Bears add to evolving roster, earn A- offseason grade from PFF

Steve Palazzolo breaks down Chicago’s offseason performance, including a detailed look at free agency and the NFL draft.

| 4 months ago
(Chris Keane/AP Images for Panini)

(Chris Keane/AP Images for Panini)

Bears add to evolving roster, earn A- offseason grade from PFF


Since taking over last season, general manager Ryan Pace has made plenty of moves to overhaul a depleted Chicago Bears roster and they appear to be moving in the right direction. Last year’s draft netted two players that played significant, quality snaps in FS Adrian Amos and DT Eddie Goldman, while the return of an injured first-round wide receiver Kevin White should make that class look even better.

They followed it up with a strong foray into free agency this offseason to go with another strong-looking draft that has netted a good nucleus for the roster going forward. There are still question marks on the roster, but given the lack of talent just two years ago, things are looking upward in Chicago.

Offseason Grade: A-

Free agency and trades

New arrivals: LB Danny Trevathan, LS Aaron Brewer, S Omar Bolden, OT Bobby Massie, G Ted Larsen, LB Jerrell Freeman, C/G Manuel Ramirez, DT Akiem Hicks, QB Brian Hoyer

Re-signings: WR Alshon Jeffery, TE Zach Miller, WR Marc Mariani, RB Jacquizz Rodgers, WR Deonte Thompson, DT Mitch Unrein, S Chris Prosinski, TE Rob Housler, OT Nick Becton, OLB Sam Acho, CB Tracy Porter, CB Sherrick McManis

Departures: C Matt Slauson, S Antrel Rolle, DT D’Anthony Smith, OT Jermon Bushrod, LB LaRoy Reynolds, RB Matt Forte, DT Jarvis Jenkins, TE Martellus Bennett, LB Shea McClellin, G Vladamir Ducasse, G Patrick Omameh, S Sherrod Martin, CB Alan Ball, S Ryan Mundy, C Will Montgomery

Chicago addressed a huge need in the middle of their defense by adding inside linebackers Danny Trevathan and Jerrell Freeman in free agency. Trevathan has been one of the league’s best all-around linebackers when healthy, capable of making plays in the run game while grading well in coverage. Freeman is coming off a career year – always a dangerous proposition when signing free agents – but he was outstanding against the run last season while cutting down on his missed tackles for three straight years of double-digit totals to finishing with only five last season. If he continues his progression, Freeman pairs with Trevathan to form one of the league’s best duos.

Re-signing Jeffery was necessary in a weak wide receiver market (see season summary below) as he quietly ranked third among the league’s receivers last season — the only question is whether or not he can stay healthy. When he’s on the field he can win contested downfield catches and he works well with QB Jay Cutler’s freelancing style.

Alshon

As for the losses, Matt Slauson was Chicago’s most effective offensive lineman a year ago, whether playing guard or center, so he’ll be difficult to replace. At tight end, Martellus Bennett took a step back from his strong 2014, and while Zach Miller did an unexpectedly outstanding job in his first NFL action since 2011, replacing Bennett’s all-around ability will be a challenge. The running back position is another question mark with Matt Forte moving on, but Chicago is confident that Jeremy Langford and Ka’Deem Carey can carry the load. Keep an eye on fifth-round pick Jordan Howard adding a strong downhill element to the run game.

2016 NFL Draft

1 (9) (from Tampa Bay) Leonard Floyd, OLB, Georgia
2 (56) (from Seattle) Cody Whitehair, G, Kansas State
3 (72) Jonathan Bullard, DE, Florida
4 (113) (from Philadelphia via Tennessee) Nick Kwiatkoski, ILB, West Virginia
4 (124) (from Seattle) Deon Bush, S, Miami
4 (127) (from New England) Deiondre’ Hall, CB, Northern Iowa
5 (150) Jordan Howard, RB, Indiana
6 (185) DeAndre Houston-Carson, S, William & Mary
7 (230) Daniel Braverman, WR, Western Michigan

The Bears had one of our favorite drafts, netting three first-round talents with their first three picks. They moved up to get Leonard Floyd and he can be either a movable chess piece on their defense or a pure edge rusher to complement OLB Pernell McPhee. Whitehair was the top-graded offensive tackle in the nation in 2015, though we like him as a guard conversion where he has a chance to start immediately. Bullard was the top-graded run stoppers in the nation in 2015 and he can move around the defensive line while bringing interior pass rush potential. The aforementioned Howard has a chance to steal immediate carries while Daniel Braverman has all of the skills to become an effective slot receiver if given the opportunity.

Conclusion

After years of having limited draft picks and subsequently adding limited talent to the roster, the Bears have turned a corner from a talent standpoint the last two years, both in the draft and in free agency. The defense has continued to add pieces after disastrous efforts in 2013 and 2014, and they should improve once again in 2016. Offensively, getting 2015 first-round wide receiver Kevin White back to complement Jeffery will add a strong dynamic to the pass game, though there are still question marks along the offensive line and at running back. Cutler is what he is at this point in his career and expecting top 15 to 20 quarterback play is reasonable; the hope is that a healthy Jeffery and White can turn his downfield aggressiveness into explosive plays. If the defense makes the expected strides, Chicago will be a difficult team to beat on a weekly basis.

| Senior Analyst

Steve is a senior analyst at Pro Football Focus. His work has been featured on ESPN Insider, NBC Sports, and 120 Sports.

  • Arc

    I was hoping to see what the grade layout of the offense and defense looks like, like you’ve done for all the other teams.

  • Jason Williams

    “Cutler is what he is at this point in his career”

    as Cutler goes, so will the team go. They will win or lose depending on how often he turns the ball over.

    • crosseyedlemon

      I think the case can be made that every team’s fortunes are greatly influenced by the turnover ratio Jason. How much the Bears will have to lean on Cutler for success depends to a large degree on whether they can replace Forte in the backfield effectively. An improved defense should keep games close enough that Cutler won’t have to pass 50 times in frantic comeback efforts.

      • Jason Williams

        Cutler seems to kill the Bears more than most QBs hurt their teams.

        • crosseyedlemon

          I think part of the reason for that is because he’s always trying to prove he knows more than the league’s offensive co-ordinators. I guess when you start paying someone $150 million they can’t help but believe they know it all.

          • Jason Williams

            I personally think that Jay’s lust for the big play has always been a bit bigger than his arm is accurate.

          • crosseyedlemon

            Cutler has to constantly listen to how great Rodgers is in Green Bay so he sometimes tries to prove he can be like Aaron instead of just playing within his own limits.

          • Jason Williams

            not that everyone doesn’t know this but the difference between rodgers and cutler is that rodgers throws with a sniper rifle for an arm whereas cutler is more like a shotgun.

    • GiveNoFuq

      I don’t think they’ll give Cutler much opportunity to screw up. I believe the moves they made are indicative of a power run offense that runs 30+ times a game.

      • Jason Williams

        that would certainly help. I’m not sure who’s going to be carrying the ball though. I don’t see a RB on the roster who can be counted on to maintain a 4 YPC clip

        • GiveNoFuq

          Kyle Long, Cody Whitehair, and Hroniss Grasu were all highly rated and we know Kyle Longs a pro bowler so that should help.

      • Philtration

        The media has gone out of their way to portray Cutler as the bad guy time after time for years.
        They have to create a villain while much more deserving tools that beat their wives and kids, sexually assault women pull out guns at the drop of a hat and even torture dogs for their own perverted entertainment get a pass.
        That kind of nonsense will eventually take hold with petty, weak minded people and they can’t even tell you why they hate him.
        Just look at some of the comments here.
        Good sheep… good sheep….

        • GiveNoFuq

          I said nothing about his character just his performance on the field, so I don’t understand the talk about comparing him to criminals. Cutler played well last year, because they limited his opportunitoes to screw up with a run heavy short passing offense point blank and I suspect more of the same next year point blank.

      • crosseyedlemon

        Unless the Bears are hiding a Walter Payton clone somewhere you won’t be seeing any 30+ carry games. They tagged Jeffrey and let Forte go so it’s pretty clear that they are going to make the passing game the focus. The owners invested $150 million in Cutler and now they want to see a return on that investment.

        • GiveNoFuq

          30+ was a over exaggeration, but the run/pass ratio will hover around 50%.

  • Runner1967

    Floyd is a bust waiting to happen. He is Mingo #2.

    • crosseyedlemon

      If he turns out to be a bust he can just blush and become Pink Floyd.

      • Linda1414

        just as Hazel answered I’m taken by surprise that you can get paid $4145 in four weeks on the computer . try this out http://clck.ru/9vGvY

        dsadasdasd

  • Rob

    Us