Our Pledge To You

News

Searching for answers: Bears have questions at all positions to consider

Everyone talks at the NFL Scouting Combine. Scouts hang out with scouts, agents meet with teams and hundreds of media members descend on Indianapolis.

For the Bears and other teams, there is much to discover. It’s a time to find answers in a sea of misinformation.

RELATED STORIES
Mel Kiper Jr.: Notre Dame G Quenton Nelson, possible Bears draft target, a star
Bears let Jerrell Freeman walk

Here is a position-by-position look at some of the questions Bears general manager Ryan Pace and Co. have this year with the combine opening Wednesday.

Bears general manager Ryan Pace. (Tim Boyle/For the Sun-Times)

Quarterback: Who backs up Mitch Trubisky?

It’s not going to be Mike Glennon. Mark Sanchez? The Bears highly valued his contributions off the field, especially as an influence on Trubisky. But this is a new situation for Nagy. Alex Smith joined the Chiefs in his eighth season and missed only four starts in five seasons with Nagy and coach Andy Reid. Before the Chiefs drafted Patrick Mahomes in the first round last year, the team backed up Smith with Chase Daniel (three seasons) and Nick Foles (one season). Daniel’s entire eight-year career has been spent as a backup. He also is a free agent. Foles, meanwhile, will be a major topic of conversation at the combine after winning the Super Bowl with the Eagles.

Wide receiver: How much money should be spent on receivers?

The Bears’ decision-making starts with Cam Meredith, who is a restricted free agent. One league source suggested that Meredith is a prime candidate for a second-round tender, which will protect the Bears if another team signs him to an offer sheet. Meredith is returning from a torn anterior cruciate ligament, but he’s still one season removed from a productive season. It’s not an overly exciting year for free-agent receivers, especially after the Dolphins used the franchise tag on Jarvis Landry. But the Bears must add to their mix before the draft. See: Marqise Lee, Donte Moncrief, John Brown, Paul Richardson, Taylor Gabriel and Albert Wilson (a former Chief). Dontrelle Inman also is a candidate to return.

Offensive line: When will Kyle Long be healthy?

The Bears’ decision to cut veteran guard Josh Sitton was about more than money. It speaks to a strong rookie class of guards, Cody Whitehair’s versatility and also the Bears’ faith that Long will be in good health and ready for training camp following offseason neck and shoulder surgeries. In January, Long said on social media that his surgeries this offseason were complete. When healthy, Long is an All-Pro talent, but he started only 17 games over the past two seasons.

Running back: What if Saquon Barkley is available at No. 8?

It’s best to be prepared for everything in the draft. The NFL learned that last year when the Bears shocked everyone and drafted Trubisky. What if Barkley, the superstar running back from Penn State, falls to the No. 8 pick after a run on quarterbacks? Jordan Howard is productive and durable, but what if Barkley is viewed as special? Should the Bears draft him or trade back?

Tight end: How high should expectations be for Adam Shaheen in Year 2?

Under former coach John Fox, the Bears wanted to temper expectations for Shaheen. They wanted to manage his development, when it was arguably more important that he play and do more. All 12 of Shaheen’s catches last season came as an in-line tight end. Nagy knows what a good tight end means for an offense. Travis Kelce had 67 catches for 862 yards and five touchdowns for the Chiefs in his second season after being placed on injured reserve his rookie year with a knee injury. Kelce since has been named to the Pro Bowl in three consecutive seasons.

Special teams: Is there a long-term answer available at kicker?

One of Pace’s worst moves was releasing kicker Robbie Gould, though Fox and former special teams coordinator Jeff Rodgers were influential in that regrettable decision. Since then, the Bears have turned to Connor Barth, Cairo Santos and Mike Nugent.
It’s important not to underestimate the value of having stability at kicker. The Bears haven’t had it.

Cornerback: How much is Kyle Fuller worth?

Fuller’s market should emerge during the conversations his agent has at the combine. Of course, the Bears have been part of those conversations for some time. Cornerbacks always get paid on the open market, and Fuller is young (he turned 26 earlier this month) and capable (team-leading 22 pass breakups in 2017). Pace didn’t draft Fuller, but letting young, high-round picks who have played well get away is bad business. The franchise tag would appear to be a good option for Fuller, but the estimated cost of $15 million might be too much, though the tag could help lead to a long-term deal.

Defensive line: How much is Eddie Goldman worth?

From the Bears’ 2015 draft class, Goldman is the leading candidate for a second contract. It’s definitely not first-round pick Kevin White. Goldman, the 39th overall pick that year, started 32 of 36 games over three seasons. His strong play over 15 starts last season also eased concerns about his durability and fitness. How the Bears approach Goldman, who is entering the final year of his rookie contract, could set the stage for other draft picks and their second contracts.

Inside linebacker: Can Danny Trevathan stay healthy?

The Bears’ defense is better with Trevathan in the middle of it. But because of various injuries, he appeared in only 21 games over two seasons with the Bears, who signed him to a four-year, $28 million deal. Georgia linebacker Roquan Smith could be an option with the eighth overall pick.

Safety: Did Adrian Amos prove that he’s a long-term fixture?

Amos’ lofty rating from Pro Football Focus in 2017 doesn’t mean much to the Bears, but his productive season (six tackles for loss, one forced fumble, one fumble recovery, 90-yard pick-six) did help his cause after he fell out of favor. He earned his starting job back from veteran free-agent addition Quintin Demps and formed a strong pair with Eddie Jackson. Was it enough to earn the 2015 fifth-round pick a second contract? Time will tell.

Outside linebacker: How much help does Leonard Floyd need?

Once a strong position for the Bears, outside linebacker has become an old, slow one. Floyd is the only building block — and he has to prove he can stay on the field. The Bears were tied at seventh with 42 sacks last year, but outside linebackers accounted for only 18½ of them. Pernell McPhee and Willie Young are under contract, but they’ve struggled to stay healthy. The Bears have rushers to consider in the draft, starting with North Carolina State’s Bradley Chubb.

Follow me on Twitter
@adamjahns.

Email: ajahns@suntimes.com