Chicago Bears - 2014 Off-season Overview
2013 Team Ranks: Offense (run 16th, pass 5th) / Defense (run 32nd, pass 15th)
Season Recap: Jay Cutler signed a seven year $127 million contract in January that should keep him in the Windy City for at least three more years (Bears can cut him in 2017 without paying him the remainder of his contract). The 30-year-old Vanderbilt alum missed five games with an ankle injury, but finished the 2013 season with five-year highs in passer rating (89), yards per game (238) and completion percentage (63%). In Marc Trestman's pass happy offense, Cutler should remain a borderline QB1 (especially with an elite set of weapons at his disposal). Veteran Josh McCown filled in admirably for five games in 2013, averaging 229 yards per game with 13 touchdown passes and just one interception. The soon to be 35-year-old signal caller is a free agent that will be in high demand for a multitude of QB needy teams (Jets and Tampa already rumored to be interested). Don't rule out a return to the Windy City if the free agent waters prove to be unkind.
Brandon Marshall is entering the final year of his contract and has been a brilliant signing by Chicago. Over the past two seasons, the 29-year-old has amassed 23 touchdowns while averaging close to 1,400 yards (topped 1,000 yards seven straight years). Alshon Jeffery's sophomore season was one for the ages as he finished with 89 catches for 1,421 yards and seven touchdowns (major improvement over his rookie year: 24 catches for 367 yards and three touchdowns). Both Bears WRs could be considered WR1s. Martellus Bennett signed a four year $20 million contract last offseason and posted a solid 2013 season, finishing with 65 catches for 759 yards and five touchdowns. The Black Unicorn finished as the 11th best fantasy TE in 2013 and should be considered a borderline TE1 for 2014 (he saw the eighth most targets among tight ends during his first season in Chicago).
Matt Forte remains a locked and loaded RB1 (especially in PPR leagues) as he topped 70 catches for the first time in his six year career under Marc Trestman. The 28 year old amassed 12 touchdowns and averaged 121 totals yards per game in 2013 helping him finish as the fourth rated fantasy RB in standard leagues. Michael Bush has a $3.85 million salary for 2014 and could be a cap casualty after an anemic 2013 season (197 yards and three touchdowns).
Notable Free Agents: QB Josh McCown, WR/KR Devin Hester, DT Henry Melton, DT Corey Wootton, CB Charles Tillman , S Major Wright
Team Needs / Cap Space: Bears: http://overthecap.com/
Defensive Tackle: Chicago had the worst run defense in the NFL in 2013, allowing a league high 1616 yards per game on the ground and 22 rushing TDs (second most). DTs Henry Melton, Nate Collins, and Jay Ratliff are all free agents. Timmy Jernigan (Florida St.), Ra'shede Hageman (Minnesota) and Aaron Donald (Pittsburgh) will be considered at pick #14.
Safety: Major Wright is a free agent and an upgrade from Chris Conte is needed (struggled mightily in the finale against Green Bay). Free agents Jarius Byrd (Buffalo) and T.J. Ward (Cleveland) will likely command top dollar, but San Fran's Donte Whitner could be worth targeting if the price is right.
Cornerback: Tim Jennings re-signed, but Charles Tillman is expected to bolt via free agency. The 33 year old had a down 2013 and went on IR in November following a triceps injury. Tillman could be headed to Tampa to join former Bears coach Lovie Smith.
Linebacker: Finding a replacement for Brian Urlacher will continue into 2014. Rookie Jon Bostic floundered and could be moved outside. Lance Briggs will be 33 years old ($6 million 2014 cap hit), so a youth infusion will be needed. One potential internal fix could be moving Shea McClellin to OLB.
Defensive End: The Bears posted an anemic 31 sacks in 2013 and DE Julius Peppers is expected to be released ($18 million owed in 2014).The 34-year-old led the Bears with 7.5 sacks, but showed signs of entering his decline phase.