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[Off-season] Chicago Bears: who's the boss?

Season 2023 has just ended, and on March 13, the 2023 campaign will open its doors. DNA of Sports therefore takes this opportunity to offer you an overview of the different franchises during the offseason. Which players to keep and cut? Which free agent to extend? Which recruits to observe? Here are some ideas, franchise by franchise. In the spotlight today, the Chicago Bears.

The years go by and look the same in Chicago. If the balance sheet was better in 2023 than the previous season, the Bears seem stuck in an endless reconstruction. The franchise has not won a playoff game since the 2010 season and we have to go back to 2018 to see a season end on a positive note.

But the leaders of the Bears seem to want to pass the second. The recruitment of Montez Sweat during the season, then his contract extension, goes in this direction. Gone are the years when the best players in the squad left the ship. With the No. 1 pick in the draft, and money to spend, it could be a busy offseason in Illinois. Above all, one question remains unanswered: who will be the quarterback of this team in 2024?

The captains

1. DJ Moore (WR)
2. Ride Sweat (DE)
3. Jaquan Brisker (S)

In less than a year, the Bears have recruited two talented players who will have a leading role in the years to come. First, DJ Moore arrived in the trade allowing the Panthers to recoup the top pick in the 2023 draft, the same trade that delivers the 2024 top pick to Chicago. In his new team, Moore confirmed what we saw at Carolina: he is a top receiver. With 1,364 yards and 8 touchdowns receiving, the receiver had his best career season in 2023, in a moribund attack. Whoever the Bears quarterback is in the future, they will be able to lean on DJ Moore to move the chains.

Then, the second arrived to take a role that the Bears had lost since the departure of Khalil Mack, that of leader in the pass rush. After the 2022 trade of Roquan Smith to Baltimore, Chicago's defense was missing a leader. Montez Sweat will fill this role wonderfully. In 2023, he achieved the feat of being both the leader in sacks for the Commanders (6.5) and the Bears (6). If this proves the weakness of these two teams in this area, it also shows that Sweat has perfectly adapted to his new environment, and that his pressure work will free his teammates.

Jaquan Brisker continues to establish himself as the future leader of the defensive rearguard. After a very high level rookie season, Brisker confirmed the hopes placed in him during his second season, despite missing five matches. Less active in the blitz (only one sack compared to four in 2022), he proved valuable in aerial defense, with 8 passes defended, compared to two during his first season. With his energy, his power and his leadership despite his young age, he represents the future.

DJ Moore

The undesirables

1. Eddie Jackson (S)
2. Cody Whitehair (C)

The advantage when you have a glaring lack of stars in your squad, when the finances are in the green. There are ultimately few players who seem to be leaving because of the cost they represent. However, two elders of the house could pack their bags.

Although his level of play was still very good, Eddie Jackson is no longer today the player he was in 2018, when he was elected to the first All-Pro team. The safety, a favorite of the public, remains on three incomplete seasons, and will receive more than 18 million dollars next year. His departure would be heartbreaking for fans but could save $14 million if he is cut after June 1. Same thing for Cody Whitehair, Pro Bowler in 2016, but no longer a starter today. A departure of the 31-year-old center/guard, drafted in 2016 by the Bears, would save nearly $10 million.

The summer man

Justin Fields (QB)

It's the question driving many conversations, not just in Illinois, but across the league: What will the Bears do at quarterback? Two options are available to them. The first: continue to trust Justin Fields. The second: draft a quarterback with their first choice, either Caleb Williams or Drake Maye, the two favorites who emerge.

In their rebuild option, the Bears could be tempted to keep Justin Fields for at least another year. If his performances have not been perfect since his arrival in the league, the former Ohio State player has shown undeniable signs of talent, particularly on the ground. If his aerial statistics are not incredible, it is clear that he does not benefit from the best around him either, in protection or in targets.

The year 2024 is going to be key in Fields' career, with the Bears jersey or not. But the leaders of Chicago would be well inspired to play with continuity, because Justin Fields could well surprise more than one.

The main free agents

1. Jaylon Johnson (CB)
2. Yannick Ngakoue (DE)
3. Darnell Mooney (WR)
4. Justin Jones (DT)
5. Lucas Patrick (C)

Others : Equanimeous St. Brown (WR), Trent Taylor (WR), Dan Feeney (G), Marcedes Lewis (TE), Robert Tonyan (TE), Nathan Peterman (QB), D'Onta Foreman (RB), Rasheem Green (DE ), Dylan Cole (LB), Patrick Scales (LS), Josh Blackwell (CB), Joe Reed (WR).

If Jaylon Johnson was still under contract, he would undoubtedly be in the cap box. A Pro Bowler and All-Pro, he exploded in the eyes of the league this season. With 4 interceptions and an incredible level of play, Jaylon Johnson has established himself as one of the best cornerbacks in the NFL. Amid trade rumors at the trade deadline, the Bears ultimately decided to keep him and should logically try to re-sign him at full price. He is Chicago's number one offseason priority.

Behind Johnson, nothing very impressive. Yannick Ngakoue played his worst season since being in the NFL, and is unlikely to stay. Darnell Mooney has shown good things since arriving in the NFL, and has expressed his desire to stay. He could be extended in a role of complement recipient. Justin Jones is a solid defensive tackle, but if the Bears decide to strengthen the position in the future, he could pay the price. The rest of the free agents are mostly replacements.

The Top 5 needs

1. Receiver
2. Offensive line
3. Defensive tackle
4. Defensive end
5. Tight end

When we are unable to finish a season on a positive note since 2018, it is because the squad has many holes. The most obvious of these is that of receiver. Yes, DJ Moore is a star. But around it is the desert. Darnell Mooney is a good No. 3 receiver at best and he's out of contract. Chicago must have targets, regardless of its quarterback.

A quarterback they will have to protect. The center position, in particular, has been in difficulty in recent years. Aside from rookie Darnell Wright, and to a lesser extent guard Teven Jenkins, all offensive linemen can be replaced. Same thing on the defensive line, where only Montez Sweat is a sure bet. We have seen it for a long time, a big defensive line can make the difference for a defense.

Finally, if Cole Kmet is an excellent tight end, veteran Marcedes Lewis and Robert Tonyan will likely leave Chicago and we will have to add depth to this group.

Target

Justin Madubuike (DT)

In NFL history, the Chicago Bears have never been known for their flamboyant quarterbacks, their spectacular receivers or their offense in general. The Bears are known for their defense. This has been the core of their identity for decades. It could become so again if the Bears set their sights on a player of the caliber of Justin Madubuike.

Not the most glamorous position on defense, having a tackle like Madubuike would greatly help the Bears. Author of 13 sacks in 2023, the Ravens player exploded this year after three seasons of slow development. If he could well stay in Baltimore, the financial situation of the Ravens and his salary expectations, expected around 20 million dollars per year, could tempt him. Chicago has money to spend, and putting greenbacks on a 26-year-old on the rise could be an enticing idea.

New blood

Marvin Harrison Jr. (WR)

Will the Bears keep their first pick or trade him? Will they take a quarterback? Or will they play it safe and select the best player available? This year, the best of all is Marvin Harrison Jr. The Ohio State receiver, son of, is what we call a generational talent. The kind of receiver you only see once a decade. We have to go back to 2011 and Julio Jones, or even to 2007 and Calvin Johnson, to see a wide receiver so expected in the draft.

It’s simple, Marvin Harrison Jr. checks all the boxes. Big, fast, athletic, smart, good hands, fantastic route runner, he can do it all. If the Bears move down two spots for a team looking for a quarterback, they could select him. But taking him with the very first pick is also a viable option. Yes, a receiver could well be the first pick in the draft, and for a player like Harrison, that would make 100% sense.

Other picks: Caleb Williams (QB), Drake Maye (QB), Olumuyiwa Fashanu (OT), Joe Alt (OT).

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