Brace yourselves, Chicago Bears fans. We’re in for another long season.
Given the team’s current roster, it appears that their chances of making the playoffs are slim to none. Looking at the team’s draft picks, they seem to know it, too. The Bears focused more on long-term success than immediate turnaround with their five selections. Although this will likely mean good things in the future, it also means that the 2017 season will be tough to watch.
With our sights set on the future, let’s take a way-too-early look at some players the Bears can target in free agency in 2018.
The Buffalo Bills surprisingly declined Sammy Watkins’ option, thus making him a free agent after the 2017 season. If they choose not to re-sign him, he would be a great option for the Bears.
Through all of the commotion regarding the quarterback position, people seemed to have forgotten the wide receiver spot. Chicago has no true No. 1 option on their roster. Kevin White is still unproven, Cameron Meredith is a No. 2 on most teams, and nobody else stakes a reasonable claim. Adding Watkins would give Mitch Trubisky a dangerous, young weapon in the long run. If he can stay healthy this year, he’d definitely be worth a look.
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Xavier Rhodes had a fantastic 2016 season, racking up five interceptions, 11 passes deflected and 52 tackles. He would be a great addition to a Bears secondary that is still shaky, at best.
Chicago was active in retooling their secondary, but none of the players they signed are bonafide top starters. Plus, they will have four cornerbacks entering free agency next year. One of them is Prince Amukamara, who projects to be the No. 1 corner for the team this year. If the Bears don’t bring him back (or even if they do), it would be smart to add Rhodes. His 6’1″, 218-pound frame and his top-notch ball skills would be enticing for defensive coordinator Vic Fangio to get his hands on.
As mentioned earlier, the Bears still need a lot of help at wide receiver. Next year’s free agency class is stacked at wide receiver, and Allen Robinson is among the best in that group.
Robinson is coming off of a bit of a down year compared to his astonishing 2015 season. However, he still has plenty of upside and is a true No. 1 receiver. In the past two years, he has had 153 receptions, 2,283 receiving yards and 20 touchdowns. That sort of production is sorely lacking in the Bears’ current crop of receivers.
This move is probably less likely than the others on this list, but it would still be a great addition.
Trent Murphy broke out in 2016 for the Washington Redskins. The edge rusher put up nine sacks, 47 tackles and three forced fumbles last season. He is a tenacious and powerful player who would fit well with the Bears’ defense. Lamarr Houston has been injury prone, and Willie Young is getting up there in age. Pernell McPhee, as good as he is when healthy, is coming off of an injury-plagued season, as well. Bottom line, there’s a lot of uncertainly for the Bears off the edge. If all goes wrong, then they shouldn’t hesitate to give Murphy a call.
The Bears still lack a long-term solution at kicker. Connor Barth is merely a placeholder, and undrafted free agent Andy Phillips doesn’t seem to be the answer, either. Luckily for them, they could find their answer in free agency next year.
Cairo Santos is one of the best kickers in the NFL today. Last year with the Kansas City Chiefs, he finished fifth in the league in field goal percentage. He’s also still 25, so he likely has a long career ahead of him. The Bears could definitely use someone like him on their special teams unit.
– Jacob Infante is a National Editor for cover32 and also covers the Chicago Bears. He can be followed on Twitter @jacobinfante24.