Bears had holes to fill. How did they do?
Nick Foles is an upgrade over Chase Daniel as an option to Mitch Trubisky, but only time will tell if GM Ryan Pace made the right moves to fill voids at tight end, cornerback, safety, guard and receiver.
Even with his Super Bowl credentials, Nick Foles was an uninspiring acquisition to many fans as a potential replacement for Mitch Trubisky as the Bears’ starting quarterback. Tom Brady was a pipe dream. But Philip Rivers, Cam Newton and even Jameis Winston might have created more excitement.
On the Bears’ roster, however, Foles is a replacement for backup Chase Daniel, which is a significant upgrade. Besides being a more accomplished NFL quarterback, Foles is a legitimate seasonlong option to replace a faltering Trubisky, which Daniel was not.
That’s why the acquisition of Foles is No. 1 on the list of roster holes the Bears filled during the offseason. The Bears had six key roster spots to fill: cornerback (Prince Amukamara), safety (Ha Ha Clinton-Dix), tight end (Trey Burton), right guard (Kyle Long), wide receiver (Taylor Gabriel) and backup quarterback (Daniel). With players set to report Tuesday to Halas Hall, here’s a look at how well they filled them — on paper, at least:
Where Daniel was a mentor/coach for Trubisky, Foles is a true challenger. Already, the move has increased Trubisky’s focus.
‘‘I think I was kind of pissed off in a good way,’’ Trubisky said. ‘‘I’ve been motivated ever since.’’
So acquiring Foles gives the Bears two chances to improve at quarterback in 2020: a better Trubisky or a competent replacement with ‘‘skins on the wall’’ in Foles. For the Bears, that’s improvement.
Backup Deon Bush was an able replacement for injured Eddie Jackson in 2018 and could have filled the role. But the Bears found a better option in veteran Tashaun Gipson, a seven-year starter with the Browns, Jaguars and Texans, who has 23 career interceptions and three touchdowns.
Gipson is no sure thing. He battled through multiple injuries at 29 last season with the Texans. But he started 74 consecutive games before missing Weeks 8 and 9 last season. If he’s right, he has the playmaking ability to be a factor in this defense.
3. Tight end
The Bears’ tight ends in their finale last season against the Vikings were J.P. Holtz, Eric Saubert and Jesper Horsted. So if Jimmy Graham, Demetrius Harris and rookie Cole Kmet can stay healthy, they’ll be an upgrade.
Though Kmet is a second-round draft pick who might develop into a productive offensive weapon, Graham is the addition who could say the most about the Bears’ judgment in personnel.
A five-time Pro Bowl player, Graham’s production has declined in recent seasons despite playing with Russell Wilson and Aaron Rodgers, two of the most prolific quarterbacks in the game. But the Bears think their offensive scheme — in which the tight end is a more integral piece than in the Seahawks’ or Packers’ — will rejuvenate Graham’s career.
Kevin Toliver, an undrafted free agent in 2018, played well when he shared time with Amukamara at the end of last season. A touted college prospect before injuries stunted his career at LSU, Toliver has playmaking potential at the NFL level, especially in this defense.
Second-round draft pick Jaylon Johnson has many of the traits of a rookie starter who could develop into an immediate playmaker. The limitations of the COVID-19 quarantine might give Toliver an early edge, but if Johnson learns quickly, it might be only a matter of time before he wins the job.
5. Right guard
The Bears signed veteran Germain Ifedi to compete with Rashaad Coward for the starting job. Ifedi, a first-round draft pick by the Seahawks in 2016, started in all four seasons with them, including three playoff appearances.
Ifedi was considered an underachiever with the Seahawks, with penalty issues marring his play. But he played mostly tackle with them. The Bears will play him at right guard, arguably his best position, which might make a difference.
6. Wide receiver
The Bears have no established receivers behind Allen Robinson, so Gabriel’s departure is bigger than it should be. They’re counting on growth from Anthony Miller, Riley Ridley and Javon Wims to provide support. But the loss of Gabriel leaves a speed void.
The Bears took two rolls of the dice to fill it: veteran free agent Ted Ginn, who claims he is as fast as ever at 35, and fifth-round draft pick Darnell Mooney from Tulane, who ran a 4.38-second 40-yard dash at the scouting combine. Both have the potential to be productive, but many other parts of coach Matt Nagy’s offense likely will have to come through for that to happen.