Tuesday, January 25, 2022

Chicago Bears 2022 Mock Offseason: Flushing The Turds

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With the season at 3-7 and pretty much over, it’s time to look ahead. Thus the first Chicago Bears 2022 mock offseason has arrived. Everybody should know what is coming. There isn’t much to say. The organization is going in the wrong direction. It is about to endure its eighth non-winning season in nine years. The roster is old, banged up, and way too expensive. Yet simply wiping the slate clean though isn’t quite that simple.



Sweeping changes across the roster aren’t likely to happen next year. Too many contracts carry a ton of dead money if that happens. So the likely outcome is a few subtractions are made and the team tries to ride it out until 2023 when they can really cut out the excess fat. However, there is one place in the power structure that can be purged and that is where it is likely to happen.

This Chicago Bears 2022 mock offseason is about budgeting

Coaching and Front office changes:

Ryan Pace replaced by Ravens director of player personnel Joe Hortiz

The Bears got a taste of what a well-run organization can do on Sunday when the Ravens, who were incredibly depleted by injuries, still managed to beat them at Soldier Field. It was a testament both to their depth of talent as well as their coaching. So why not dip into both? Hortiz has been a mainstay of the Ravens’ front office since 2009, first as their director of college scouting and then player personnel. In that span, he has helped Baltimore select 13 eventual Pro Bowl players headlined by Lamar Jackson, Mark Andrews, and Marlon Humphrey.

Matt Nagy replaced by Ravens offensive coordinator Greg Roman

One could easily make a case that Roman is long overdue for his shot at the job. He was highly successful in San Francisco, helping the 49ers reach three NFC championship games including the Super Bowl in 2012. Since that time he has developed a reputation for two things. Dominant rushing attacks and being able to maximize the abilities of athletic quarterbacks. Colin Kaepernick, Tyrod Taylor, and Lamar Jackson have all thrived under his guidance. He’s experienced, battle-tested, and has solid connections around the NFL in order to build a strong staff.

Cuts:

Nick Foles

The Bears really aren’t in a great position to do many notable cuts. Not without incurring a significant amount of dead cap. Something Hortiz would likely try to avoid. Still, they need to secure some extra cap space somewhere. Foles has served as a capable mentor and backup to Justin Fields but his price tag is too high at this point.

Tarik Cohen

This is such a sad story. Cohen was one of the top playmakers on offense for the Bears. A true spark plug. Then he suffered that devastating knee injury. The fact he still hasn’t returned is a major red flag. It is a safe bet the new regime won’t be wild about continuing to pay money to what might be a permanently damaged running back.

Danny Trevathan (post-June 1st)

This move won’t help the Bears’ cap in 2022 free agency but it’s still necessary. Trevathan is aging and can’t stay healthy anymore. His peak years are over and it’s time for the team to move on. He was a tremendous player and leader from 2015 to 2020. A big reason they became a contender in 2018.

Salary cap: $46.74 million

Re-signings/Extensions:

Roquan Smith – 5-year extension for $99 million (lowers 2022 cap hit to $5 million)

The most important order of business for the Bears this offseason is securing their future on defense. Smith has played like a superstar this season, notching 110 tackles in just 10 games. At age 24, he is entering his prime. There is no doubt he is the face of the defense as it prepares to undergo a considerable transition in the near future. This deal makes him the highest-paid linebacker in the sport. A payday he has earned.

James Daniels – 4-year deal for $32 million (2022 cap hit of $4 million)

Despite constantly having to shift from one offensive line spot to another, this Chicago Bears 2022 mock offseason still rewards Daniels with what he deserves. While the money ($8 million per year) probably isn’t the bank-breaker he was hoping for, it’s still a solid contract for a 24-year old. He’ll have another chance to cash in a few years down the line and the team manages to maintain stability up front for Justin Fields.

Bilal Nichols – 3-year deal for $24 million (2022 cap hit of $4 million)

Another member of the 2018 draft class gets rewarded. Nichols isn’t having the statistical year he probably hoped for after collecting a career-high five sacks in 2020. That said, he remains a valued member of the defensive line and like Daniels gets a solid new contract for $8 million per year. Within a year that will be chump change when the salary cap spikes.

Sam Mustipher – 1-year ERFA tender for $895,000

Is he a dominant force in the middle? No. That said, Mustipher has proven more than serviceable in the middle for the Bears. He’s smart, aware, and tough. While he’ll always be limited in terms of strength, the fact is he is dirt cheap to keep and gives the team more time to seek a long-term replacement if they wish.

Alec Ogletree – 1-year deal for $1.12 million

With Trevathan on his way out, the team has to make sure they maintain depth at inside linebacker. Ogletree has played adequately next to Smith this season and won’t be expensive to keep another year. Perhaps promising rookie Caleb Johnson can battle him for the starting job next summer.

  • DeAndre Houston-Carson – 1-year deal for $1.035 million
  • Marquise Goodwin – 1-year deal for $1.12 million
  • Elijah Wilkinson – 1-year deal for $1.035 million
  • Alex Bars – 1-year deal for $965,000
  • Joel Iyiegbuniwe – 1-year deal for $1.035 million
  • Jesper Horsted – 1-year ERFA tender for $895,000
  • Pat O’Donnell – 1-year deal for $1.75 million
  • Patrick Scales – 1-year deal for $1.035 million

The rest of these deals are all minimum ones. A byproduct of the Bears’ unfortunate cap situation.  Houston-Carson and Iyiegbuniwe are excellent depth and special teams members. Goodwin gives the offense some needed options at wide receiver with Allen Robinson leaving. Wilkinson should make a solid swing tackle behind Larry Borom and Teven Jenkins. The same goes for Bars at guard and Horsted at tight end.

Salary cap: $32.585 million

Free agency:

Michael Gallup – 4-year deal for $50.4 million (2022 cap hit of $8 million)

People might actually riot if this Chicago Bears 2022 mock offseason doesn’t do something about the receiver problem. Have no fear. The team should have opportunities to tackle it. With Darnell Mooney being their only viable option given Robinson’s likely departure? Adding Gallup to the mix is far too logical. His mixture of savvy route running and excellent hands make him a perfect complement to Mooney’s speed. While he might be the #3 option in Dallas, he’s fully capable of being at #2 guy

Jordan Whitehead – 3-year deal for $18.6 million (2022 cap hit of $4 million)

Chicago hasn’t been able to find that long-term wingman next to Eddie Jackson since Adrian Amos left. That true strong safety who can make noise down in the box. At last, they find their guy in Whitehead. He is a true thumper. Somebody who plays downhill and is a constant presence against the run. While not a coverage specialist, he can be serviceable most of the time. He would finally allow Jackson to do what he does best.

Salary cap: $20.585 million

The Draft:

Trade – Jets send 51st pick and two 4th round picks in 2021 for 39th pick

2nd round (via NYJ) – David Bell, WR, Purdue

Some guys you can tell are just really good football players. That is the case with Bell. He’s been one of the best players on the field from the moment he stepped on it for the Boilermakers. He had over 1,000 yards as a freshman and is now at 1,207 so far this season. The young man has all the tools you look for. Size, strength, hands, and route running skill. While not a true burner in terms of speed, that rarely matters as the guy will make the play almost every time you put it in his remote vicinity.

3rd round – Alex Forsyth, C, Oregon

The Bears may likely seek competition for Sam Mustipher if the opportunity arises. That is indeed what happens here. Forsyth has good size for a center at 6’4, 305 lbs and couples it with a mixture of solid strength and a polished technical game. He is at his best in pass protection, rarely giving up much ground. However, like Mustipher he is dogged by questions about his power. Something he is working to improve.

4th round (via NYJ) – John Ridgeway, DT, Arkansas

The exit of Akiem Hicks is going to hurt the Bears defense. Make no mistake about it. That said, their defensive line should still be serviceable with Nichols and Eddie Goldman leading the way. Still, they need to feed the pipeline with more young talent. Ridgeway is an intriguing specimen. He’s only played one season at Arkansas with two sacks and four tackles for a loss. However, his 6’6, 320 lbs frame and considerable athleticism flash quite often on tape. With more refinement, he has a high ceiling.

4th round (via NYJ) – Jalyn Armour-Davis, CB, Alabama

When in doubt? Just draft players from Alabama. It works out more often than you’d think. That is kind of a joke but also kind of not. Armour-Davis doesn’t have near the buzz as previous Crimson Tide cornerbacks, but he’s quietly had a good year with three interceptions. He has the size and athletic profile to be a solid starting NFL corner. A perfect #2 across from Jaylon Johnson.

5th round (via HOU) – Coby Bryant, CB, Cincinnati

Two corners back to back? That is how bad the Bears have been in coverage this year. Kindle Vildor is a mess and Duke Shelley is way too inconsistent. So Hortiz decides to double-dip. Bryant has the desired size, length, and nose for the football teams tend to covet. His awareness and aggression are both enticing as well. Teams will just have to live with the fact he isn’t blazing fast and might get beat deep from time to time.

5th round – Jake Haener, QB, Fresno State

With both Foles and Dalton gone, the Bears need to find some depth behind Fields at quarterback. Haener has had a strong 2021, throwing for 28 touchdowns and nine interceptions while having some impressive outings against Oregon and UCLA. Haener plays the game with poise and accuracy, not to mention some unexpected grit. The kid loves to engineer comebacks. His arm strength isn’t bad but at 6’1 there will be some size concerns with him.

6th round – Noah Gindorff, TE, North Dakota State

This is a classic case of not getting lost in the stats. Gindorff hasn’t been overly productive for the Bison, but that is more due to the program just not using tight ends much in their offense. The kid is 6’6, 265 lbs with a wide catch radius and understated athleticism. He knows how to block. A big requirement in that run-first offense. He is capable of more though.

Erik Lambert
Educated to be a writer at the prestigious Columbia College in Chicago, Erik has spent the past 10 years covering the Bears.

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