With the Chicago Bears‘ first preseason game set to take place on Saturday afternoon, Usayd Koshul answers various questions regarding the Bears in his latest mailbag.
1. Thoughts on the retooling process now that Justin Fields is QB1?
Really good actually. With Fields now in the fold, the Bears focus should shift to building around him on offense. As generic as that sounds, Chicago does have some players on offense in line for contract extensions next offseason. We all know star wide receiver Allen Robinson is due for a payday but don’t forget about OL James Daniels who’s heading into a contract year, along with running back David Montgomery who’ll be eligible for an extension next offseason.
Speaking of extensions, the Bears just picked up the fifth-year option for LB Roquan Smith. Here’s what I’ll say: Chicago needs to extend Robinson and Smith first, then focus on Daniels to keep the interior of the OL intact. To create additional cap space, designate OLB Robert Quinn as a post-June first cut in 2022, a move that should create about $12M in cap space.
Fields adds flexibility to the Bears’ future plans. For a quarterback who’s got the potential to develop into a franchise-caliber player, all Fields must do is progress enough to the point where the Bears can lock up key players until it’s time to pay Fields, which will be a conversation for the 2023 or 2024 offseason.
2. Why can’t the organization commit to figuring out the OL?
Trust me, it’s a question that drives all of us crazy, myself included. If you’ve been listening to our weekly podcast, I’ve said that Ryan Pace neglecting the offensive line from 2017-2019 finally caught up to the Bears in 2020. Between that same span, the Bears drafted just two offensive lineman: Jordan Morgan (fifth-round in 2017) and James Daniels (second-round, 2018).
Pace has consistently shown that he’s always willing to go ahead and trust his own players, which is fine but at some point, you need to cut bait, rather than hold onto players too long, something that Pace has been notorious for doing. And guess what, Pace drafted two offensive line in the 2021 NFL Draft (Teven Jenkins and Larry Borom) making it the second time in seven seasons that Pace has taken two or more offensive lineman in the same NFL Draft.
The blame starts with Pace but ends with the coaching staff. Why hasn’t the coaching staff been able to get the most out of guys like Arlington Hambright or Lachavious Simmons? Matt Nagy’s staff has developed undrafted free agents such as Alex Bars and Sam Mustipher but Nagy being an offensive-minded coach needs to make investing in the OL a priority.
To close out this question, I went back and looked at draft classes of the Kansas City Chiefs since Andy Reid arrived in 2013, the same year that Nagy was appointed as the Chiefs QB coach. Reid has drafted 10 offensive lineman since 2013, including taking two or more offensive line three times (2013, 2014, and 2021), while also continuing to develop at a high rate.
3. Offensive Explosion and an NFC North title?
This would be sweet. After spending a few days attending training camp at Halas Hall, I can tell you that the Bears are ready to surprise some people heading into 2021. The defense appears to be due for a bounceback season but the offense needs to get going if the Bears are contending for the NFC North title in 2021.
Nothing is possible in the NFL, let’s be honest but if Andy Dalton is starting against the Los Angeles Rams in week one, Dalton will need to play nearly perfect every week if the Bears want to have a shot at winning the division. Justin Fields’ playmaking ability does give the Bears a slightly more explosive offense and that’s because Fields mobility and 4.4 40-yard dash makes the Bears offense lethal on RPO’s, especially when David Montgomery is in the backfield.
The Bears offense should be more explosive in 2021, regardless of who’s at quarterback, so buckle up because it’s about to be a fun season.
4. Young, emerging talent on the roster
First off, I really appreciate the two-part question here but I’m going to answer just the second question about young talent on the roster. There’s a lot so let’s start by looking at the Bears 2020 draft class. The Bears had seven draft picks and I do believe three players (Cole Kmet, Jaylon Johnson, and Darnell Mooney) will be part of the Bears’ core moving forward. Keep an eye on OLB Trevis Gipson and CB Kindle Vildor as two solid options who could develop into serviceable starters down the road.
I also like OL James Daniels, the 39th overall pick in the 2018 NFL Draft. If Daniels can stay healthy and put together a consistent season at left guard, he could earn a nice payday next offseason, cementing his status as a cornerstone of the offensive line. By the way, don’t forget Sam Mustipher, who’s looked faster and stronger throughout training camp. Mustipher has an opportunity to be a mainstay on the Bears’ offensive line, giving the Bears their first long-term starter at the Center position since Olin Kreutz.
Perhaps the most intriguing player on this list is 2021 undrafted free agent Charles Snowden, who has drawn comparisons to former Bears’ first-round pick Leonard Floyd. Snowden has been praised at training camp by coaches, which means that he could wind up as a hidden gem that develops into a contributor as early as 2022.
5. Let’s talk about CB2?
It’s hard to pick a winner right now when discussing CB2 for the Bears. It’ll come down to either Kindle Vildor or Desmond Trufant but I’d lean more towards Vildor, who’s drawn praise from coaches this offseason for his work ethic. Prior to training camp, Trufant being the surefire CB2 was something many expected, however, Trufant is only signed to a one-year deal worth $1M, with no guaranteed money, making him an easy cap casualty.
“Kindle showed that he belongs in this league, last year and the reps that he took last year,” Defensive Coordinator Sean Desai said via the Bears official YouTube channel. “So I think he’s going to have a chance to compete at various positions. We’re going to have a lot of competition at the nickel as well. We’ve had guys that have played there in games.”
It’s still early but Vildor appears to be pulling ahead each day and with a strong showing in preseason and over the final two weeks of training camp, Vildor will have an opportunity to win the race outright.