One game remains in the Chicago Bears’ lackluster season — and big changes could be ahead for the organization. Brad Biggs answers readers’ questions about the team’s future and more in his weekly Bears mailbag.
What do you think the odds are of Ryan Pace staying in the Bears organization in some capacity? — @jasonkmcguire
I can tell you in talking to people around the league, there definitely is a portion of folks who believe he has a good chance of remaining with the Bears either in his current role as general manager or in some other capacity on the football side of things. Others believe the Bears will make more sweeping changes than just replacing coach Matt Nagy.
I can tell you once source I spoke to earlier this week said a little more than a month ago, he would have put the chance of Pace staying at slightly higher than 50%. Now his belief is Pace’s chances of remaining with the Bears is greater than that. We know Chairman George McCaskey has held Pace in high regard for some time. He’s not going to let him be a guiding voice in a more than $100 million upgrade at Halas Hall without having total trust in him. It’s possible McCaskey wants to allow Pace to see through the development of quarterback Justin Fields and maybe McCaskey likes some of the younger players on the roster.
Speculation regarding the futures of Pace and Nagy has been the driving story this season, especially when the team went in a five-game spiral beginning in mid-October. Fortunately, we’ll have some clarity by the time the next mailbag drops.
Any chance Teven Jenkins gets moved back to right tackle? — @mikestevlic
We can speculate about Jenkins’ future weekly between now and the start of the offseason program, but no one really knows. At this point it probably is best to sit back, see what moves the Bears make and then wait to hear how the people directing the offense feel about the makeup of linemen under contract. Obviously, the Bears could tell us a lot more about Jenkins’ role moving forward with their actions if they venture into free agency to sign a left tackle.
Based on what Matt Nagy said Monday about wanting to start rookie quarterback Justin Fields this Sunday at Minnesota if he’s healthy, my hunch is the team will want to have Jenkins back in the starting lineup too. He has played 125 snaps on offense this season and it has been a rough go with protection and penalties. He’s going to benefit tremendously from a full and healthy offseason, training camp and preseason. I could see Jenkins staying at left tackle, switching to right tackle or even moving inside to guard. I can tell you in the spring when he was drafted I had more people mention to me he could be a future guard than a left tackle but the Bears should evaluate him at left tackle to see if it’s a possibility.
Who finishes in second place if the Bears win Sunday? The third-place schedule looks easier with probably the Atlanta Falcons, Houston Texans and San Francisco 49ers vs. the New Orleans Saints, Indianapolis Colts and Arizona Cardinals. — @jtbcubs
Good question. I was actually looking at this during the “Monday Night Football” game and wondering the same thing. The Bears have played a difficult schedule this season and that has something to do with the team’s 6-10 record, no question about it.
Based on my understanding, if the Bears defeat the Vikings on Sunday at US Bank Stadium so both teams finish with 7-10 records, Minnesota will wind up second in the NFC North. You have to go to the fifth tiebreaker in order to determine the standings. Here’s the order of tiebreakers and how it would unfold in this scenario:
- Head-to-head (1-1)
- NFC North record (both 3-3)
- Record in common games (both 4-12)
- NFC record (both 5-7)
- Strength of victory (big edge for the Vikings)
Currently, Minnesota’s strength of victory is .446 to the Bears’ .354. There’s no way this will flip with one game remaining. The Vikings count wins over three teams that are currently over .500 — the Green Bay Packers, Los Angeles Chargers and Pittsburgh Steelers. The Bears have two wins over teams currently above — the Cincinnati Bengals and Las Vegas Raiders.
Right now, it looks as if the third-place finisher in the NFC North will draw home games against Houston and San Francisco and a road game at Atlanta in 2022. I’d say that is a preferred draw over having to face New Orleans, Indianapolis and Arizona.
The NFC North will also play teams in the NFC East and AFC East in 2022.
What is the best way to get more draft picks? — @yeezus__24
The quickest and most efficient method would be to stop trading up in the draft so often. The Bears have done that many times under Pace, dealing up for quarterbacks Mitch Trubisky and Justin Fields, outside linebacker Leonard Floyd, linebacker Nick Kwiatkoski, free safety Eddie Jackson, running back David Montgomery, wide receivers Anthony Miller and Darnell Mooney and offensive tackle Teven Jenkins.
To paint an accurate picture, you have to consider Pace has also traded down several times over the years but it’s the expensive trades to move up in Rounds 1, 2 and even 3 that tilt the scales when you examine this.
Pace is aggressive by nature and likes to go and get a player that he and his staff have conviction for. In some cases, it worked out. In other cases, not so much. Being more patient and remaining true to his board would allow the Bears to retain more picks. They will be shorthanded again this year.
Beyond that, the Bears could try to flip some players currently under contract for draft picks. I don’t know exactly what they could get for players such as outside linebackers Khalil Mack and Robert Quinn. Keep in mind, they’re making a lot of money. Mack is on the books for more than $17 million in 2022 and Quinn is set to earn $12.9 million. We’ll see what shakes out as the draft approaches.
What free agents won’t be back next year besides Allen Robinson? — @footballnut20
There is a long list of players on the roster that are coming out of contract. The Bears have only 26 players under contract for 2022. That doesn’t include restricted free agents and exclusive-rights free agents that they can easily bring back, but it still is a very low number and that is why the available cap space can whittle away quickly. Believe it or not, the Bears could emerge at the start of the league year in the top-10 in available cap space but there are going to have a lot of spots to fill. Start signing some high-priced players and the cap space and cash budget can decrease quickly.
A partial list of pending unrestricted free agents, not including Robinson on offense: QB Andy Dalton; OL James Daniels, Jason Peters, Germain Ifedi and Elijah Wilkinson; running back Damien Williams; wide receivers Marquise Goodwin, Jakeem Grant and Damiere Byrd; and tight ends Jimmy Graham and Jesse James.
On defense: DL Akiem Hicks and Bilal Nichols; LB Alec Ogletree and Christian Jones; and defensive backs Artie Burns, Tashaun Gipson, Deon Bush, DeAndre Houston-Carson and Marqui Christian.
Special teams: P Pat O’Donnell and LS Patrick Scales.
The Bears could certainly bring back some of these players, but with an expected coaching change you can count on significant roster turnover.
What’s the plan for Tarik Cohen going into next year? — @t_rigs_23
That’s a question the Bears will have to answer as the offseason unfolds. Cohen wasn’t healthy enough to return from the torn ACL he suffered in Week 3 of the 2020 season and it’s fair to wonder what he will be like if and when he can get on the field in the spring and summer.
Cohen played in only two games after signing his contract extension, and he has a base salary of $3.9 million with a $100,000 workout bonus for 2022. Right now, $2.5 million of that base salary is guaranteed for injury. So if Cohen cannot return to health, he will collect that. The $2.5 million becomes fully guaranteed shortly after the start of the new league year in March, so that will loom as a deadline to keep an eye on. I kind of doubt the Bears will want to pay him $4 million next season, but you never know.
Does Devin Hester go into the Pro Football Hall of Fame? I think so. — @brendon310
This is a mailbag first getting a question from former Bears player and special teams ace Brendon Ayanbadejo, a three-time Pro Bowl selection. I believe Hester has a very good chance of going in as a first-ballot selection. Even if Hester isn’t a first-ballot selection, he’s a near lock to reach Canton, Ohio, sooner rather than later.
One of the reasons I think Hester is in a good position this year is there doesn’t appear to be one or two slam-dunk choices. There isn’t a quarterback with huge statistics or multiple MVP awards or player of the year. That helps Hester along with all of the other 14 finalists:
- Jared Allen, defensive end
- Willie Anderson, offensive tackle
- Ronde Barber, cornerback/safety
- Tony Boselli, offensive tackle
- LeRoy Butler, safety
- Torry Holt, wide receiver
- Andre Johnson, wide receiver
- Sam Mills, linebacker
- Richard Seymour, defensive end/tackle
- Zach Thomas, linebacker
- DeMarcus Ware, linebacker/defensive end
- Reggie Wayne, wide receiver
- Patrick Willis, linebacker
- Bryant Young, defensive tackle/end
Obviously, Ayanbadejo’s blocking had a lot to do with Hester’s success during a brilliant career as a return man for the Bears.
The Cole Kmet breakout season hasn’t happened. How much of that do you put down to the offensive woes or do you think he’s probably going to be more of an in-line blocker for his career? — @dawestley
I don’t think Kmet has disappointed this season. If you were expecting him to rank among the top tight ends in the league in terms of receiving, you were being unrealistic. Kmet is a Y tight end and he’s a productive receiver for that position. I don’t think it’s a knock on Kmet to say he’s not going to be Travis Kelce or Darren Waller as a receiver. He’s got 56 receptions (double the number he had as a rookie) for 564 yards and he’s averaging 10.1 yards per catch, an improvement over 8.7 from 2020.
The struggles on offense have impacted all of the skill position players. With a more functional offense next season, it’s easy to envision him having 70-75 catches. He doesn’t have a touchdown this season but the Bears have prioritized trying to get the ball to Jimmy Graham in the red zone. I think Kmet’s development this season has been fine.
Does the potential move to Arlington Heights increase or decrease the chances of a large-scale organizational restructuring? — @mdourlain
That’s a good question. I believe the Bears have two totally separate projects. The plan for a move to Arlington Heights is a massive project and one that will dominate time and attention from the franchise’s leadership for the foreseeable future. It’s a project I would expect Ted Phillips to play a major role in.
But George McCaskey cannot be happy with the state of the football team and I believe he has been working for probably the last couple months examining what’s going on and what moves he will make.
No, I don’t think the stadium issue will prevent the team from making large-scale moves. McCaskey realizes the need to get things right on the football side and can multitask while giving attention to both priorities.
Source: Berkshire mont