The Chicago Bears’ offseason brings another organizational reboot after a 12th consecutive season without a playoff win. Bears ownership are expected to spend the early part of the New Year searching for a fourth head coach since 2013. But replacing Matt Nagy is just the beginning of Chicago’s to-do list. The Bears also need to beef up a roster with limited draft picks to fill their team needs and a relatively tight salary cap situation to secure 2022 pending free agents.
Chicago Bears 2022 Offseason Preview
The Bears have just 32 players currently under contract in 2022. Fortunately, Justin Fields is one of them. They’ll endeavor to build around the second-year quarterback after an uneven but promising rookie season.
It’s hard to separate Fields’ struggles from Nagy’s scheme, which produced a bottom-five offense in each of his last three seasons. Unfortunately for the Bears, they aren’t exactly flush with resources to build around him — due, in no small part, to the significant price they had to pay to move up from 20 to 11 to draft him last April.
What’s more, the Bears cannot simply focus on offense this offseason after being far too generous on defense in 2021. Their defense has declined in each of the last two seasons. After being a top-five scoring defense in 2018 and 2019, they slipped to 14th and 20th in 2020 and 2021, respectively.
Chicago is in a tough spot. The team doesn’t exactly have the ammo to add the 20 or so quality players it needs to really compete, but it also doesn’t want to waste another year of Fields’ rookie contract.
Bears have $42.8 million in projected cap space
Source: Spotrac (as of Jan. 9)
To compete in 2022, the Bears need Khalil Mack to be both healthy and productive. He missed the Bears’ final 10 games of 2021 with season-ending foot surgery. Unless the Bears decide to trade him, Mack will likely be on the books again in 2022 with a staggering $30 million cap figure — almost all of which would convert to dead money if they cut him.
Between Mack and Pro Bowl edge rusher Robert Quinn, the Bears have nearly $50 million in 2022 cap obligations. The Bears better lead the league in sacks next year. There are other routes to opening cap space. They could save $3 million by moving on from Nick Foles and $2.25 million with Tarik Cohen.
Bears’ pending free agents
Pro Bowl returner/receiver Jakeem Grant Sr. is among the Bears’ roughly two-dozen unrestricted free agents. That long list also includes two talented receivers — Allen Robinson and Marquise Goodwin — who didn’t have the seasons either expected in 2021.
Defensive lineman Akiem Hicks, offensive linemen Germain Ifedi, Jason Peters, and James Daniels, and backup quarterback Andy Dalton are also amongst the Bears’ 2022 pending free agents. There are going to be a lot of areas that Chicago needs to address this year if a number of their free agents leave in the offseason.
How do the Bears’ free agents rank among the best available in 2022? Be sure out our list of top free agents available at each position to find out.
Bears’ team needs
The list of wide receivers currently projected to be on the Bears’ roster in 2022: Darnell Mooney. That’s it. That is something of a concern when your immediate future revolves around developing a young QB.
Furthermore, Chicago has just $16.6 million committed to their 2022 offensive line — which is roughly the amount that the Las Vegas Raiders have committed to Kolton Miller, who is projected to be just the 15th-highest-paid lineman in 2022. And that’s before a new flood of contracts that’ll come in free agency.
All three levels of the defense need serious investment. In the defensive backfield, they need more high-end play from their cornerbacks. They also need to look to the safety position, where Eddie Jackson is the only returning player right now.
In the front seven, there are concerns on the interior of the defensive line and at linebacker. Probably the only part of their defense that does not require attention is their pass rush.
Bears’ top five needs in the 2022 NFL offseason
- Wide receiver
- Interior offensive line
- Defensive tackle
Bears’ 2022 NFL Draft picks
The Bears shipped their first and fourth-round picks to the New York Giants in the draft-day trade that landed Chicago Fields. The Bears’ draft stockpile also reflects the compensation from the Anthony Miller trade. Chicago sent Miller and its 2022 seventh-round pick to Houston for the Texans’ 2022 fifth.
Here’s how the Bears’ 2022 NFL Draft picks currently stand according to the draft order:
- Round 2 (Pick 7)
- Round 3 (Pick 7)
- Round 5 (Pick 5 — from HOU & Pick 7)
- Round 6 (Pick 7)