Offseason grades are starting to pour in now that the NFL draft is over and OTAs are underway. This is good news for the Chicago Bears, who've been one of this year's transaction darlings.
According to NFL.com's Gil Brandt, the Bears had the fifth-best offseason in the NFL.
Last year, Mitchell Trubisky was throwing to what could charitably be called a below-average pass-catching corps. In Year 2 of his NFL career, Trubisky won't lack for targets, with premier free-agent receiver Allen Robinson joining fellow free agents Taylor Gabriel and Trey Burton. First-round pick Roquan Smithwill be another name in a long list of excellent Bears linebackers, going back to Bill George, Mike Singletary and Brian Urlacher. Chicago also stepped up to keep Kyle Fuller after he was signed to an offer sheet by the rival Packers. Leonard Floyd should be back and wreaking havoc on defense, while the kicker situation should get a boost from the addition of Cody Parkey. Finally, there's new coach Matt Nagy, who has shown in his previous stops as an assistant that he knows how to wring production out of an offense.
Unfortunately, the Bears weren't the highest-ranked team in the NFC North. The Vikings, who added Kirk Cousins and Sheldon Richardson in free agency, ranked third.
Nevertheless, Chicago is set up for success in 2018. The road to the playoffs will be challenging because of six games against the Lions, Packers and Vikings, but they can get off to a hot start in the first month of the season with games against the Seahawks, Cardinals and Buccaneers. They could easily be 3-1 at the BYE.
Positive free-agency scores and good draft grades are great, but unless the Bears end their long playoff drought, it will all be for nothing. It's rare for expectations to be this high for a team coming off a 5-11 season, but with so much offseason optimism comes in-season demands.
The Bears have to deliver.