Chris Simms

NBC Sports NFL analyst Chris Simms predicts Bears will make 'splash move' in free agency

NBC Sports NFL analyst Chris Simms predicts Bears will make 'splash move' in free agency

The Bears had a season far below expectations, ending 2019 at 8-8 amid a year that started with Super Bowl hopes. There were some positives amid the disappointing season, including the seasons of rookie running back David Montgomery and veteran wide receiver Allen Robinson. Despite the great individual performances, the Bears' offense finished 2019 ranked 29th in the NFL in points and yards per game, and 25th in the league in 3rd down conversion percentage.

Translation: The Bears could use some offensive punch. 

This is a sentiment shared by NBC Sports NFL analyst Chris Simms, who predicted the Bears will make a "huge marquee signing" this offseason.

He elaborated on the idea that the Bears are lacking a true offensive identity, and need to add an offensive weapon who makes opponents say, "We have to double him or we have to put an extra man in the box to stop that part of their running game," and helps them have an easily identifiable strength they can then build off of. 

As of now, the Bears rank in the bottom-five in terms of cap space. Fortunately for them, there are several moves they can make to free up a considerable amount of salary cap space. As far as what the Bears would do if they clear enough space to truly go big-game hunting in free agency?

The free agent wide receiver group includes names like Amari Cooper (Cowboys) and A.J. Green (Bengals) and less established names coming off of decent campaigns like Robby Anderson (Jets), Breshard Perriman (Buccaneers), Tavon Austin (Cowboys) or DeAnthony Thomas (Chiefs).

On the running back front, Kenyan Drake (Cardinals), Melvin Gordon (Chargers), Austin Ekeler (Chargers RFA) and Carlos Hyde (Texans) will be available. And, of course, Titans running back Derrick Henry — who gashed the New England Patriots for 182 rushing yards and a touchdown in the Titans' wild card upset — sits as the elite option among the 2020 NFL free agent running back group.

If Simms' prediction comes true, March will be an exciting time for Bears' faithful. Like Simms stated, teams should "watch out" for the 2020 Bears because in terms of being true, elite, contenders again, "They're not far away."

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Should the Bears target a game-breaking wide receiver this offseason?

Should the Bears target a game-breaking wide receiver this offseason?

Bears wide receiver Allen Robinson is one of the NFL's most respected pass-catchers. He was also one of the NFC's biggest Pro Bowl snubs after finishing 2019 with 98 catches, 1,147 yards and seven touchdowns.

But even with Robinson as Chicago's go-to-guy in the passing game, there was still something missing. For as fantastic as Robinson is, he doesn't have elite top-end speed that some of the NFL's best game-breakers possess.

Should the Bears focus some of their free-agent budget or 2020 NFL draft capital on a player like that? According to NBC Sports analyst Chris Simms, the answer is yes.

"I think the team is really still well-set up for success," Simms told NBC Sports Chicago. "The two things that jump out to me more than anything else are upgrading some of the offensive line – I think there needs to be one or two changes made there – and then, really, I think they need to find a game-breaker in the pass game on the offense, I really do. Allen Robinson’s really good; there’s a lot of really good with the Bears. But is there that guy that instills fear into a defense? I don’t know if there is, in the run game or the pass.

"What I’m basically saying is they need to find a weapon that’s a gameplan-changer for whoever’s playing defense against the Bears. That’s the one thing I think they really lack. Matt Nagy came from Kansas City, every week when people play the Kansas City Chiefs, they go ‘oh my gosh, how do we stop Tyreek Hill?’ And then you go, ‘oh we stopped Tyreek Hill, wait – there’s Travis Kelce! How do we do that?’ The Bears don’t have one guy yet that keeps a defensive coordinator up late at night to go, ‘how do I stop this incredible talent on their offense?’ So I would like to see that be made, some sort of splash move, whether it’s free agency or the draft, whatever it may be, to kinda get that game-changer on the offensive side of the ball."

It's a sentiment that's easier said than done, but according to Simms, the Bears are a team to watch in March.

"I just think they’re gonna make some huge marquee signing in free agency. I think there’s gotta be some play for a major free agent wide receiver or something like that."

Unfortunately, there aren't many receivers scheduled to hit the open market who necessarily fit that game-breaker description. Amari Cooper (Cowboys) will be too costly. A.J. Green (Bengals) likely will be, too, and even if his contract demands are reasonable, is he really all that different of a player than Robinson at this point?

Are the Bears really going to consider Tavon Austin (Cowboys) or DeAnthony Thomas (Chiefs) as speed players? Did Breshad Perriman do enough in his one season with the Buccaneers to warrant legitimate interest?

It seems more likely Pace will target a playmaker in the NFL draft; it's a deep wide receiver class that will offer players with legitimate upside on Day 3. 

Regardless, with all the attention paid to the offense's struggles at quarterback and offensive line, a field-flipping receiver is a need Pace has to address over the next few months.

Click here to download the new MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of the Bears.

Chris Simms says the Bears' offensive struggles make the defense, Khalil Mack easier to gameplan for

Chris Simms says the Bears' offensive struggles make the defense, Khalil Mack easier to gameplan for

What a difference a year makes.

On November 14, 2018, the Bears — with a record of 6-3 — were riding a three-game winning streak into a Week 10 matchup with division rival Minnesota Vikings. They would go on to win that game, and the next one, en route to an eventual 12-4 regular season record and NFC North title. The offense was humming, the defense was dominant and, at the heart of it, their best player: Khalil Mack.

But 2019 has been a different story. Heading into Week 10 of this season, the Bears are 4-5 and living in a reality where every game is a must-win. A sputtering offensive attack, helmed by the increasingly-maligned duo of Mitch Trubisky and Matt Nagy, has catalyzed struggles across the team — including a half-step back for a defense that once appeared unassailable. They are still one of the league’s best, but not quite the death star of a unit they were in 2018.

Though many of his stats are comparable to his 2018 pace (outside of raw sack totals), Mack, specifically, hasn’t wreaked the same kind of havoc this season as he did last. Recently, NBC Sports NFL analyst, Chris Simms, posited a few theories for that development:

“In the big picture of the Chicago Bears: In general, when you’re not playing from a lead ever, to where the team playing against Chicago goes, ‘Oh man, we’re down by 14 or we’re down by 20. We gotta start throwing the football more,’ you know, those were the opportunities last year where Khalil Mack and the Bears were in control of the game,” Simms said.

“When you’re playing the Chicago Bears right now, you gameplan and you go, ‘Ok, what’s the big picture here?’ We’re not scared of their offense, so you can play it conservative on offense when you are playing the Bears,” he continued. “We know the one way we can lose to the Bears this week is if we let Khalil Mack get off on us, and we try to throw complete passes down the field, and then stripe-sack[s], fumbles and things happen.

“Within playing the Bears, most teams go into the games with conservative offensive gameplans because they don’t trust that the Bears offense is going to be able to move the ball a whole lot on their defense, and it’s short passes and things like that to where one guy that may be able to ruin a game on a weekly basis… Khalil Mack kind of gets taken away in those circumstances.” 

Opposing offenses have also been able to devote even more attention than usual to Mack in the form of double-teams and chips, given the increasing amount of injuries the Bears have sustained in their front seven — a fact Simms also acknowledges.

“[Mack] really creates a lot of attention,” Simms said. “And without Akiem Hicks there, a lot of offenses don’t have to worry about that beast in the middle and we can focus on our attention [to] let’s not let 52 ruin the game for us on that side.”

With the loss of Danny Trevathan on Sunday, that special attention Mack receives is only like to increase.

Click here to download the new MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of the Bears.