Every Chicago Bears 2021 mock offseason needs to have a theme. Thus far we’ve explored the idea of a soft reboot. Then we looked at the idea of a complete rebuild. So maybe it’s time to dig into another slight variance in possibility. One where the Bears do something with the front office structure they haven’t done since the early 1970s.

Namely opt for somebody that is the complete opposite of what Ryan Pace represented when he arrived back in 2015. No, it’s not a return to the old school thinking of running the ball and all that. It’s more about going against a trend that has held true for probably too long in the past several years. Especially given the lack of football experience the McCaskeys have.

Take a look to find out.

This Chicago Bears 2021 mock offseason leans on experience

Front office and coaching changes:

Rick Smith hired to replace Ryan Pace as GM

One thing that has remained consistent for the Bears in their prior GM hires over the years? They always go for guys who have never held the job before. All first-timers. Safe to say that trend hasn’t done them a lot of favors. Maybe it’s time for them to consider going after a veteran of the job and there are few better in the business than Rick Smith.

He was GM for the Houston Texans from 2006 to 2017. During that time, his track record was almost untouchable when it came to the draft. Among his biggest finds included Mario Williams, Duane Brown, J.J. Watt, Brandon Brooks, DeAndre Hopkins, and Deshaun Watson. This doesn’t include undrafted free agent Arian Foster or veteran free agent Johnathan Joseph. The way he was pushed out of town despite his team making the playoffs four the past six seasons was truly unfair.

Robert Saleh hired to replace Matt Nagy as head coach

Smith has connections to Saleh. He was an assistant coach in Houston for a number of years before beginning his climb up the ladder. San Francisco made him their defensive coordinator in 2017 and he’s done a tremendous job transforming that unit into one of the NFL’s best. It was 2nd in the NFL last season and is 7th this year despite a myriad of injuries. Not to mention losing star defensive tackle DeForest Buckner in a trade.

Reports say that the 41-year old has a strong philosophical foundation that he sticks to. He’s also analytical and works based on evidence. He can clearly keep his guys motivated in tough times as well. Couple that with plenty of connections to good offensive coaches around the league? It’s hard not to like what he offers.

Cuts:

  • Jimmy Graham – $7 million saved
  • Charles Leno Jr. – $6.2 million saved
  • Buster Skrine – $2.8 million saved

Not a ton of change from previous versions. Graham and Skrine are progressing in age and losing their overall effectiveness. They aren’t worth the money they’re being paid. Leno Jr. hasn’t been terrible but this team needs money and a serious overhaul at the tackle positions. They get more by cutting him over Bobby Massie. Sometimes it’s that simple.

Salary cap: $18.48 million

Trades:

Kyle Fuller to the Dolphins for a 2nd round pick

Miami is positioning themselves to really become a player in the AFC within the next year. Xavien Howard is already a stud at cornerback for them. So why not give their secondary a true lockdown feel by adding Fuller. No only do they have the money to afford his contract, they also have two 2nd round picks next year. So it wouldn’t be a huge hit to their coffers by giving one up to get him. The Bears end up with desperately needed cap space and another draft pick.

Allen Robinson to the Giants for OT Matt Peart and a 4th round pick

The Giants have their left tackle of the future in Andrew Thomas. Peart was more insurance than anything but managed to play well when given opportunities. New York sorely needs more firepower opposite Darius Slayton for Daniel Jones. Robinson is a fan of Slayton’s so the two would probably get along well. The Giants get another weapon for their QB and the Bears get an extremely talented 23-year old tackle with scary upside.

Salary cap: $28.43 million

Re-signings/Extensions:

Akiem Hicks – 2-year extension for $20 million ($5 million 2021 cap hit)

Since the defensive line is what drives the 4-3 defense, which Saleh would implement, then keeping good linemen is never a bad thing. Hicks is the best the Bears’ have. His presence on the interior is vital but they need help with his cap hit. So they give him a slight extension. Some extra guaranteed money in exchange for a nice reduction to the cap.

Cairo Santos – 3-year deal for $12.3 million ($3 million 2021 cap hit)

Talk about a career turnaround. Santos was viewed as nothing more than an emergency option when the Bears signed him due to Eddy Pineiro’s injury. Now the 28-year old has played so well he’s earned the right to kick for them beyond this season. This extension gives him and the team long-term security.

Tashaun Gipson – 2-year deal for $6 million

Easily one of the biggest surprises of the 2020 free agency class. Chicago got him for pennies and the veteran safety has delivered. He’s getting up there in years but this extension gives him a pay bump and the team an early exit in case he can’t duplicate the results moving forward.

Mario Edwards – 3-year deal for $9 million

The other cheap free agent addition who has overachieved. Edwards isn’t a full-time starter but he might be one of the best rotational pass rushers out there. Somebody who is good for three or four legitimate pressures or hits on the quarterback every week.

  • J.P. Holtz – ERFA tender for $850,000
  • Alex Bars – ERFA tender for $850,000
  • DeAndre Houston-Carson – 1-year for $990,000
  • Josh Woods – ERFA tender for $850,000
  • Brent Urban – 1-year for $1.075 million
  • Daniel McCullers – 1-year for $1.075 million
  • Patrick Scales – 1-year for $990,000

Expect the Bears to opt for a lot of cheap depth wherever possible. They aren’t likely to spend big in free agency with Smith. He’s typically a guy who puts his focus on the draft. All of the names listed above have played well in their limited opportunities this year and should be retainable at low prices.

Salary cap: $19.25

Free agency:

Josh Reynolds – 3-year deal for $27 million ($4 million 2021 cap hit)

He hasn’t been the focal point of the Rams offense but when given chances, Reynolds has stood out. He’s a big guy at 6’3 with underrated speed to attack down the field. It looks like his best years are ahead of him. He has 416 yards on just 48 targets this season. For context? That is more than both Anthony Miller and Darnell Mooney who each has over 55 targets. He isn’t Robinson but Reynolds is a talented player.

Mike Pouncey – 2-year deal for $12 million ($4 million 2021 cap hit)

The Bears haven’t really been able to settle the center position for years. Cody Whitehair has been fine at times but remains too inconsistent. Kicking him out to guard might be for the best. Pouncey has a history of health issues but when he’s on the field, he is still one of the better centers in the NFL. His veteran presence would be most welcome.

Taco Charlton – 1-year deal for $2 million

The former 1st round pick just hasn’t quite flipped the switch in his career to this point. He flashed some promise last year in Miami but hasn’t done much since going to Kansas City. One thing Saleh is pretty good about is getting the most from his defensive linemen. He might succeed where others have failed.

Salary cap: $9.25 million

The Draft:

1st Round – Wyatt Davis, OG, Ohio State

Some will ask the question. If the Bears are planning to move Whitehair to guard, why draft one? The answer is simple. He’s done nothing to warrant being handed a starting spot. This offense is a mess and he is a contributor to that. So it’s time for him to deal with competition and boy is Wyatt Davis some legit competition.

This is the sort of guy people are scared to run into in a back alley. Big, powerful, and downright mean. He loves to massacre defensive linemen at every opportunity and is a force in the run game. He’s athletic enough to handle his business in pass protection too. If used correctly, he has Pro Bowls in his future.

2nd Round – Mac Jones, QB, Alabama

It’s never easy to find capable quarterbacks outside the 1st round. The Bears weren’t in a position to grab one, so they waited for an opportunity later on. Mac Jones has plenty to work with at Alabama but he’s still shown himself to be smart, poised, and accurate in all situations. He executes well despite having a fairly average body and arm. Provided he has a decent line and a few adequate weapons, he can win some football games.

2nd Round (via MIA) – Amon-Ra St. Brown, WR, USC

His size won’t blow anybody away but he plays with a lot of physicality and runs quality routes off the line of scrimmage. His acceleration and speed are enough to where he can create consistent separation against any coverage. Better still he’s shown to be a threat after the catch. Once he masters the NFL playbook, he should be a steady threat every Sunday.

3rd Round – Walker Little, OT, Stanford

Even if Bobby Massie is safe for the time being, the Bears should be smart with thinking about life after him. While not the premier athlete for a tackle, Walker Little makes up for it with imposing size (6’7, 310 lbs) and polished technique. Edge defenders won’t fool him with much of anything. He has that look of a right tackle and if he can learn to play with proper bend he can be a good one.

4th Round (via NYG) – DeAngelo Malone, EDGE, Western Kentucky

Productivity speaks for itself. A total of 17 sacks in 23 games at the time of writing this. He has the burst and bend that NFL pass rushers need. Better still the motor never seems to stop. He’s a guy who plays with lots of energy. His big key will be adding mass. At 230 lbs he is considerably light for a 4-3 defensive end.

5th Round – Jack Sanborn, LB, Wisconsin

Another position group that will need some tweaks is linebacker. It won’t just be Roquan Smith and Danny Trevathan anymore. Sanborn has the needed size and athleticism to play the SAM linebacker spot in a 4-3 alignment. He also has plenty of instincts for the position with an added knack for blitzing. His three interceptions in 2019 also prove he can play coverage too.

6th Round – Tony Poljan, TE, Virginia

With Jimmy Graham exiting, the tight end room will pretty much be led by Cole Kmet. However, he is a Y-type guy. The Bears will still want somebody in the “U” position that Graham occupied. Tony Poljan has that great mix of athleticism, size, and speed that can make him a threat in the passing game. Even better? He’s a former QB so he understands how to read coverages. A similar advantage Travis Kelce enjoys.

7th Round (via MIA) – Ian Book, QB, Notre Dame

There is no shame in taking multiple stabs at the quarterback position. Especially for this team. Book isn’t a physical specimen. He’s short at 6’0 and has an average arm. Yet he has great mobility, poise, and a natural playmaking instinct that is hard to deny. If he can learn to play with a quick processor from inside the pocket? He may have a chance.

As this Chicago Bears 2021 mock offseason goes, it’s a fun story to end on.