still covering the run sideline to sideline (+8.1).
Since he is a bit of an unknown, they could probably have him for a fairly cheap price. With Desmond Bishop returning in Green Bay the Packers may not be willing to spend money on a player who could very well be a backup. Linebacker is probably the least probable of these three positions that the Bears sign a free agent, but the position will be examined in some form this offseason.
Anyone who watched the Bears last year had to realize Kellen Davis isn’t the answer going forward. He was our lowest rated receiving tight end, thanks to dropping a ridiculous 8 of 27 catchable balls. Sure, his blocking didn’t hurt the team but Cutler wants a big target he can hit in the short and intermediate areas, and Davis failed his audition for the role.
Free Agent Fix: Martellus Bennett
There aren’t many tight ends on the market with Bennett’s skill set. He’s got the strength to move defensive ends in the run game, the size to prevent defenders making plays on the ball in coverage, and the hands to pick up yards and put points on the board.
In short, he’s everything the Bears need in a tight end.
Bennett used his one-year deal with the Giants to show that it was only the brilliance of Jason Witten that meant he wasn’t as productive as some had hoped in Dallas. Given a chance to be the No. 1 guy he responded with 626 yards and five touchdowns while once again impressing with his blocking.
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