What Else do the Bears Need? How Much Cap Space Do They Have Left? Who’s Starting Where?
The NFL’s new league year has been running for a week.
Here is where the Bears stand as we continue pushing through March madness.
Salary Cap Update
The Bears are $41,404,518 under the cap, according to OverTheCap.com. That still represents the most space among NFL teams. Even after the D.J. Moore trade and a few handfuls worth of signings, GM Ryan Poles still has about $16 million more in cap space than the next closest team (the Texans, ~$25 million).
Draft Pick Update
The Bears have the following picks in the 2023 NFL Draft:
- Round 1, Pick 9 (via Panthers)
- Round 2, Pick 53 (via Ravens)
- Round 2, Pick 61 (via Panthers by way of 49ers)
- Round 3, Pick 64
- Round 4, Pick 103
- Round 4, Pick 133 (via Eagles)
- Round 5, Pick 137
- Round 5, Pick 148 (via Patriots by way of Ravens)
- Round 7, Pick 218
- Round 7, Pick 258
As for who the Bears are picking with that first pick, Mel Kiper Jr.’s latest mock draft envisions the Bears selecting Ohio State offensive tackle Paris Johnson Jr. ninth overall:
Outgoing Free Agents
DL Angelo Blackson, CB Breon Borders, DB Dane Cruikshank, OL Dakota Dozier, TE Ryan Griffin, WR N’Keal Harry, DB DeAndre Houston-Carson, C Sam Mustipher, DL Mike Pennel, QB Nathan Peterman, WR Dante Pettis, WR Byron Pringle, OL Michael Schofield, LB Joe Thomas, DL Armon Watts, TE Trevon Wesco, LB Javin White
Signed elsewhere: LB Matthew Adams, RB David Montgomery, LB Nicholas Morrow, OL Riley Reiff
A Way-Too-Early Starting Lineup Projection
This is what a Bears starting lineup might look like right now if the team was to kick off this week:
QB – Justin Fields
RB – Khalil Herbert
FB – Khari Blasingame
WR – D.J. Moore
WR – Darnell Mooney
TE – Cole Kmet
LT – Braxton Jones
LG – Teven Jenkins
C – Cody Whitehair
RG – Teven Jenkins
RT – Larry Borom
DE – Trevis Gipson
DT – Justin Jones
DT – Andrew Billings
DE – DeMarcus Walker
LB – T.J. Edwards
LB – Tremaine Edmunds
LB – Jack Sanborn
CB – Jaylon Johnson
CB – Kyler Gordon
FS – Eddie Jackson
SS – Jaquan Brisker
Sees that it is still March.
Whew! I’m so glad games don’t kick off this week. And I’m relieved that we still have the rest of free agency and the NFL Draft to help round out the roster. Not just a starting lineup that could use some fortifying along both sides of the line of scrimmage and help in the secondary. But for depth throughout the roster. The Bears weren’t going till all their holes this offseason. So the next best thing to do with cap space and with draft picks is to create competition. They might not bring in the biggest names at this point of the offseason, but they should bring in some vets who can raise the floor. Or, at a minimum, hold down the fort until rookie draft picks to be chosen in April earn their way to a move up the depth chart.
The Most Pressing Team Needs
OFFENSIVE AND DEFENSIVE LINE
The consensus heading into this offseason is that the Bears would use free agency to prioritize bolstering the offensive and defensive lines. One week after the new league year officially opened its doors, the Bears could still use upgrades along the offensive and defensive lines. Sure, they have the draft to get things in order. And there is still time to get cooking in the free agent market. For what it’s worth, there are intriguing options on both sides of the line both in the draft and free agency. Plus, there are cases to be made for the Bears to land starting-caliber talent on Days 1 *AND* 2. It’s just that I’d prefer for Poles to not be in a position where he is pigeonholed into needing to draft a position of need. But I suppose we can cross that bridge when we get to it in April.
Secondary is another area where Chicago can use some help. Save for the starters, the entirety of the depth chart leaves me wanting more. Kindle Vildor, Josh Blackwell, Jaylon Jones, Greg Stroman, Harrison Hand, and Michael Ojemudia currently represent the Bears’ cornerback depth. This group of names behind starters Jaylon Johnson and Kyler Gordon are crying out for help. But will Poles heed the call? And if so, how? Chicago could be in a spot to take the draft’s top CB — whether it is Oregon’s Christian Gonzalez or Illinois’ Devon Witherspoon. It is worth noting that five defensive backs taken in Round 2 were primary starters for their respective teams. So it is possible to snag a quality starter on Day 2.
What’s Left To Do?
All in all, the Bears would do well to do some roster tinkering.
For instance, I can see receiver Mecole Hardman in a Taylor Gabriel type of role behind a top-3 of D.J. Moore, Darnell Mooney, and Chase Claypool in the receiver’s room. Hardman already nudged former Georgia teammate Justin Fields before free agency got underway. Maybe tackles like Isaiah Wynn or Cameron Fleming fit the swing tackle role. Having a bridge starter in the fold at least creates the illusion that the Bears don’t *NEED* to draft a right tackle with the ninth pick. Rock Ya-Sin is a cornerback who has experience in Matt Eberflus’ scheme. Defensive linemen such as Yannick Ngakoue, Justin Houston, and Jadeveon Clowney are big names who could get one-year soft landing contracts.
In the end, we’ll keep chugging along. So will the Bears. This team still has work to do in the team-building process. And while they might be done with splashy moves, work around the margins is never over.