The Chicago Bears cemented the direction of their team this offseason when general manager Phil Emery signed quarterback Jay Cutler to a long term deal that guarantees Cutler will be the quarterback for at least three more seasons, and under control for the next seven.
Emery may believe Cutler is the quarterback to get the Bears the Super Bowl ring that has escaped them the past 28 years. But there is still plenty of work to be done.
In year one of the new Cutler contract, the Bears are facing some major depth issues on their roster, especially on the defensive side of the football. Need proof? Start at the safety position. Starters Major Wright and Chris Conte faced the questioning of fans and media alike, especially Conte, who was rated amongst the worst starting safeties in the league in 2013.
Those were the starters.
Craig Steltz, who has been on the roster for what seems like forever, and has been a standout on special teams, only saw the field in situations when one of the safeties came off the field due to injury.
Emery locked up cornerback Tim Jennings with a four year deal this offseason, but that is about the only question the Bears don’t face at corner. Veteran Charles Tillman’s career seems to be at a crossroads, and it is unclear whether the corner who was injury plagued all season will return.
Isaiah Frey had a respectable year as the nickleback, but it is unlikely he would be able to shoulder the load of covering a teams second best receiver at this point in his career.
The Bears 2013 run defense was amongst the worst in league history, and the linebackers are a big reason for that. Lance Briggs faced injuries all season, leaving rookies Jon Bostic and Kaseem Greene to control the second line of defense. It led to the Bears allowing more than 150 yards per game on the ground. Not only are the Bears in need of an upgrade here, but questions come in about the backups, if that is what Bostic and Greene become.
A problem that has effected the Bears for the past couple seasons is the lack of pass rush they have gotten from their defensive line. The option to cut Julius Peppers is available this offseason, as the Bears will have to pay just a portion of his salary. While it will give the Bears even more financial flexibility, it won’t help with their pass rushing struggles. Henry Melton, who was franchised tagged and then got injured, is facing uncertainty because of the injury, along with an arrest at a Texas bar.
The fix for all of this isn’t normally a quick one. While the Bears will have money to spend in free agency, they will have to start by being productive far beyond the NFL average in the draft. Emery will need to likely hit on at least three, if not four, of his picks to start a turnaround on defense this season.
While Emery has hit on some offensive power in the draft, picks like Shea McClellin and Jon Bostic create questions of how effective Emery will be in the future at drafting on defense.
There is no secret that the offense is in a position to be good enough to win a championship. But where the Bears currently stand on defense, they don’t stand a chance. If Emery can turn that around in one season, GM of the year should be a lock.