The Chicago Bears are off for summer break until late July when training camp begins. Brad Biggs answers your Bears questions in this final mailbag until camp.
I find it curious national media lambasts the talent level of the Bears’ WR corps while continually urging the organization to trade away draft capital to acquire another team’s disgruntled and/or underperforming wideout. Kenny Golladay is the latest example. Is there a realistic trade option at wide receiver that would actually elevate the current roster or is Ryan Poles being prudent by staying the course? — David D., Arlington Heights
Well, the Bears don’t have a lot of proven talent at the position outside of Darnell Mooney, and I don’t believe a lot of folks around the league view him as a No. 1 receiver at this point. Could he ascend into that role? No doubt. The jump he made from his rookie season to last year was impressive and with a new coaching staff, new playbook and some familiarity with quarterback Justin Fields, there’s no reason Mooney cannot make significant gains again in 2022.
The Bears are hopeful Byron Pringle is ready to spread his wings now that he’s out of Kansas City and in a position to get more opportunities. Equanimeous St. Brown is an interesting player but he was never consistent enough to get on the field regularly in Green Bay. Rookie Velus Jones Jr. is a player the Bears are really excited about but he has yet to play a down in the NFL. The vast majority of teams have depth with more proven experience and, in many cases, more known talent.
Do I think the Bears will trade for Golladay? No, I don’t. I haven’t heard any rumors in that regard but why would Poles want to pay big money — Golladay is due $13 million this season — for a player that has a track record of injuries, especially last season? You have to think the Bears believe they can get similar production out of one of the players already on the roster. Plus, Golladay is 28.
I get repeated questions about the position and nearly all are valid. I don’t see the Bears making a blockbuster move for a game breaker at the position. Who thinks Poles wants to trade away his 2023 first-round draft pick for a player that is going to require a massive contract? Not me. I think the Bears are curious to see how the crop of receivers they have pans out. Not everyone is going to excel or meet expectations, but if one or two are solid it’s a step in the right direction. Maybe an unknown will step forward. I thought former Notre Dame wide receiver Chris Finke made some nice plays this spring. He’s undersized at 5-foot-9, 186 pounds, but maybe he can compete for a look in the slot. Finke entered the NFL as an undrafted free agent in 2020 with the San Francisco 49ers. We’ll see what he and the others look like when training camp gets rolling.
I feel the Bears are getting dumped on nationally and picked to be worse than the Jacksonville Jaguars. I believe Matt Eberflus will get them playing hard and Justin Fields can win more games than people think. Cincinnati Bengals-type season? — @dpeak1313
The Bengals reached the Super Bowl last season. I do not believe the Bears are going to enjoy a similar resurgence in 2022 and ultimately be crowned NFC champions. There’s a heck of a lot of space in the middle, though, between being worse than Jacksonville and being as good as Cincinnati was in 2021. I agree Eberflus likely will get the team playing hard and that can create the kind of energy needed in the building to power through some rough spots in the schedule. The coaching staff has been really positive about Fields this spring and he has nowhere to go but up.
I understand Bears fans, at least a good portion of them, are tired of hearing that this may be a season full of growing pains. From a national perspective, why would there be a different quick take on the team? They won six games last season. Statistically, Fields struggled as much as about any rookie quarterback has in the last decade. Some marquee defensive players departed and there are significant questions about an offensive line that struggled last season. The only additions to the O-line have been center Lucas Patrick, signed to a two-year, $8 million contract, and a quartet of Day 3 draft picks. If Fields takes some steps forward this season, the Bears can be competitive nearly every week and be close into the fourth quarter. Then, it’s about making plays.
Are the Bears heading into a really bad season as all experts predict? — @jcadengo1
Can you rattle off three or four compelling reasons why this could be a playoff season for Matt Eberflus in Year 1? Yes, it happened for Matt Nagy in 2018, but he walked through the doors of Halas Hall and talked defensive coordinator Vic Fangio into staying put. The Bears had a playoff-ready defense when Nagy was hired and that unit only got better when Khalil Mack was acquired via trade. I don’t see a Mack-type player being added to the roster before the start of this season.
The Bears are starting from scratch on offense and defense. Obviously, you need to keep a close eye on Fields and his developmental track this season. There are many other compelling storylines to keep an eye on. The roster that has gotten younger and will continue to turn over in the next 12 months. Let me ask you this: If Fields steps up and shows improvement this season while a good bunch of younger players gain experience and show promise and the final record is 7-10, is that really bad? Let’s see what happens. I think GM Ryan Poles presented a long-term plan to Chairman George McCaskey, a plan he knew would take multiple seasons to come together. Poles hasn’t said as much but as I have written before, this roster wasn’t a weekend DIY project when he took it over. I think people need to have open minds and shape their expectations accordingly.
Do you think that Trestan Ebner will play a big role in the offense and if so, how does that fit in with Monty and Khalil Herbert? — @sambiinoo
A big role? That might be asking a bit much from a rookie sixth-round pick. Right now, he projects as a change-of-pace back when he’s fully up to speed. Injuries to players ahead of him on the depth chart could create more opportunities. When I think “big role,” I am envisioning something over one-third of the snaps on offense and that seems a bit ambitious considering the presence of David Montgomery and Herbert, who you referenced, as well as Darrynton Evans.
The Bears appear to have decent depth and competition beginning in training camp. Maybe Ebner can carve out a role for himself early in the season and he is smooth catching the ball out of the backfield. I certainly think he can step in immediately as a multi-phase contributor on special teams. He will be an interesting rookie to track during camp and preseason.
With spots open at linebacker, right guard and defensive tackle, and salary cap space, do the Bears make more free-agent moves before camp? — @pilcher2700
Who are they going to sign? With 32 teams having 90-man rosters right now, it’s not as if there are a bunch of guys on the street that look like Week 1 starters once they have a contract and a uniform. Yes, I expect this roster to be constantly evolving and that could mean players added because of injuries or other reasons. No, I don’t envision the Bears in 2022 adding a difference maker off the street right now. Maybe they get a player or two that can fit their system during roster cuts but it’s not as if the Bears are just biding their time waiting to pounce on potential free agents. Most of the moves at this point in the calendar are for camp depth.
Who is your prediction for the MVPA (most valuable player added) for this roster? — @gentleindif
That is an interesting question and you can make a case for a handful of players because there are so many new faces. It certainly appears the Bears plan on starting cornerback Kyler Gordon and safety Jaquan Brisker right away, and the rookies could help solidify a secondary that had issues at times last season. Linebacker Nicholas Morrow appears to be a really good fit for this scheme because of his range and athleticism. If one of the wide receivers steps up — Byron Pringle, Equanimeous St. Brown or rookie Velus Jones Jr. — that would go a long way toward helping quarterback Justin Fields. The Bears believe Lucas Patrick, the new center, can be a tone setter for the offensive line and that is certainly needed. Justin Jones and Al-Quadin Muhammad are new additions to the defensive line. Like I said, there are a lot of choices among several new faces.
If I had to pick one, I’d go with Gordon. He was their highest draft pick and it looks like he could be the starting left cornerback. Brisker has a nice combination of size and athleticism and could be a really exciting young player as well.
Given the hole at right guard, is the possibility of starting Braxton Jones at left tackle more about getting the best five O-linemen on the field and maybe means Larry Borom or Teven Jenkins plays guard? — @jtbcubs
I see where you are going here but I don’t think you make a decision at left tackle, of all positions, because of a question you have at right guard. Left tackle is the premier position on the offensive line and you can make a case right guard is at the bottom of the list. I say this because some coaches really value an athletic player at left guard, making it more of a priority than the right guard position.
Yes, the Bears need to find their five best linemen and get them on the field. They’ve yet to look at Borom or Jenkins at guard this spring, at least as far as I saw. Could that change on Day 1 of minicamp? Sure. Some I talked to when the Bears drafted Jenkins last year thought he might be best playing inside. But I don’t think you put a rookie fifth-round pick at left tackle unless you believe he’s your best option at that position, no matter what else you have going on along the line. Questions at left tackle trump questions at right guard. Maybe Jones excels when pads going on next month.
Which player is more likely to be starting in Week 1: Robert Quinn or Braxton Jones? — @gucasliogito
I have to say Quinn. He’s a starter for this defense until he isn’t on the roster. Jones has a lot of ground to cover before he can really be in the mix to nail down that job.
What are the Bears doing with Teven Jenkins? — @joeymalabarba
Jenkins got what amounted to half the snaps with the starters at right tackle this spring. It should be noted he was the first player to get a look there too. I imagine he remains in the mix to win that job with an outside chance of the team taking a peek at him inside at right guard. Jenkins is a big, physical player who should look better when pads go on in training camp. It would be premature to write him off at this point. There are a lot of moving parts on the offensive line right now and we’ll have to see how things shake out in the first couple weeks of training camp.
Given Ndamukong Suh’s production last year (compared to Akiem Hicks and including health), wouldn’t Suh be a great one- or two-year plug-in veteran option on the D-line? — @basucally
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers effectively replaced Suh by signing Hicks to a one-year deal. The 35-year-old Suh has indicated a desire to continue playing but at his age, and after winning a Super Bowl ring in Tampa, do you think he’d be interested in joining a team that is in the beginning stages of a complete rebuild? My guess is no.
Adding Suh would not fit the profile of the players GM Ryan Poles has brought on board so far. You don’t see a lot of big-name players who are on the back side of their careers. In fact, you really don’t see any. What he has done is shop for available players in their 20s with the idea some or most of them have their best football ahead of them. It doesn’t look like a match for either party. That’s just my take.