The Bears officially announced eight free agent signings this week: Three players were re-signed (Bradley Sowell, Prince Amukamara and Sam Acho) while five were brought in from outside the organization (Allen Robinson, Taylor Gabriel, Trey Burton, Chase Daniel and Cody Parkey). Ryan Pace got most of his heavy lifting out of the way this week, but there still are plenty of spots for him to fill on the Bears’ depth chart moving forward.
From here on out, the only true “impact” players the Bears will likely be able to add to their roster will be through April’s draft. So let’s take a look at what the Bears’ depth chart looks like right now to find some clues about who they could be eyeing with the No. 8 pick:
1. Mitch Trubisky
2. Chase Daniel
Draft possibility: Late round/undrafted free agent
The Bears could opt to draft a developmental quarterback in the sixth or seventh round to try to stash on the practice squad, or they could bring in a few guys for training camp and sign one to the practice squad. If the Bears do draft a quarterback late and he has a strong training camp, he could be a candidate for a 53-man roster spot, but it’s unlikely the Bears would keep two veteran quarterbacks behind Trubisky on their active roster.
1. Jordan Howard
2. Tarik Cohen
3. Taquan Mizzell/TBA
Draft possibility: Mid/late rounds
The Bears could still try to re-sign Benny Cunningham or another veteran as their No. 3 running back, though that wouldn't necessarily preclude them from taking a running back in the later/mid rounds for the fourth consecutive year. Taquan Mizzell is still on the roster, but “Smoke” only played two snaps in 2017.
1. Allen Robinson
2. Kevin White
1. Cameron Meredith
2. Josh Bellamy
1. Taylor Gabriel
Draft possibility: Second round at the highest, mid-round more likely
The Bears are best off if Kevin White is no higher than their No. 3 outside receiver, behind Robinson and Meredith, and could still opt to draft a receiver as high as the second round. Re-upping with Dontrelle Inman or signing another low-cost veteran backup receiver — even if Markus Wheaton is released — could push this need down to the middle of the draft, where the Bears have two fourth-round picks. But any chance the Bears were going to draft a receiver in the first round — let alone with their No. 8 pick — could’ve gone away with the additions of Robinson and Taylor Gabriel.
1. Adam Shaheen
2. Dion Sims
1. Trey Burton
2. Ben Braunecker/TBA
Draft possibility: Mid/late-round
What the Bears do with Sims will be key to watch leading up to Friday, when $4 million of his 2018 salary becomes fully guaranteed, according to Spotrac. Releasing Sims would save the Bears about $5.6 million in cap space, and his $6.3 million cap hit for 2018 may be too steep a price to pay for someone who would wind up behind Adam Shaheen on the depth chart. If the Bears don’t sign a backup to Burton or Shaheen (if Sims isn’t the guy) and were to draft a tight end, they could opt for either a blocking-first guy or a receiving-first guy, perhaps in the middle or late rounds in April.
1. Charles Leno
2. Bradley Sowell
1. Eric Kush/TBA
2. Cameron Lee/TBA
1. Cody Whitehair
2. Hroniss Grasu
1. Kyle Long
2. Jordan Morgan/TBA
3. Brandon Greene/TBA
1. Bobby Massie
2. Bradley Sowell
Draft possibility: First round/second round
Going into the draft with Eric Kush, who’s coming off a torn ACL suffered last August, as a starter could be a signal the Bears are looking to draft a starting interior lineman with one of their first two picks. Quenton Nelson would be the guy if they went that direction with the No. 8 pick, but there are legitimate questions if he’ll even be available then, with the New York Giants — who hold the No. 2 pick —heavily investing in their offensive line in free agency. The Bears found Cody Whitehair in the second round of the 2016 draft, and grabbing someone there may be a more realistic option to find a starting-caliber interior player.
1. Akiem Hicks
2. Roy Robertson-Harris
1. Jonathan Bullard
Draft possibility: Mid-to-late rounds
With Mitch Unrein off to Tampa, Jonathan Bullard could be an option to be the second defensive end here. It’s probably time the Bears figure out what they have in their 2016 third-round pick, for better or for worse. Don’t expect the Bears to break the bank, either in free agency or through a high draft pick, for a defensive end given Unrein only played about 50 percent of the Bears’ defensive snaps in 2016 and 2017. A later-round pick could be used for depth here.
1. Eddie Goldman
2. Rashaad Coward/TBA
Draft possibility: Late rounds
With Eddie Goldman due for a contract extension, he’s firmly locked in as the interior anchor in Fangio’s 3-4 defense. The Bears need to find a backup for him, whether it’s signing a veteran free agent (as they did last year with John Jenkins) or drafting someone to fill out the depth chart.
1. Leonard Floyd
2. Isaiah Irving/TBA
2. Sam Acho
3. Howard Jones
Draft possibility: First two rounds, plus mid-rounds
The issue here for the Bears is there may not be that clear-cut, elite edge rusher available at No. 8. N.C. State’s Bradley Chubb is unlikely to last that long, so perhaps the Bears angle to trade down a few spots — keep an eye on the Miami Dolphins (No. 11) and Arizona Cardinals (No. 15) there — and grab a high-upside project like UTSA’s Marcus Davenport or a more polished guy like Boston College’s Harold Landry. But with the free agency dust settling, the Bears’ biggest need is to find an edge rusher to pair with Leonard Floyd. This could be a position at which the Bears use multiple draft picks, too.
1. Danny Trevathan
1. Nick Kwiatkoski
2. Jonathan Anderson/TBA
Draft possibility: First two rounds/mid rounds
This all depends on how Fangio grades Nick Kwiatkoski, who’s been solid but banged up since being drafted in the fourth round of the 2016 draft. If the Bears stay at No. 8, they could look at Virginia Tech’s Tremaine Edmunds or Georgia’s Roquan Smith as long-term solutions at inside linebacker. Edmunds, too, could be kicked to outside linebacker if the Bears are confident in his pass-rushing abilities — he’s one of those super-talented guys that you just want to get in your building. If the Bears go another direction with their first two picks, it could be a signal of their confidence in Kwiatkoski, and then they could draft a mid-round guy as a reserve. Either way, the Bears do need to address the depth at this position, as Danny Trevathan and Kwiatkoski haven’t been able to put together fully healthy seasons yet in a Bears uniform.
1. Kyle Fuller
1. Prince Amukamara
1. Bryce Callahan
2. Cre’von LeBlanc
Draft possibility: First round/second round/mid-rounds
The Bears are committing at least $20 million to Prince Amukamara and Kyle Fuller in 2018, and that’d be a pretty high amount of cash to throw at a position only to draft someone with the No. 8 overall pick. But if the Bears are sold on Ohio State’s Denzel Ward or Iowa’s Josh Jackson, having Amukamara and Fuller in place wouldn’t necessarily be a deterrent to drafting a cornerback with the eighth overall pick if the Bears are convinced he’s a playmaker. If the Bears lose Bryce Callahan to an offer sheet they don’t want to match, or they want to upgrade at nickel corner, they could look to draft someone at that spot — Callahan frequently played, on a per-game basis, between 60-85 percent of the Bears’ defensive snaps last year. However the Bears do it, though, look for them to take a cornerback sometime in April.
1. Adrian Amos
2. Deon Bush
1. Eddie Jackson
2. DeAndre Houston-Carson
3. Deiondre’ Hall
Draft possibility: Mid round/late round
The only way a wrench gets thrown in this is if Alabama’s Minkah Fitzpatrick slips to No. 8, in which case the Bears could take a super-talented player who can play both safety and cornerback. That would be a case of the Bears not wanting to pass on an elite talent, and would be less indicative how the team feels about the Adrian Amos/Eddie Jackson pairing. More likely, though, is the Bears drafting for depth here, with Amos and Jackson proving to be a solid duo in 2017.
1. Cody Parkey
1. Patrick Scales/TBA
Draft possibility: Undrafted free agents
The Bears were reportedly interested in Bengals punter Kevin Huber, but he re-signed with Cincinnati. Pat O’Donnell, then, could be a candidate to return. Cody Parkey is locked in as the team’s placekicker, and if the Bears don’t re-up with Patrick Scales, they’ll try to find a long snapper via free agency or the pool of undrafted free agents in April. With so many other needs, using a draft pick on a specialist (specifically, a punter) seems unlikely.
So looking at this, these positions are needs for the Bears moving forward:
-No. 3 quarterback
-No. 3 running back
-Reserve wide receivers
-Backup “move” tight end
-Starting interior offensive lineman (either guard or center)
-No. 1 or No. 2 defensive end opposite Akiem Hicks
-Backup defensive tackle
-Starting outside linebacker, plus at least one backup
-No. 1 inside linebacker opposite Danny Trevathan, or at least one reserve inside linebacker behind Trevathan and Nick Kwiatkoski
-Two reserve cornerbacks
-Maybe a backup safety
Some of these could be filled internally by guys who shuffled between the practice squad and active roster last year. Others could be filled in the coming days and weeks through free agency — mostly the lower-down-the-depth chart spots.
But while it’s easy to identify the Bears’ most pressing needs and connect them to the direction the team could go in April’s NFL Draft, this overarching reminder still needs to be given: The Bears are a team short on proven playmakers, and that larger “need” may take precedent over a “need” at a certain position.