The 2017 Chicago Bears are currently in an amorphous state – a primordial soup of elements that haven’t yet become the mudfish scraping its way along a sandy shore, gulping its first breath of air. Free agency and the draft will give us a clearer picture about this team’s immediate future, but before the 2016 season began a great many people thought the Bears would be in the playoff discussion.
A devastating array of injuries and disappointments later, a 3-13 car wreck survivor crawled from the smoldering wreckage.
The draft is in and of itself a unique kettle of fish that the Bears find themselves perched among the most elite picks. With no way of knowing (at least right now) who will go #1 to the Browns and #2 to the 49ers, all we can do is speculate. Many mock drafts, in fact almost all of them across the board, believe this is the year the Bears take a quarterback in round one for the first time since Rex Grossman in 2003 (22nd overall).
In the meantime, let’s put the brakes on who the Bears will draft and instead focus on who could be brought back and what new faces may wear a Bears uniform in 2017. Gaze with me into the crystal ball…
*cue exaggerated hand waving and “woosh” noises*
Predicting…returning Bears free agents:
QB Brian Hoyer – I don’t think Hoyer has any interest in fighting for something elsewhere and with Loggains returning, you’d better believe they’ll enter camp, if not the regular season, with Hoyer as the starter. Look for him to return on another modest 1 year contract.
LB Sam Acho – Acho’s been a quality pickup for the Bears since he came to the team in 2015. An unexceptional starter, he’s sturdy enough in relief, an excellent special teamer, and by all accounts great teammate. I think he wants to be in that locker room when the Bears finally turn the corner.
G Eric Kush – Picked up after the Rams decided to move on, Kush fit in nicely on this Bears squad, providing a few spot starts and bolstering depth across the offensive line. Only 27, Kush has the skills to continue fighting for a starting job while more realistically being crucial depth on the interior of the offensive line.
S Eric Prosinski – Probably will come back on another 1-year deal and no guarantee to make the roster.
DE Cornelius Washington – Not a world breaker at end, the Bears could do worse. While he’ll never reach his potential, his arrow is gently pointing up and he won’t command a great deal of money to get back on the 2017 version of the team.
CB Johnthan Banks – Bears took a flier on him late in the year before injuries ended his audition before it began. I think they’ll give him another opportunity to make the roster.
WR Alshon Jeffery – In what no doubt will be the most expensive move in recent Bears offseason history, Alshon will demand (and deserve) an absurdly pricy contract. And he’ll get it. The Bears have one of the league’s largest gluts of available cap room to spend – $62.5 million, 9th most overall – and Alshon will get a fat chunk of that.
DB Demontre Hurst – Bears coaches seem to like Hurst’s flexibility and special teams value. Chicago will get RFA rights to match any offer given to Hurst, and I imagine he’d like to return.
LB Christian Jones – Another RFA, 2016 showcased the special teams value of Christian Jones, but the possibility of him being a standout starter seems to have passed. I think he’ll get one more year in a Bears uniform to show what he’s got to offer.
S Tony Jefferson – Jefferson and the Bears seemed like a logical fit in 2016, but Jefferson had already signed his tender to remain with the Arizona Cardinals, despite expressing interest in becoming a Bear. Pace will have to dole out some coin to get Jefferson, but he’s a young quality starter who would fill a pressing need. Meanwhile Adrian Amos can transition to free safety and rebuild his game after a disastrous season. 3 yrs – $9.5M
CB AJ Bouye – No doubt will be the recipient of the highest contract of the 2017 offseason, look for the Bears to be aggressive by answering their biggest weakness with the biggest offer. 3 yrs – $18M
WR Kendall Wright – A boom-or-bust type player, Wright is talented enough to merit opportunity with a team that has issues with receivers staying healthy, yet inconsistent enough to not merit a huge contract. 2 yrs – $5M
OT Sebastian Vollmer – At 32 years old and his body wracked by injury, this may seem a curious signing, but Vollmer wouldn’t be asked to start. He had 2016 off entirely thanks to surgeries from the previous offseason, and the Bears could offer him a “Prove It” short-term contract to provide depth at left and right tackle. 1 yr – $3.5M
DE Calias Campbell – Along with Bouye, Campbell would be a huge “get” for the Bears along with being a logical fit. With his huge frame (6’8″ 300 lbs), Campbell could join Goldman and Hicks to make the Bears 3 down linemen a true terror. At 30 years old, Campbell is likely aiming for his last big contract and would like to go out a winner, so it’s up to the Bears to sell Campbell on their future. Putting a nice cherry of money on top won’t hurt either. 3 yrs – $11.5M
Draft Trade With Browns
I’m thinking like Ryan Pace here, in my own silly/dumb way – bold, aggressive, explorative. I think the Browns are locked in on Garrett with the #1 overall pick, but they’re not happy to pass on the opportunity to take a Trubisky, Kizer, or Watson. Waiting for one of them to fall to 12 is a dangerous proposition. I think the Bears and Browns make sense for each other, and with both teams coaching in the senior bowl, don’t be surprised if their executives don’t also cross paths.
- 2017 1st rd pick (12th overall)
- 2017 2nd rd pick (33rd overall)
- 2017 4th rd pick (? overall)
- 2018 4th rd pick (? overall)
- 2017 1st rd pick (3rd overall)
- 2018 6th rd pick (? overall)
QB Jimmy Garoppolo – I can hear the eyes of countless Bears fans rolling as they read his name, but hear me out. The Bears are in a weird position. Garoppolo isn’t worth the 3rd overall pick at all, but I foresee Ryan Pace making some moves to give him and his team the flexibility they so desperately need to make noise in 2017.
- QB Jimmy Garoppolo
- 2017 6th rd pick
- 2017 1st rd pick (CLE) 12th overall
I’ll go into more detail and ‘fantasy booking’ when we get closer to the draft and have a clearer picture of the team post-free agency and what to look for. My favorite part of the football season – the one without football!
The Bears have a lot of work to do in the meantime, so I’m hoping that Ryan Pace, John Fox, his coaches, and all the team scouts are poring over tape and soaking in the Senior Bowl experience.
Meanwhile, my crystal ball has a crack in it. And a stain. Pizza sauce? How did that get there?