We continue our team-by-team look at the needs of the 32 NFL teams, with the goal of getting them all done before what undoubtedly will be the first chance to fill those needs — the 2011 draft.
Up next? The defending NFC North champions, who surely would have preferred the prize ultimately won by the team that finished second in the division.
WR: The Bears did fairly well in 2010, despite having a substandard set of wideouts. None generated 1,000 receiving yards, and only one managed more than 50 catches. (Johnny Knox had 51.) Stubbornly refusing to attempt to upgrade the position last offseason, the Bears probably will take their chances once again with Knox, Devin Hester, Earl Bennett, and whoever else they can muster. They shouldn’t. Since it’s rare for a rookie to make a major impact, free agency could be the best route. But that shouldn’t stop them from trying to find a first-year player who can be groomed into an effective veteran contributor.
OL: Mike Tice eventually made chicken salad last year. Imagine how good the line could be if Tice were starting the season with something other than chicken sh-t.
DT: With Tommie Harris gone, the Bears need at least one extra body at the position. With Julius Peppers drawing plenty of attention after a solid first season with the Bears, there’s a chance for the interior linemen to blossom. If they have enough who can take advantage of playing next to or near Peppers.
RB: Matt Forte generated big numbers in 2010, but not the kind of crazy stats that the Dick Vermeil/Mike Martz offense has produced with guys like Marshall Faulk in St. Louis and Priest Holmes in Kansas City. The Bears should draft a guy who could be groomed to become the full-service run-pass option after Forte. If Martz is still with the team by then.
CB: No team in the NFC North can have too many quality corners, given the presence of quarterbacks like Aaron Rodgers, Matthew Stafford, and Jay Cutler. The Bears don’t have to worry about Cutler (at least not in the way they have to worry about an opposing quarterback). But they do have to worry about Rodgers and Stafford, and they need to beef up the position. Charles Tillman is now 30, and Nathan Vasher is long, long gone. Tim Jennings performed well in his first year with the team after arriving from Indianapolis, taking over a starting job in Week Four and never letting it go. Still, the Bears need to be able to better contain the likes of Greg Jennings and Calvin Johnson twice per year.
QB: The lack of a capable veteran backup blew up in the Bears’ faces during the NFC title game. Though it makes no sense to spend (waste) another low-round pick on a guy like Dan LeFevour, they need to be thinking about an established No. 2 player who will be able to get it done. With all due respect to Caleb Hanie, who performed admirably after Jay Cutler left the NFC title game, he’s not the guy the Bears need if Cutler ends up missing multiple weeks.
Overview: The Bears followed their 2006 NFC title with three years of missed playoffs. To avoid that fate again, they need to address their weaknesses head on.
If they don’t, another down year or two finally could result in a new coaching staff, and a new front office.