The 2021 season has just ended, and from March 16, the 2022 campaign will open its doors. DNA of Sports therefore takes the opportunity to offer you an overview of the different franchises during the off-season. Which players to keep and cut? Which free agent to extend? Which rookies to watch? Here are some ideas, franchise by franchise. In the spotlight today, the Chicago Bears.
The Nagy era (finally) over, the Bears are beginning a new cycle under the leadership of Matt Eberflus. And as if that weren’t enough, the sporting direction has also changed with the arrival of Ryan Poles in place of Ryan Pace. However, reconstruction is not necessarily appropriate in Illinois. Relying on certainties on the defense side, the team can also rely on Justin Fields. Selected last year, the quarterback is the immediate future of the franchise. But far too lonely in an attack in ruins, the Bears will have to surround him above all to hope to get the most out of their young player.
1. Khalil Mack (Edge)
2. Roquan Smith (LB)
3. Eddie Jackson (S)
Image of the franchise, Khalil Mack remains a dominant player. At almost 31, despite a season cut short by injury, he will again spearhead the defense next September. When he plays at his best level he pulls his whole team behind him. There is no doubt that with a defensive coach like Eberflus, he will once again have a fundamental importance in the system. Behind him, Roquan Smith has established himself as the other taulier of the defense. Among the best in his position, he was named to the All Pro 2nd Team for the past two seasons. A tackle machine, capable of disrupting the pocket and defending against the pass, he is the present and the future of the squad.
The only survivor of the ultra-dominant secondary of 2018, Eddie Jackson remains a safe bet in his position and the leader from the bottom of the Bears field. If he has slowed down in the last two seasons, the arrival of a defensive coach should give him new impetus.
–Nick Foles (QB)
– Tarik Cohen (RB)
Number 3 in the quarterback hierarchy in 2021, the Super Bowl LII MVP should not claim much season time with the new staff either. Releasing him from his final year of contract would earn Chicago $3 million in payroll. Not spectacular but nevertheless precious. For his part, the player could attempt an nth comeback in a team lacking a pitcher.
Injured at the start of the 2020 season, Tarik Cohen, yet an important part of the attack at the time, never returned. With David Montgomery and Khalil Herbert difficult to see him a future at Soldier Field. His contract of over $6 million a year is high for a non-playing runner.
The summer man
His selection bears the seal of the old regime landed at the end of the season. Yet Justin Fields seems destined to lead the attack of the Bears for the next few seasons. Despite a lackluster first season, made up and down, the former Ohio State player can give grounds for hope. Admittedly still raw, he showed some promise and demonstrated great athletic ability.
Restricted by Matt Nagy’s system, Field will now have to show with a new staff that he is capable of becoming a franchise quarterback capable of bringing Chicago back to the top. For this he will be helped by the former coach of Aaron Rodgers. Luke Getsy, named offensive coordinator in the new staff, will be responsible for his development. Above all, he will have to teach him to take better care of the ball in order to limit the loss of balls (15 in 12 matches). Surrounding him better and above all better protecting him, two keys which could make it possible to test the true potential of the young quarterback.
The main free agents
1. Allen Robinson (WR)
2. Akiem Hicks (DT)
3. James Daniels (G)
4. Tashaun Gipson (S)
5. Germain Ifedi (OT)
Others : Jakeem Grant (WR), Marquise Goodwin (WR), Damiere Byrd (WR), Jason Peters (OT), Damien Williams (RB), Jesse James (TE), Alec Ogletree (LB), Artie Burns (CB), Deon Buh (S), Christian Jones (LB), DeAnfre Houston-Carson (S), Pat O’Donnel (P)
Retained by the franchise tag last season, Allen Robinson should change air during the spring. If these qualities are well established, the receiver has failed to create a connection with his young quarterback in 2021. Only 38 receptions for 410 yards is not much for a supposed number 1 receiver. On the offensive line, it’s time for (re)construction, if James Daniels has provided some guarantees and could be retained, this should not be the case for Germain Ifedi who was more of a transitional solution. At 40 Jason Peters is no longer the one who was, and should logically not return.
A defensive pillar for the past 6 seasons on the shores of Lake Michigan, Akiem Hicks should not be retained. At 32, the player could aim for a last good salary or an opportunity to aim for the title. Two things Chicago shouldn’t be able to offer him. Holder for two seasons, Tashaun Gipson, 31, could be kept if the two parties find a winning agreement, which should not be the case for Artie Burns. After two seasons, the former 2016 first-round draft pick has still not won his place.
Top 5 Needs
2. Offensive Tackle
Already among the least productive in the aerial game, the Bears should logically lose Allen Robinson during this offseason. If 2021 was not his best campaign, the receiver still accumulated more than 3,500 yards in 4 seasons on the shores of Lake Michigan. Replacing him and providing a number one target for Justin Fields will be the front office priority. Limited in number and talent, this squad will largely have to be recomposed during the spring.
Last in the league in conceded sacks with 58 units, Chicago needs to protect its young quarterback. Although mobile, Fields isn’t always comfortable under pressure. More time and serenity in the pocket can only help the young quarterback in his development. If the offensive line is porous, it does not only come from outside. With the exception of Cody Whitehair, the men on the inside are far from flawless. Reinforcement is expected including to help the ground game.
Gone are the days when the Bears backfield terrorized the entire league. Today Eddie Jackson and Jaylon Johnson lack support. Whether it’s through the draft or not the addition of veterans, Chicago will have to expand its squad to hold its own against the aerial attacks of Green Bay and Minnesota in their division.
Terron Armstead (OT)
With one point less than 30 million available, the Bears have room to provide reinforcements. Main free agent at the post of offensive tackle, Terron Armstead could be the ideal target for the front office of Chicago. After protecting Drew Brees for 8 seasons, his experience would be an important asset. At 30, he remains above all a reference to his position. His addition to the blind side of the young quarterback would be a huge added value and a guarantee of security and serenity.
A native of Illinois, Armstead could look forward to landing his last big contract in his home region with the challenge of protecting a promising quarterback. His arrival would mean a repositioning to the right for rookie Tevon Jenkins, his more natural position. Fields would then have an attractive and intriguing duo, on paper at least.
The new blood
David Bell (WR)
Deprived of the 1st round again this year due to the exchange set up in 2021 to select Fields, the Bears and their new general manager in the lead will have to be smart and find good deals from the 2nd day. With the need to bring targets to their quarterback, Ryan Pole could quickly turn to a receiver. Purdue player David Bell could tick the boxes and fit the franchise’s needs. Good on the tracks and with safe hands, the Purdue player could become this possession receiver capable of offering solutions to his pitcher and moving the chains. From a complementary profile to the good surprise of the season Darnell Mooney, they could form a promising young duo for the happiness of Fields.
Other possible choices: John Metchie (WR), George Pickens (WR), Daniel Faalele (OT), Phidarian Mathis (DL)