Now that the Bears have their coach and most of his staff in place, priorities shift to fixing the roster. Phil Emery is reportedly “shoulder to shoulder” with Marc Trestman down at the Senior Bowl evaluating the college prospects figuring out who the Bears will select in the upcoming April draft. There are plenty of needs, but with only five draft picks this season, it’s important to prioritize the Bears’ shopping list. Here is my prioritized list of the Bears Top 5 offseason needs:
1. Offensive Tackle
It would be just as easy to say offensive line as the top priority, because there are a few spots up for grabs, but I selected tackle as the top priority because I can’t go into another season with J’Marcus Webb as the uncontested starting left tackle. I’m not ready to completely give up hope of Gabe Carimi because a number of reports indicate that he was still basically playing on one leg last season. He also basically missed most of his offseason program while recovering from his knee injury suffered back in 2011. If Carimi can be fixed, new offensive coordinator/offensive line coach Aaron Kromer will do it.
The Bears need to grab a left tackle prospect who could force Webb to compete for the job. It would be great if a Ryan Clady or Jake Long make it to free agency but if not, this should a first round priority.
2. Tight End
There was no better display of the importance of the tight end position than the playoffs the last few weeks. Teams consistently used the tight end off play action or off the read-option to challenge the middle of the field. Phil Emery said the Bears need to find a way to challenge the middle of the field and a solid tight end prospect to develop. I’m really curious if Evan Rodriguez can be productive under Marc Trestman and the new offensive scheme, but besides that, there aren’t many options for pass catching tight ends.
It’s possible they could dip into the free agent market to fill this need, with plenty of attractive options out there, including guys like Dennis Pitta, Jared Cook and Dustin Keller. If they go the draft route, Zach Ertz and Tyler Eifert are attractive first round prospects.
3. Offensive Guard
There are plenty of holes to fill on the offensive line and here’s just another opportunity. OG Lance Louis is probably the best option and he’ll be coming off an ACL reconstruction next season. The other guard spot has been a revolving door and that can’t continue for the sake of continuity. Center Roberto Garza is getting up there and in my estimation, he’s a little overrated. There’s certainly room to improve and have Garza as a valuable sub for any interior line position. I expect the Bears will go for like a 4th or 5th round pick to fill this need. Aaron Kromer has a reputation of developing mid-round draft picks, so it’s a perfect fit.
4. Inside Linebacker
The Brian Urlacher era may or may not be over but either way, the Bears cannot go into another season without another option to fill that spot. This may be the spot where the Bears tip their hand about how their defensive rebuilding will play out. Depending on how they fill the Mike linebacker spot, the Bears could point to a coming scheme change. New defensive coordinator Mel Tucker is versed in both 4-3 and 3-4 defenses, so there are numerous possibilities where they could go. There’s not a lot out there on the free agent market, so I’d think they address this via the draft. And in case your’e wondering, I say NO to Te’o.
5. Speed wide receiver
The Bears need a wide receiver who can help stretch the defense. Brandon Marshall, Alshon Jeffery and Earl Bennett are not the guy. I don’t expect Johnny Knox to come back and play football; that spine injury was just too devastating. I don’t think Devin Hester is the answer either, unless Marc Trestman knows how to unlock some hidden abilities that no one else has been able to uncover. The Bears should take a flier on a small school late round burned who can line up on the outside and run the go route or the deep post to free things up underneath and take an occasional deep shot down the field.
Bonus: Backup Quarterback
Marc Trestman is the quarterback whisperer. He will want a new toy to play with to develop. Jason Campbell was here on a one year deal and while Josh McCown is a nice backup, the Bears will want a developmental guy to bring along. Trestman supposedly had a hand in recruiting Russell Wilson out of high school, so he’s got an eye for talent. Don’t be surprised if the Bears take out a little insurance policy in case the Jay Cutler contract talks – assuming things get that far – aren’t going according to plan.
What do you think? What area should the Bears make their top priority? Let’s hear from you Bears fans!!!