Now that the Chicago Bears ended their 2022 season, general manager Ryan Poles now begins the real work of overhauling the roster.
The Chicago Bears ended their 2022 season by doing the same thing they did for the previous nine weeks — they lost.
This was a difficult season for the team and its fans. There were many disappointments and frustrations. However, there were some positives as well.
With the loss, the Bears finished the season with a 3-14 record. Now, the real work begins. General manager Ryan Poles begins the task of really overhauling the roster. Their record earned them the top overall pick in the 2023 NFL Draft. That is a big help. Poles can use the pick but he could also trade it and amass other picks not only in this draft but in future drafts.
Additionally, Poles will have the biggest wallet in the NFL when free agency begins in March. He shipped out a lot of veterans last offseason and replaced them with low-salary players. Now Poles and the Bears will have north of $125 million in salary cap space. That is close to $50 million more than the next team. Whatever free agent Poles wants he can be in on.
Poles said he wanted to have the flexibility to make moves. With eight draft picks (likely more when the draft comes up) and the most salary cap space, he certainly has that.
What moves does Poles make?
Now that the games are over and Poles has the flexibility to make whatever moves he wants, what does he actually do?
Well, let’s go by what Poles said during his first press conference after the Chicago Bears hired him. He said he wants to build through the draft first. Then he wants to use free agency to fill in.
Poles only had five draft picks when he took over in Chicago. He turned those into 11 picks. He still managed to keep his two highest picks, two of them in the second round.
Now he has eight picks. With them having the worst record, they will pick first in nearly every round. The top overall pick could bring in a number of picks from quarterback-needy teams. Not only that, teams who covet certain prospects can guarantee picking them by trading for the top pick in a round. Poles can end up with a treasure trove of extra picks and could still have a first-round pick, something that’s been rare for them in recent years.
With those picks, Pole can build a team that can become a consistent contender.
In terms of free agency, there are many moves Poles can make. First, he needs to determine which of his current players he re-signs. Of course, the biggest name out there is David Montgomery.
Montgomery is a free agent when the new league year begins. Do the Bears keep him in the fold or let him walk? Montgomery did everything the Bears have ever asked of him and was a leader in the locker room. Despite playing on some bad teams, he continued to play hard. Additionally, he never complained when Khalil Herbert received more attention.
Having a good duo with Herbert and Montgomery could help the Bears continue to have the best rushing attack in the NFL. Of course, quarterback Justin Fields was a big part of that. However, the Bears want to see more passing than running from him. Yes, his running ability is an asset. He shouldn’t be the team’s leading rusher, though.
Then there is the offensive line. The line struggled once again. Poles needs to decide how to rebuild the unit. If the Bears want to have Fields improve his passing he needs to stay upright.
The offensive line has given up 58 sacks in each of the past two seasons. That has to improve. The Bears like what they have in Braxton Jones. He looks like a starter for years to come.
There is also Teven Jenkins. Jenkins had a roller coaster of an offseason. He landed at right guard and did a good job. However, the injury bug hit again and he missed four games and parts of others due to injuries. Can he be depended on to stay healthy?
The wide receivers unit is also in need of an overhaul. They could not get open quickly enough for Fields to trust them. Poles has to decide who stays and who goes. He already extended Equanimeous St. Brown for one more season. Additionally, Darnell Mooney and Byron Pringle likely return. Mooney is the team’s best receiver and Pringle is a favorite of Poles. Pringle suffered injuries that limited him to just 11 games. Poles wants to make sure Pringle gets a better opportunity to show why he signed him. Look for Poles to use free agency and the draft to solidify the unit to give Fields the weapons to succeed.
On defense, Poles did a nice job of improving the secondary. He added Kyler Gordon and Jaquan Brisker with his two second-round picks. With Eddie Jackson having a resurgent season (before an injury cut short his season), the secondary went from a liability to a strength.
However, the defensive front did not pressure the quarterback enough. The Bears finished last in the league in sacks and quarterback knockdowns. Also, they ranked 31st in pressure. Quarterbacks were able to stand in the pocket for as long as they could and find open receivers.
Poles has to build up the front seven so opposing quarterbacks know they’ll be in for a long game when they play the Chicago Bears.
Additionally, Poles needs to work on the linebackers unit. With Roquan Smith traded (and receiving the biggest contract for a linebacker in NFL history) the unit took a hit. Jack Sanborn did a pretty good job in Smith’s absence but Poles needs to determine if it was good enough for him to be a key part of the defense.
Poles has a big task in front of him. However, this is exactly what he wanted. He set the foundation for the rebuild with what he did this past offseason. Things fell into place for him. Now Poles has the opportunity to make the proper decisions and begin a new era of winning that Chicago Bears fans sorely want.
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