Trading the No. 1 pick? Check. First wave of NFL free agency? Check. Next up for the Chicago Bears is a whole lot of roster and draft evaluations — and Brad Biggs fields plenty of those questions in his weekly mailbag.
How much pressure and accountability will be placed on coach Matt Eberflus given the significant investments in the defense and the fact he’s considered a defensive guru? How does his HITS principle apply so it’s not just fodder? — @rgbears69
Head coaches will tell you they face pressure every season, whether they’re entering Year 2 or Year 12. That is the nature of the beast, and coaches without as much tenure probably face heightened pressure in their efforts to build a program and a winner. I am not going to dismiss the offseason moves they’ve made to this point in adding linebackers Tremaine Edmunds and T.J. Edwards, along with defensive lineman DeMarcus Walker. Edmunds was a significant signing, getting a $72 million, four-year contract. Edwards was signed for $19.5 million over three seasons and Walker got a $21 million, three-year deal. Edwards should be a solid piece in the middle of the defense for the Bears, but that’s not a contract that is going to stretch things as Walker, in my opinion, is a rotational player. So, it’s not like they completely rebuilt the defense through free agency.
There is still a ton of work to do to the defensive line and there is clear and pressing need for help rushing the passer. That is where the draft will come into play and the depth chart could — and should — look different by the first week of May. I imagine Eberflus and his defensive staff will be under pressure to be better on that side of the ball this season, and with a few more additions, it’s reasonable to assume they will improve. There’s almost nowhere to go but up when it comes to stopping the run, rushing the quarterback and overall play on third down. Is it a make-or-break season for Eberflus’ defense? I wouldn’t categorize it as that. The Bears are a team that remains in transition.
As far as the HITS system, the only way Eberflus can make it relevant for the players is by using it as a part of the method to hold them accountable. When grading and decisions are based, in part, by the evaluations made as part of the HITS system, that makes it real for the players and not just part of rah-rah messaging used.
Let’s say one of the top four quarterbacks in the draft fall. What kind of trade compensation could the Bears get from Tennessee Titans to move up? — @thuromag
Tennessee is sitting at No. 11, two spots behind the Bears, so I don’t think you’re looking at a huge haul. According to the Rich Hill draft trade chart, the difference in value between those picks is 29 points, which equates to a pick in the early portion of the fourth round. Using the traditional Jimmy Johnson chart, the difference in picks is 41.23 points, which equates to a pick near the back end of Round 3.
Seven years ago, the Bears were sitting at No. 11 and former GM Ryan Pace traded that pick to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers for the No. 9 pick. To make that move up for Leonard Floyd, the Bears sent the Bucs an early fourth-round pick at No. 106 overall. That compensation meshes with what’s laid out above.
Could the Bears command a little more than that in a potential trade? Sure. The price could go up if the Titans are supremely motivated to get a quarterback and if the Bears have another team interested in the pick (or the Titans believe another team is lurking). But moving down two spots from No. 9 will not bring a boatload in return.
Did the Bears come close to re-signing David Montgomery? — Juan S.
As I understand it, Montgomery had a number of suitors in free agency, including the Bears. Three-fourths of the NFC North was interested in signing him. The Bears, the Detroit Lions (where he landed) and Minnesota Vikings were all in the mix. Montgomery scored an $18 million, three-year contract from the Lions, and what’s notable is the deal includes $8.75 million fully guaranteed and another $2.25 million is fully guaranteed if he’s on the roster on the third day of the 2024 league year. The Bears’ offer to Montgomery, according to a source, did not include any guaranteed money beyond Year 1 of the deal.
Montgomery’s deal might have come together because running back Jamaal Williams turned down a deal with the Lions with nearly identical terms. That is what my source suggested. If so, Williams miscalculated his market as he wound up in New Orleans on a $12 million, three-year contract with $8.15 million guaranteed.
Montgomery is a consummate professional and that is why you’ve consistently heard coaches and front-office types praise him. He will be missed in the locker room, no doubt. The Bears signed Travis Homer, who looks like a core special teams player with a little bit of upside on offense. In a deep draft for running backs, there is a good chance GM Ryan Poles is not done adding to the position.
What would prevent the Bears from drafting an offensive tackle in Round 1? — @gcominos
Defensive linemen (including edge rushers), offensive tackle and cornerback loom as the biggest roster needs right now. I would put them in that order too. It’s often more difficult to find talented, starting offensive tackles in later rounds than defensive linemen. Of course, the Bears scooped up left tackle Braxton Jones in Round 5 last year. If the Bears see a defensive linemen or edge rusher they’ve grader higher than an offensive tackle, I can see them going that direction. If there is a cornerback they are in love with, that would not be a surprise either. You cannot dispute there is a critical need for talent on the defensive line when wondering if Poles could do something other than drafting an offensive lineman.
Any chance Ryan Poles uses the 2025 second-round pick from Carolina to move up from No. 9 to No. 5 if Will Anderson remains on the board? — @nickstiglic
The compensation you suggest is light. According to the Rich Hill chart referenced above, the difference would be a pick at the very end of Round 2 or the first pick of Round 3. The Jimmy Jonson chart varies and places the difference equal to a pick near the top-10 selections in Round 2. Considering the Bears would be trying to move up with a future pick that is two years out — in 2025 — they would have to pay more. Seattle owns the fifth pick in the 2023 draft (as part of the Russell Wilson trade) and picks again at No. 20. I don’t know if the Seahawks would see upside in trading down from No. 5 — especially if they are in position to draft the first or second non-quarterback.
Should the Bears bring back Leonard Floyd? He had 29 sacks the last three seasons. Intelligent football player, great leader and would help bring along and improve any rookies drafted at that position. — @daniel_pottle
Floyd is one of a handful of veteran edge rushers who remain on the market. That list includes Yannick Ngakoue, Frank Clark, Jadeveon Clowney, Melvin Ingram and Justin Houston. They’re not signed because none of them are elite at this stage in their career. I would not rule out the possibility the Bears dip back into free agency for help up front — at tackle or edge — but at this point, chances are greatest they would wait until after the draft. If they get a guy at their price, perhaps they act before the draft. But just as teams want to wait this time of year, players want to wait too unless they get their asking price — or close to it. They don’t want to sign with a team in early April just to wait a few weeks to see the club draft a player that could significantly change their forecast for playing time.
Will the Bears stay at No. 9 or trade back? — @reyyanez52
A month ago, I got a flurry of questions with the same topic: how far back should Poles be willing to trade? Many readers thought he shouldn’t move out of the top four to ensure the Bears could get their choice of a top defensive player. Now, it seems like most think it’s a good idea (maybe a great one) if the Bears trade down again. Before the deal with the Carolina Panthers, the Bears had the No. 1 pick, their only one in the top 50. After the deal, they have the No. 9 and added No. 61, which is at the back end of Round 2.
An argument for a trade down can be made if you believe in the concept of having as many picks as possible. Consider the big gap between the Bears at No. 9 and then not again until No. 53, the pick they got from the Baltimore Ravens in the Roquan Smith trade — maybe moving down could be a good idea.
The flip side to trading down is pretty simple. I think when Poles considered offers for the No. 1 pick, one of the parameters was wanting to stay in a certain range for his first pick in the draft unless there was a team lower down offering an absurd package of picks. Let’s say Poles’ preference was to stay in the top 10 to be a position where he felt confident he could get a plug-and-play guy. If so, what’s changed now? The Bears made what looks to be a couple nice moves in free agency. But they still have a serious lack of difference makers. Keep trading down and you get more darts to throw at the board. But you also wind up a player who is lower on the draft board.
Would the Bears consider trying to pry away defensive tackle Jeffery Simmons from the Titans? — @scottbad88
I’m sure the Bears and a long list of other teams would love to find a way to acquire Simmons, who is entering the final year of his rookie contract and when he’s paid (by the Titans or another team) will become one of the highest-paid defensive players in the league. Yes, the Titans traded wide receiver A.J. Brown last offseason before he started the final year of his rookie contract. That move was made by the team’s former general manager. I seriously doubt new GM Ran Carthon sees dealing Simmons as a path toward improving the team he just inherited.
Simmons turns 26 this summer and was a second team All-Pro pick the last two seasons. With a better supporting cast, he’s the kind of player that could challenge for Defensive Player of the Year. The salient question is what is the likelihood Carthon, who projects to have well more than $100 million in available salary-cap space in 2024, decides trading Simmons is a good idea? I promise you this, any trade for Simmons — and I would be stunned if this happened — would be very expensive.
Can the Bears really shore up the offensive and defensive lines with the first four picks? Could they go anywhere else with those selections? — @richardgthomas3
Depending on what they do in finding a right tackle and how the center position shakes out, it’s possible the Bears could have a young offensive line in place for some time with the opportunity to grow and improve. Will it be dominant this season? Probably not. Could it be significantly better with the arrow pointing up in 2024? You bet. On the other side, I don’t think two or three picks to add to the defensive front are going to get that unit where the Bears want it.
“There are going to be some weak spots on our roster,” Poles said after the opening wave of free agency. “We can’t fix everything, but we are going to stay flexible to do the best we can to get better. And then, again, you go from a short-term thinking of we gotta do everything right now, you extend that out and do things the right way, over time we’ll be able to heal up all of those positions.”
Let’s see what the roster looks like when the Bears kick off the 2024 season. A rebuild of this magnitude doesn’t happen in a snap.
I keep seeing that the Bears received two first-round picks and two second-round picks in the trade with the Panthers. In reality, they only received one first — in 2024. They just switched positions for 2023 first-rounders, right? — O’Neil, Lake Villa
My math works the same way yours does. I guess you could say the Bears received two first-round picks when you consider wide receiver DJ Moore was a former first-rounder. I prefer to say they picked up a first-round pick, two second-round picks and a wide receiver that immediately slots as their No. 1.
Do players with contracts have any contractual obligations in the offseason other than various mandatory camps? Things like diet, study, workouts, attendance at Halas Hall, etc. — Jim S.
The only portion of the offseason that players are contractually obligated to attend is the June minicamp, which runs for three days. Otherwise, players are not required to be at Halas Hall. Players with workout bonuses are required to be present for OTAs (offseason training activities) if they want to get paid. By my count, the Bears currently have 14 players with workout bonuses in their contract: guard Nate Davis has the largest at $250,000, and defensive end DeMarcus Walker and fullback Khari Blasingame have the smallest at $50,000. Typically, teams require players to be present for about 85% of the workouts to trigger bonus payments. There have been plenty of cases of players with workout bonuses that forfeited them. In the big picture, you’re talking about a very small amount of what the player would earn during the regular season.
The Bears will open their offseason program on April 17, which is when attendance for offseason workouts begins. OTAs will start on May 22 and carry through June 8. Mandatory minicamp is June 13-15.
Not sure we’ve ever seen a team with such an awful record buy into a head coach’s acumen as much as last year’s 3-14 Bears team. Coach Flus seems genuine, practical and gives cause for optimism. Players from last year are hungry to display growth, it seems. Do you believe the élan is there and the coaches are ready to reward player who’ve bought into the system? Who are the offensive and defensive leaders who will provide inspiration? Justin Fields and newcomer DJ Moore? Eddie Jackson for the defense? — Michael L., Monterey, Calif.
There’s certainly an optimism around the Bears you don’t generally earn with a 10-game losing streak to close out the season and for a team that struggled throwing the football in a passing league that also did virtually nothing well on defense. There’s incredible belief, especially magnified in the fan base, that Fields is the answer for a long-struggling franchise. If so, the Bears have the piece they’ve been seeking for so long and while filling in the parts around him will be hard work, it’s much easier than, well, getting Sid Luckman’s replacement. The Bears had a young roster last season and young players are going to buy into what they’re hearing from coaches. Let’s see how those all involved react when there are close games with real meaning, not close games in late November of a season destined to go nowhere for months. I think Eberflus and his staff, at least in the first season, did a pretty good job of directly communicating with players and that matters. They want plain talk, man-to-man. Certainly Fields, Moore, tight end Cole Kmet, wide receiver Darnell Mooney and a veteran lineman like Cody Whitehair can be pillars in the locker room. On defense, Jackson is a player others feed off. The hope has to be new linebackers Edmunds and Edwards will have strong voices in the locker room. I think safety Jaquan Brisker will develop quickly as a leader. It promises to be a fascinating season.
Which position has been the most successful in the first round of the draft? — Anthony K.
Interesting question and I bet if you ask five different personnel men, you’re likely to get five very different answers. I texted one national scout for his thoughts.
“Kicker,” he replied.
We had a good chuckle over that and before he said defensive linemen. But it just varies from guy to guy. Who did the San Francisco 49ers get at No. 3 in 2017 when they used the No. 3 pick following the trade with the Bears? Solomon Thomas. Not exactly a successful pick.
“I don’t know if there is one,” a player personnel director said when asked what position was the most successful. “Players bust not positions.”
I would have guessed defensive linemen but it’s a dice roll, an inexact science. This is a good opportunity to remind folks how difficult a NFL scout job is at a time of year when everyone is seemingly a draft expert. Scouts spend 12 months preparing information for their team, spending hundreds of nights on the road to uncover every piece of information necessary to the process. I don’t envy those folks at all. I do respect the professionalism they have for the craft and how they doggedly attack their jobs, trying to find players that prove to be successful for their organization.