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Offseason primer: A look at Bears' needs

Bears GM Ryan Pace, right, and coach John Fox spoke Monday about rebuilding the team this offseason. (AP)

Ryan Pace’s offseason is laid out in front of him.

“We’ve got about 32 percent of our team coming out of contract, so we’ve got a lot of important decisions to make,” the Bears GM said this week.

A good offseason starts with accurately evaluating your own players, he said, and that process began Tuesday.

“From there we’ll put our offseason plan in place,” he said. “It’s going to be fluid … We’ll be aggressive.

“It’s a big offseason, and we’re fortunate to have a healthy cap and extra picks.”

Here’s a primer on what the Bears could lose — and gain — in Pace’s second offseason with the team:

Unrestricted Free Agents

Here are the Bears that can sign elsewhere via free agency starting in March — listed alphabetically, with their 2015 cap number, per

1.OLB Sam Acho ($550,588) — Could be a quality special teams leader.

2.CB Alan Ball ($3M) — Unlikely to return.

3.OG Vladimir Ducasse ($665,000) — Eight penalties too many for a starter.

4.RB Matt Forte ($9.2M) — Forte looked as spry, when healthy.

5.TE Rob Housler ($175,294) — Played in the last four games.

6.WR Alshon Jeffery ($1.45M) — Likely to get the franchise tag or extension.

7.DL Jarvis Jenkins ($825,000) —Solid season should net him multi-year deal.

8.WR Marc Mariani ($660,000) — Wants to return, but could he play receiver more elsewhere?

9.S Sherrod Martin ($447,352) — Played only 24 defensive snaps.

10.ILB Shea McClellin ($2.63M) — Wants to stay at middle linebacker, here or elsewhere.

11.CB Sherrick McManis ($665,000) — Solid special teamer botched tackle against Vikings.

12.TE Zach Miller ($660,00) — Wants to be back, but, at 31, can he be a No. 1 tight end?

13.C Will Montgomery ($665,000) — Broke left fibula Oct. 6.

14.S Ryan Mundy ($1.5M) — After going on IR in preseason, the Bears gave away his number and locker.

15.CB Tracy Porter ($585,000) — Has earned a multi-year deal, even with injury history.

16.S Chris Prosinski ($481,764) — Started five times at safety.

17.RB Jacquizz Rodgers ($625,000) — Impressed before breaking his right arm October 12.

18.DL Mitch Unrein ($516,176) — Posted his best season after the Bears claimed him from the Chargers.

Restricted Free Agents

The Bears have right of first refusal on re-signing the following four players:

1.OT Nick Becton ($585,000) — Played four games on special teams.

2.OG Patrick Omameh ($496,000) — Started nine games.

3.ILB LaRoy Reynolds ($585,000) — Bears value his special teams ability.

4.WR Deonte Thompson ($660,000) — Average of 29.2 yards ranked fifth in NFL among regular kick returners.

Exclusive Rights Free Agent

The Bears have one player that they can keep at the veteran minimum; he’s not allowed to sign elsewhere:

1.WR Josh Bellamy ($435,000) — Special teams stalwart.

Key Dates

Jan. 18 — Deadline for underclassmen to declare for draft

Jan. 30 — Senior Bowl in Mobile, Ala.

Feb. 23-29 — NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis

March 1 — Deadline to name Franchise or Transition Tag players

March 7 — Teams can start negotiating with agents of unrestricted free agents, and can sign them two days later.

April 28 — Start of NFL Draft at Auditorium Theatre

July 15 — Deadline to sign Franchise Tag player to multi-year deal

What they need

Ranking the Bears’ needs:

1.Inside linebacker: Shea McClellin is a pending free agent and the rotation of Christian Jones, Jonathan Anderson and John Timu was unsatisfying.

2.Defensive line: If Mitch Unrein and Jarvis Jenkins depart, the Bears will have two ends left who started a game last season: Ego Ferguson, who was injured and later suspended, and Will Sutton. Eddie Goldman seems set at nose.

3.Outside linebacker: Even if Willie Young is the answer, he’s entering the final year of his deal.

4.Offensive line: The Bears are missing one piece — A left tackle? Right guard? — that could, combined with an improved Kyle Long, elevate the unit.

5.Cornerback: Whether they re-sign Tracy Porter or add someone else, they need to improve a defense that had a franchise-low 17 takeaways.

6.Tight end: Zach Miller is a free agent and Martellus Bennett could be moved.

7.Wide receiver: If the Bears re-sign Alshon Jeffery and Kevin White returns to health, they’ll be set.

8.Safety: The Bears can walk away from Antrel Rolle at no cost.

9.Quarterback: Jay Cutler has settled in, but the Bears could draft his eventual replacement.

10.Running back: Even if Matt Forte bolts, Jeremy Langford and Ka’Deem Carey could hold their own.

11.Kickers: Robbie Gould struggled with big field goals but got better at kickoffs. Punter Pat O’Donnell was fine.

Cap space

The Bears have money to spend.

Assuming the 2016 salary cap settles in at $154 million, the Bears have the $59.16 million in cap space available, according to That’s the second-most in the league.

Top 10 free agents

1.OLB Von Miller, Broncos — Had 11 sacks and four forced fumbles this season.

2.DE Muhammad Wilkerson, Jets —Surgery on his broken right leg this week complicates free agency.

3.CB Josh Norman, Panthers — NFL Defensive Player of the Year?

4.S Eric Berry, Chiefs — Has two interceptions and 10 pass defenses in his return from cancer.

5.OT Cordy Glenn, Bills — A franchise tag candidate.

6.S Eric Weddle, Chargers — Ugly divorce from only team he’s known.

7.DE Jason Pierre-Paul, Giants — Mangled his right hand with in a July 4 fireworks accident, but returned to play eight games.

8.RB Doug Martin, Buccaneers — Finished the regular season No. 2 in rushing.

9.QB Kirk Cousins, Redskins — Had a career year. “You like that?”

10.CB Janoris Jenkins, Rams — Coming off career year.

Four free agents with John Fox ties:

1.OLB Von Miller, Broncos — No way Broncos let him walk.

2.DL Malik Jackson, Broncos — Had 5 ½ sacks and one safety this season.

3.LB Danny Trevathan, Broncos — Led the Broncos in tackles in 2013 and 2015, with injuries in between.

4.DT Terrance Knighton, Redskins — “Pot Roast” took a one-year deal with the Redskins after playing for Fox.

Feeling a draft

Here’s who the (ridiculously early) mock drafts predict the Bears taking with the No. 11 pick: Alabama LB Reggie Ragland, the AP Defensive Player of the Year. Oregon DE DeForest Buckner, the Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Year. Georgia OLB Leonard Floyd, a Butkus Award finalist

Top spenders last offseason

The top eight spenders last offseason, and how their records changed:

Team, Money Spent/2014/2015

1. Jets $181.3M/4-12/10-6

2. Jaguars $175M/3-13/5-11

3. Dolphins $153.9M/8-8/6-10

4. Raiders $146.3M/3-13/7-9

5. Titans $131M/2-14/3-13

6. Eagles $121.8M/10-6/7-9

7. Chiefs $89.9M/9-7/11-5

8. Bears $84.7M/5-11/6-10

Four Bears that earned a raise:

1.CB Tracy Porter: Porter recovered from a preseason hamstring injury to appear in 14 games; only once, in 2013, did he play in more during a season.

2.DE Jarvis Jenkins: Forced to sign on a minimum-salary benefit because he wasn’t a pass rusher, he doubled his career sack total with four.

3.WR Marc Mariani: Jay Cutler’s third-down security blanket had 22 catches for 300 yards after totaling five receptions in his career.

4.TE Zach Miller: The season’s feel-good story, Miller played for the first time since 2011 and registered 34 catches for 439 yards and five touchdowns.