By: Brandon Franco
The Chicago Bears are coming off of a 5-11 campaign, and are looking to turn the page with a new coaching staff that is lead by former Kansas City Offensive Coordinator, Matt Nagy. According to Sportrac, the Bears have roughly $64.6 million in available cap space entering free agency. While there are still some roster moves that seem to be in the works, the Bears have the flexibility to retool their young roster this offseason. Let’s go ahead and take a look at five moves that I feel are imminent to this team’s success entering the 2018 season.
Sign Kyle Fuller Long-Term
Kyle Fuller is just 26 years old, a former first-round draft pick and has shown the ability to play a variety of coverages, and is coming off the best year of his career. You don’t let players with that resume walk away from your franchise for nothing. Ryan Pace made the smart move by applying the transition tag to Fuller, and is allowing him to see what he can garner on the open market. However, according to reports, Fuller wants to be back in Chicago long-term and the Bears are hoping to strike a long-term deal prior to camp.
Why is Kyle Fuller such a hot commodity you may ask? Well, according to PFF, Fuller graded out with an “Above Average” score of 84.3. Some may not like the analytics behind this score, well, here are some old school statistics for you then. Kyle Fuller finished the 2017 season with 22 pass deflections, 2 interceptions and 60 total tackles. Pace & co. needs to lock up Fuller for the long haul so he can be considered a building block for this young team moving forward.
Land Either Allen Robinson or Sammy Watkins
It’s safe to say that the Bears receiver corps was arguably the worst in the entire league last season. Between injuries (Cameron Meredith, Kevin White, etc.), and questionable additions, (such as Markus Wheaton) the Bears were decimated. Rest assured, the front office will make sure they don’t trot out Dontrelle Inman as the headliner come the 2018 season. Enter Allen Robinson and Sammy Watkins, both destined to his the open market.
Allen Robinson is coming off an ACL tear, but all reports point to him being ready for training camp. Is Robinson going to regain form that is closer to the 2014 or 2015 season? During the 2015 year the Penn State product had 80 receptions for 1,400 yards and a whopping 14 touchdowns. Sammy Watkins was once the prized possession of the 2014 NFL Draft, where the Buffalo Bills traded up to fourth overall to select the Clemson Tiger. However, nagging injuries made Watkins expendable and he was shipped to the Los Angeles Rams prior to the 2017 season. It was in the City of Angels that Watkins caught his second wind, and became a big play threat for the re-surging Rams.
So, which one is the right selection? Honestly, either will work for. With that being said, the Bears must land one of these two difference makers. With a combination of a bright head coach, a young franchise quarterback, and ample cap room – it is on the Bears to secure a weapon for Mitchell Trubisky.
Extend The 2015 Draft Class
The 2015 draft class was Ryan Pace’s first at the helm of the Bears franchise. With that being said, there are mixed reviews. Former first round pick, Kevin White, has yet to stay healthy during his three year stint in the Windy City. Also, once promising tailback Jeremy Langford was cut prior to the 2017 season and is hanging on for his professional career. However, it seems that Pace has a knack for selecting good talent in the middle rounds. This skill was on display when nose tackle, Eddie Goldman, and safety, Adrian Amos were selected.
Both players had good 2017 seasons, and are about to be entering the backend of their rookie contract. In my eyes, it would be smart for Pace to lock in Goldman and Amos for the foreseeable future. When it comes to contract terms, I could see Goldman landing a deal around five years for roughly $42 million ($23 million guaranteed). When it comes to Amos, I think he’d be in the realm of a four years for $21 million ($12 million guaranteed). If Pace can extend these two, it would add more stability to the Bears best phase of the ball.
Bring In A Few Familiar Faces
The Bears enter this season with an almost entirely new coaching staff on the offensive side of the ball. It wouldn’t be unusual to see Ryan Pace and Matt Nagy recruit some familiar faces to Chicago; this would allow for a few players to have familiarity with the offensive system, training regimens, etc.
The name that has been tossed around is Albert Wilson. The versatile 25-year old caught 42 passes for 554 yards last season under Matt Nagy in Kansas City. Thus the connection to Chicago is simple. Chiefs GM Brett Veach had this to say when asked about retaining Wilson in Kansas City, “Well, Matt’s in Chicago.” My confidence that this move is at an all-time high, so I’ll be first to say “Welcome to Chicago, Albert!”
Another player many are clinging onto is Trey Burton of the Philadelphia Eagles. Burton could be another target that could add familiarity for the Bears, as he was coached under Doug Pederson – who was on the same Chief’s staff with Matt Nagy. Burton would not take away playing time from former second round draft pick, Adam Shaheen, as they both play the position vastly different. At the very least the Bears would be getting an athletic receiver who also plays on every single special teams unit – and that’s a big upgrade from the overpaid Dion Sims.
Add Some Depth
The Bears roster has plenty of holes on it, and with a few more cuts expected to happen in the coming days it’ll only get thinner. In my eyes, the biggest holes are wide receiver, edge rusher, and defensive back. Now the draft class coming in is deep at receiver and defensive back, but lacks talent at edge rusher. The Bears will have to add some quality depth in free agency before proceeding to draft day. Jeremiah Attaochu, Paul Richardson, and Bashaud Breeland are all potential buy-low options that I could see fitting with the Bears.
When it comes to the draft, I don’t see a Bradley Chubb or Minkah Fitzpatrick falling to the Bears at No. 8. However, I could see Denzel Ward or Tremaine Edmunds being in play for them. While it is early, some other potential mid -round players that could make an impact for the Bears this year are Kemoko Turay of Rutgers, Louisville’s Jaire Alexander, and the Fighting Irish’s Equanimeous St. Brown. Whether it be because of the draft or the available cap space, I fully believe that Ryan Pace will be all in on landing the players that he wants come the start of free agency.
Brandon Franco is a contributor on NFLUpdate.co covering the Chicago Bears. You can follow him on twitter @FrvncoFootball