Columnist Court Weston will be breaking down the team needs for all 32 NFL teams this off-season. Next up, the Bears…
1. Running Back – Chicago cannot afford to lose Matt Forte. Forte is a beast of a running back, and before his injury, he accounted for nearly half of the team’s total offensive yardage. To say Forte is vital to the Bears is an understatement – he is an absolute necessity. Priority No. 1 this offseason is to re-sign the 6-foot-2, 218-pounder. Before suffering a knee injury in Week 12, Forte was on pace to rush for over 1,430 yards, as well as more than 530 yards receiving. It is surprising Chicago did not sign Forte to an extension during the season, and to let the star running back walk in free agency would be devastating.
2. Wide Receiver – It is no secret that Jay Cutler wants more talented targets to throw to in the Windy City, and the 2012 free agent wideout class is deep enough to allow his wishes to be granted. Roy Williams should not be a No. 1 receiver in the NFL, and although Devin Hester is arguably the best return man in history, he should not be in the starting lineup at the position. Look for the Bears to sign a legitimate wideout through free agency, and potentially draft one (perhaps LSU’s Rueben Randle) with the 19th pick.
3. Left Tackle – If Chicago does not take a receiver with its first round pick, and Stanford’s Jonathan Martin is still on the board, look for the Bears to address the left tackle position. Martin, or a starting-caliber free agent, would be an upgrade over J’Marcus Webb as a blindside protector. Even if Martin is not available, Chicago should draft a left tackle within the first three rounds.
4. Safety – Both Brandon Merriweather and Craig Steltz are free agents this year, and losing both safeties would be detrimental. Look for the Bears to re-sign at least one of the two and add depth at the position through the draft and/or free agency.
5. Tight End – Tight ends are becoming increasingly important to offensive game plans. More than any other position, the growth of the tight end, from being primarily used in the blocking scheme to a legitimate receiving threat, is unmatched. The problem is that the Bears lost their elite tight end (Greg Olson) to Carolina during the 2011 offseason, and although Kellen Davis is a beast at 6-foot-7 and 267 pounds, he is not known for his hands. This year’s free agent tight end class has already been depleted by the re-signings of Jermichael Finley with Green Bay and Fred Davis with Washington. Chicago could pursue a definite upgrade in Buffalo’s Scott Chandler, but Chandler is nowhere near elite. Clemson’s Dwayne Allen is the best tight end in this year’s draft, but he may not be worth using a mid-first round pick on, and he might be off the board by the time the Bears’ second round selection comes. Without the knowledge of which picks will be traded come draft day, Stanford’s Coby Fleener will most likely be available for Chicago’s taking.
Previously: The San Diego Chargers
Next: The Tennessee Titans