The Chicago Bears’ 2020 season was essentially four seasons wrapped into one. Early season highs, mid-season lows, a Mitchell Trubisky tour, and a humbling ending put things into perspective.
Looking ahead, the 2021 offseason could very well dictate the long-term future of the franchise. GM Ryan Pace enters the final year of his contract. He needs to prove he can find a quarterback and unearth offensive skill players. And Head Coach Matt Nagy has two seasons remaining on his deal. But he might not make it to next year if he can’t show that his offense can work. But before we cross those bridges, let’s take a position-by-position look at the team heading into a pivotal offseason for the Bears franchise.
WHO’S UNDER CONTRACT?
Eddie Jackson enters his age 28 season as one of the most accomplished defensive backs in football. Jackson has 10 interceptions and six fumble recoveries, which shows he has a knack for big plays. He also has six defensive touchdowns on his résumé, proving he has a nose for the end zone. But Jackson has just one interception in his last 20 regular seasons games. That’s so unlike him.
Jordan Lucas signed as a free agent last offseason, but didn’t play in 2020 after opting out due to concerns regarding the COVID-19 pandemic.
If you knew that Marqui Christian was the other Bears safety in the fold for 2021, then my cap is off to you. Why am I wearing a cap indoors? Don’t ask me how the economy works. Christian signed with the Bears last year, left to pursue an opportunity with the Jets, returned during the regular season, and re-signed on a reserve/futures deal earlier in the winter. With experience at safety, slot corner, and on special teams, Christian’s versatility could prove to be invaluable in 2021.
EXITING FREE AGENTS
There’s potential for a mass exodus of safeties leaving Chicago.
Starter Tashaun Gipson Sr. proved to be another nice free agent find for the Bears’ defense. Deon Bush and DeAndre Houston-Carson have been core special teamers after being drafted in 2016. Sherrick McManis is the longest-tenured Bears player. McManis, 33, has played for Matt Nagy, John Fox, Marc Trestman, and Lovie Smith. And he’s been around so long, had I slipped in Dick Jauron’s name, you might’ve believed me.
WHO COULD BE CUT BEFORE THE LEAGUE NEW YEAR BEGINS?
There isn’t much fat to be trimmed here. But I suppose if you want to look ahead, the Bears could create $6.3 million in cap space if they cut Eddie Jackson in 2022. But so many bad things need to happen in order for us to get to a point where we’d consider that, it’s not worth mention. Also, I don’t want to put bad stuff out into the universe. It’s positive vibes only around here. At least until further notice.
Cap numbers via OverTheCap.com
MIC UP ALL THE SAFETIES, PLEASE
THE FREE AGENT MARKET INCLUDES…
⇒ John Johnson
⇒ Keanu Neal
⇒ Malik Hooker
⇒ Jaquiski Tartt
⇒ Duron Harmon
⇒ Kenny Vaccaro
⇒ Xavier Woods
SEVEN DRAFT-ELIGIBLE PROSPECTS
⇒ Trevon Moehrig, TCU
⇒ Jevon Holland, Oregon
⇒ Hamsah Nasirildeen, Florida State
⇒ Richie Grant, Centra Florida
⇒ Paris Ford, Pittsburgh
⇒ Ar’Darius Washington, TCU
⇒ Caden Sterns, Texas
HOW CAN THE BEARS ADDRESS/UPGRADE THE POSITION?
Because this front office has shown it can unearth starting safeties in different ways, the offseason priority should be doing whatever necessary to get Eddie Jackson back on track. When he is clicking, I have full confidence that Jackson is the best safety in football. Jackson has ball skills, speed, athleticism, and high-end play-making ability. He didn’t show any of those tools with any consistency last year, and it showed.
Then again, I can’t help but wonder how we’d perceive Jackson’s season had multiple pick-sixes not been called back due to questionable penalties that were called on his teammates. There’s a non-zero chance that 2020 was an outlier for Jackson. And if Jackson regains his 2018 form, we’ll not speak of 2020 ever again.
Otherwise, it would be nice to pair Jackson with a young safety on a rookie-scale deal who can grow into the position. If you’ve been reading these long enough, you know I’ve been requesting this since Adrian Amos’ departure. And you’ll also note that my requests have gone unanswered. Now I know how Deshaun Watson feels.