It’s been a fast and furious off-season so far for the Chicago Bears. Now that the dust has settled, it’s time to look at how far their roster has come over the past few months and identify three remaining areas of need.
Defensive back depth
After re-signing cornerback Tracy Porter during the opening days of free agency, the team did almost nothing else on the open market to address the secondary issues. In the draft, GM Ryan Pace opted to forego the secondary through the first three rounds, electing instead to improve the trenches.
Overall, Pace used three of his nine picks in the draft on defensive backs, including fourth rounders Deon Bush - a projected safety - and Deiondre Hall - who is versatile enough to play either position, although he projects best at corner - and their lone sixth-round pick on DeAndre Houston-Carson - who played both positions at William & Mary but projects best at safety.
Shortly after the draft, the Bears parted ways with veteran safety Antrel Rolle, which saved the club $3 million in cap space. Although Rolle was injured for most of his only season in Chicago, he was the projected started alongside second-year safety Adrian Amos.
With Rolle out the door and two young-but-raw rookies ready to step in, is there enough legitimate safety competition to make a clear cut upgrade from last year’s roster? Recent free-agent signee Omar Bolden, special teamer Chris Prosinski and former undrafted free agent Harold Jones-Quartey will push the rookies for the final starting spot, but again, do any of those three represent improvement?
Over at corner, the outlook isn’t nearly as promising. Yes, they added Hall who has great size and length but coming from a small school, the developmental curve could prove to be sizable in Year 1.
Former first-round pick Kyle Fuller, Tracy Porter and second year undrafted free agent Bryce Callahan project as the three starting corners with very little depth behind them in Hall, Sherrick McManis, Jacoby Glenn, DeVante Busby and two UDFAs in Kevin Peterson and Taveze Calhoun.
The three starters are already somewhat questionable even without considering depth but when looking at the full roster, defensive coordinator Vic Fangio will very likely be scraping the bottom of the barrel at some point this season if injuries mount.
It’s worth noting that Porter was a signing made in June of last year. He eventually became a starter and ultimately impressed enough to earn a three-year extension, so there's still time to improve the position.
CB Veteran Options
The market is somewhat bare, as expected, but there are still a few starting-caliber under-30 corners out there that could help the Bears this season.
1. Chris Culliver - Coming off a torn ACL and MCL this past November, he may not be a full go for camp, which makes him a risk but he broke out under Fangio in San Francisco before cashing in.
2. Jerraud Powers - A little on the small side (5-10, 187), Powers found success with the Colts and most recently as a starter for the Cardinals. Still under 30, he could provide some insurance for a year or two.
S Veteran Options
The veteran safety market has more depth, especially if the Bears are looking for a one-year veteran to push for playing time.
1. Walter Thurmond - There has been a lot of talk about Thurmond retiring but here we are in May and he still has not made a decision. At age 29, he still has enough left in the tank to play a few more years at a more-than-productive level.
2. Donte Whitner - One of two former Fangio standouts during the 49ers dominant years, the 31-year-old is still out on the market and could provide a good stop-gap option if they can get past his age.
3. Bacarri Rambo - Fun name but somewhat of an inconsistent player. Still just 26 years old, he could be worth a gamble, especially at a veteran-minimum price.
Offensive Tackle Depth
The front office has spent the majority of the off-season re-shuffling the offensive line. The interior line depth is much better than last year and remains versatile with Manny Ramirez and Ted Larsen as the projected back ups.
Kyle Long presumably slides back inside to right guard, while Bobby Massie will take over at right tackle. Third-year player Charles Leno is slotted to play left tackle as of now but if he falters, he does not project well as a swing tackle with his struggles on the right side.
Tayo Fabaluje, Jason Weaver, Martin Wallace, Nick Becton, and a cast of undrafted free agents are the only depth the team has behind Leno and Massie.
OT Veteran Options
1. Will Beatty - A very reliable veteran for quite a long time with the Giants, the 31-year-old is still looking for a job. He’s not a long-term option by any stretch of the imagination but would provide a safety blanket in case Leno fails or an injury occurs.
2. Jake Long - Another veteran that was once a top talent at his position, Long has seen his fair share of injuries since his days with the Dolphins. As a depth option and spot starter, he could provide value.
Since trading Martellus Bennett to the New England Patriots, the tight end position has been on shaky ground for the Bears. Recently re-signed Zach Miller showed he can be a reliable target when not injured but his health has been a major issue his entire career.
The Bears opted not to add depth behind Miller in the draft but did sign two undrafted free agent in Ben Braunecker, who was a projected 5th-round pick, and Joe Sommers, who played at a high level in college but comes from a small school.
Depth behind those three players are Rob Housler, Khari Lee and Gannon Sinclair, which is concerning to say the least.
After missing out on free agents Jermaine Gresham and Jared Cook, the Bears are one tight end injury away from disaster.
TE Veteran Options
The options are limited here and would offer only competition for the open spots behind Miller, even in a best-case scenario.
1. Scott Chandler - At 31, he’s not a long-term option but may offer the best production out of the limited options.
2. Andrew Quarless - Still just 27, he’s coming off a year where he played in just five games. A former Packer, he could provide depth, which is a big need at the position.
3. Tony Moeaki - Once looked at as a potential starter in Kansas City, the 29-year-old has struggled to produce his past few years in the league. He's another example of depth with some upside.
Overall, Chicago's roster is much improved from just one year ago but if they expect to compete for a playoff spot this year, adding depth in weak areas will improve their chances, particularly once injuries start to hit. If not, they will be counting on competition from young, inexperienced players to help them compete in John Fox's second season at the helm.