The Chicago Bears offseason program is underway with rookie minicamp wrapping up last weekend and organized team activities on tap next week. Brad Biggs tackles questions about evaluating Justin Fields, trading for a wide receiver and more in his weekly Bears mailbag.
I understand the need to draft best players available given the teardown required with the current Bears roster, so I’m not upset they drafted defense with their first two picks. I do wonder, though, without significant upgrades to either the offensive line or receiver group, will it be difficult to evaluate the progress of Justin Fields this coming season? I would think that the Bears would need to know what they have with Fields by the end of 2023 so they can decide whether to stick with him or move off of him. Your thoughts? — Chris M., Hermosa Beach, Calif.
The Bears would like to have a good idea about Fields’ long-term projection by the end of this season if possible. One of the errors this franchise has made on occasion is sticking with quarterbacks who clearly are not the solution longer than it should have. The more time you take to explore the next option only extends the search for the replacement to Sid Luckman. I think some folks, not all, who are unsettled by the lack of greater moves for the offense have overlooked the salary-cap issues that new general manager Ryan Poles has worked to put behind the team before 2023.
If Fields is an elite talent, that will shine through this season with the current group of skill-position players and the line as it is constituted. Josh Allen didn’t have the greatest cast of skill-position players during his second season with the Buffalo Bills in 2019. His leading wide receiver was John Brown with slot receiver Cole Beasley next. Isaiah McKenzie was third among Bills wide receivers with only 27 receptions. But at the end of that 10-6 season, the Bills had a pretty good indication things were trending upward for Allen.
The performance of Fields and the offense this season no doubt will shape the trajectory of the next offseason.
Am I wrong to think Equanimeous St. Brown could be a big part of the passing offense this season? — Matt M., Glenview
I’ve mentioned in previous mailbags that St. Brown is intriguing because he has good size (6-foot-5, 214 pounds) and speed. He also arrives with a pretty good idea of what offensive coordinator Luke Getsy wants to do with the playbook. There’s some projection involved here because St. Brown didn’t do a whole lot in the 2021 season for the Green Bay Packers. He appeared in 13 games and had nine receptions for 98 yards. But he was mentioned the past couple of years as someone who could break out for the Packers, and I imagine Getsy was the leading voice in the team’s pursuit of St. Brown in free agency.
“I thought EQ had a tremendous year last year in his growth and his maturity from where he was to where he is now,” Getsy said Sunday after rookie minicamp wrapped up. “I was really excited that we were able to snag him because I think all his best football is ahead of him. I’m excited to see. He’s one of those guys — you talk about a big body, a guy that can run, his toughness and all that stuff and everything that we’re going to preach in this system — he’s that expectation.”
Ryan Poles mentioned he’s open to working on the roster, including trades. In your opinion, if he can get a top receiver this offseason, would he pull the trigger on an expensive trade? Or are we looking at more midlevel guys with upside only? — @sprucebandit
I assume you’re referring to next offseason as most of the big-name wide receivers available in trade already have been moved. I don’t envision the Bears swinging a deal for Deebo Samuel, who remains with the San Francisco 49ers despite asking to be traded. The Bears aren’t in a position where they can fork over the kind of draft capital required to pull off a deal like that, and the 49ers seem far more inclined to keep Samuel.
The Bears need to see what they have on the roster and then, if possible, a far better option is to draft their next superstar wide receiver. Then you have a player on a cost-controlled rookie contract and aren’t giving up a load of draft picks while also paying a player at or near the top of the wage scale. When people talk about trading for an elite player, you have to remember that costs premium draft capital that can be used to fill other needs.
Any thoughts on if the Bears should pursue a veteran linebacker? — @pumpi91
I guess it’s possible, but this looks like one of the better position groups on the roster with Roquan Smith and Nicholas Morrow, who moved really well for the Las Vegas Raiders in 2020 and was a valuable nickel defender because of his range. Other positions stand out to me as spots where veteran help could be needed, such as both lines and maybe another slot cornerback option.
Is the current roster a more talented or less talented roster than the one that ended the 2021 season? Are there position groups where the difference stands out sharply? — @gucasliogito
It’s a little tricky answering that question. Will Justin Fields be substantially better than he was as a rookie? Will some of the new wide receivers compensate for the departure of Allen Robinson? The Bears finished the 2021 season with a lot of expensive key players injured. The current roster isn’t better than one with a fully healthy Khalil Mack, Akiem Hicks and Robinson. That doesn’t mean the Bears can’t be in a better place at the end of the 2022 season than they were in 2021. I don’t think you can argue that this roster needed a total renovation either.
Charles Snowden seemed like a defensive end with potential last season. Have you heard the new regime discuss plans for him? Many thought he’d be a third-rounder until he got hurt. A sleeper this season? — @joe4ce
Snowden was one of the few veteran players to participate in rookie minicamp over the weekend. It’s possible the return to a 4-3 scheme in which he can play with his hand in the dirt will aid him, just as I think it could benefit Trevis Gipson. Snowden is in a large group of young players the Bears will be keeping an eye on to see if they can break through. Obviously not every player will be a solution or someone to build with, but the Bears can expect a handful of pleasant surprises from young players who get opportunities.
Do you see Chase Allen making the 53-man roster at tight end? — @rbarnold2626
The Bears signed the Iowa State alumnus as an undrafted free agent, and he has very good size (6-foot-6, 254 pounds) and long arms (34⅛ inches). Allen projects as a Y tight end or a blocker. At minimum he has a chance to start the season on the practice squad and he could break through to the roster. Allen isn’t a great athlete as a receiver, so I wouldn’t expect a ton from him in the passing game. But if the Bears want to develop a blocking tight end, he could have a solid opportunity ahead of him.
What kind of role is Khyiris Tonga going to play in the new 4-3 defense? He played fairly well for a seventh-round rookie last year. Is he going to be able to carve out a spot for himself on the roster? — @petermartuneac
Tonga has a chance to play in the rotation as a nose tackle. I agree he made the most of his chances as a rookie, and provided he fits the profile of what they’re looking for in a run stuffer, there should be more playing time in front of him.
Do you anticipate the Bears going with an outside hire or promoting someone from within to replace Mark Sadowski? — @davegilchooch2
That’s a good question. If GM Ryan Poles has a good feel for one of the scouts he inherited from the previous staff, he could promote from within. Otherwise, I imagine Poles will seek out someone he worked with previously or who comes with a strong recommendation from a close adviser. We’ll have to see how things eventually are structured because Poles has some high-ranking advisers now in assistant GM Ian Cunningham and co-directors of player personnel Jeff King and Trey Koziol.
Source: Berkshire mont