If you’re looking for an angle on a Bears-less Sunday and want to watch some NFC North action, you’ll have to wait until Monday Night when the Packers and Lions square off.
In the mean time, there’s nothing wrong with taking a step back and resting up for the second half. The next eight games of the 2017 season should give us an idea what to look for in 2018 and beyond.
- Had the Bears made a trade before the deadline, we would be looking at the bye week as falling at the most opportune time for a team looking to integrate a new player into their system. As it stands, the Bears made their move a week earlier in trading for Los Angeles Chargers receiver Dontrelle Inman. Tom Pelissero of NFL.com explains what went down in the trade market, including a note that Los Angeles started shopping Inman during training camp … but obviously didn’t find a taker until the Bears swooped in with a seventh-round pick.
- The vibe is Inman will be in the lineup this week, and since he is an unrestricted free agent upon year’s end, the next eight weeks amount to an open tryout to be brought back for 2018. Cameron Meredith, Kevin White, and Markus Wheaton are under contract with the Bears for 2018, and it’s worth noting each of these players will have missed a significant chunk of games due to injuries in 2017. Because of the lack of depth and production on the roster, a player like Inman could make a positive impression in the second half. The next few games are as important to the team as they are to a player like him, so how he is used and how he performs when given an opportunity will be worth keeping tabs on.
- And since it’s never too early to dust off the crystal ball, Bleacher Report’s NFL 1000 Scouts offer up the free agent each NFL team should already be thinking about. For the Bears, it’s not the obvious candidate you might expect. BR’s Ian Wharton puts Houston Texans cornerback Johnathan Joseph as the top player the Bears should have their eyes on when free agency gets underway. Joseph has aged gracefully and has missed just four games since the start of the 2013 season. HOWEVER, he will play the 2018 season at age 34 and is more likely to sign on with a contender with a shot at a title than with a rebuilding club.
- Cornerback won’t likely be the highest priority at the start of free agency, but it could turn into a position of need. Prince Amukamara and Kyle Fuller will be free agents, and both have played well enough to merit a longer stay in Chicago. Especially Amukamara, who has been one of the league’s top corners since returning from an ankle injury. The Bears still haven’t seen Marcus Cooper reach his potential, as he has yet to provide the kind of impact expected after signing a three-year deal in free agency. Players like Bryce Callahan and Cre’von LeBlanc (who played a season-high 33 defensive snaps in Week 8) could carve a role for the 2018 team with solid play down the stretch.
- The obvious choice to be a top free agent target would be Jarvis Landry, for all the obvious reasons. Landry might not be a proven No. 1, but he has a knack for making big plays and would add an element to the Bears offense that is sorely lacking right now. Unfortunately, the Bears aren’t the only team angling for receiver help. Bleacher Report’s Marcus Mocher has the Los Angeles Chargers as the team that would have Landry at the top of their free agent board.
- Alshon Jeffery and Davante Adams are also top receiver targets who will hit free agency and be discussed at a later, more appropriate time. Still, it’s evident the Bears have a need, available roster spots, and money to spend in the free agency market.
- Speaking of receivers, is this guy draft eligible yet:
oh yes. yes yes pic.twitter.com/9BQdgL7GpT
— Timothy Burke (@bubbaprog) November 4, 2017
- The Bears could also turn to the draft in an attempt to bulk up at receiver. However, Eric Galko of The Sporting News has the Bears going defense in his latest mock draft. Galko insists the Bears need to start investing on defense via the draft and sends Ohio State cornerback Denzel Ward to Chicago with the ninth overall pick in the 2018 NFL Draft. As discussed earlier, cornerback could turn into a need if Amukamara and Fuller move on to other teams in free agency.
- A mock draft sending a cornerback to the Bears at this stage of the season serves as a reminder of how many variables are in play when trying to play the role of prognosticator. It also allows us to point out how many different directions the Bears could go if their pick landed in the top 10. One could make a case for the Bears drafting a receiver, offensive tackle, edge rusher, or cornerback with a top-10 pick without getting much push back.