Friday, April 3, 2009

Bears, Oh My!

I think I gave a little short shrift to the Bears in our discussion yesterday. Partly because of my linear writing, partly because at first blush the Broncos have had a much more interesting off-season. With 9 picks in the first 90 the next two years Denver can go ahead and draft themselves an entire new defense to wrap around D.J. Williams and Champ Bailey if they wish, so yeah, interesting. But the Bears pose a much more interesting puzzle, one with missing pieces and a broken jigsaw. Let's take a look.

First the good: Cutler, Matt Forte, Greg Olsen. Tommie Harris is a fine DT. Lance Briggs is one of the best linebackers in football. Devin Hester is a plus player. Chris Williams (cross your fingers Bears fans) ready to step in at LT. They have two second round picks in the next two years and Angelo has a history of finding value in later rounds.

Now the not so good: 30, 31, 32, 28, 28, 28, 28. These are the ages of 7 of their starting defensive players. They have two 28 year old corners who are both pretty good, but 28 year old cornerbacks don't tend to have long lifespans in the NFL. Urlacher is 31. Alex Brown 30. The other guys are all no-longer-good-enoughs. Their projected starting safeties both are replaceable right now. Overall depth in the defensive secondary is lacking. Their offensive line will require a complete turnover. With the exception of Williams it is currently populated with the not-very-good (Josh Beekman), the-really-old (Pace, Kreutz), and the not-very-good-and-really-old (Roberto Garza). Their starting wide receivers are both below average. Neither would start as a #2 for most teams (I know, I'm not counting Devin Hester).

So it is an interesting conundrum for the Bears. How to fill all of these needs and rebuild without tearing the whole thing down and just restarting with Harris, Cutler, Forte and Williams? I don't pretend to know the answer nor am I prepared to offer a plan. Truth is, I'm not sure it can be done and this is a problem for Chicago. Yes, they filled the most important position in sport with a top-third player, and yes he is young and can be anticipated to fill the spot for many years. On the other hand though, Chicago almost certainly cannot win with this team. Injuries will take their toll on the older players and there will almost certainly be a deep talent gap between the starters and their reserves. Chicago will be significantly handicapped in their need to both get younger and meet needs. This year they have a 2nd round pick to fill one spot. I suppose it should come down to value, considering their many needs, but if they were to focus, where? Find a legitimate wide receiver? A legitimate safety? Draft one of the better interior linemen? Draft an OT to spell Pace after his inevitable injury? And forbid they whiff on the pick.

Even with an improving offense I think this is a team in decline. The trade will slow the decline - probably quite a bit - but that isn't necessarily good. It just means the bottom will come later and when it does it will probably be much uglier. Think a collapse of Seattlian proportion, when 70% of the team gets awful all at once.

Good luck Chicago, you'll need it.


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