The Bears were big spenders in free agency. They went out and bought themselves two starting linebackers, a starting offensive lineman and potentially a starting running back. That doesn’t even include the No. 1 receiver they traded for in the draft pick swap with Carolina.
Last week was a busy one for Bears general manager Ryan Poles. He set about fortifying his team’s roster. While free agency remains ongoing, the attention is generally turning toward next month’s NFL draft.
So what exactly does the 2023 Bears roster still need? In order to answer that question, one needs to take a big-picture look at the roster.
Below is a breakdown of Matt Eberflus’ projected depth chart at each position, along with analysis of how the Bears might, or might not, focus on each position in next month’s draft.
[ What picks do the Bears have in the 2023 NFL Draft after the Carolina trade? ]
Starter: Justin Fields
Backups: P.J. Walker
The Bears signed Walker to be Fields’ primary backup. Walker played well enough to win a few games as an emergency starter in Carolina last year. But the fact that the Bears have only two QBs under contract signals they will almost certainly draft another QB somewhere in the draft, likely on day three.
Starters: Khalil Herbert or D’Onta Foreman
Backups: Trestan Ebner, Travis Homer, Khari Blasingame (fullback)
Either Herbert or Foreman could emerge as the starter, but most likely both will be involved. Even with increased weapons for Fields, the Bears still want to be a run-first offense. Ebner and Homer are nice depth pieces. Blasingame will return to his role as the fullback and a special teamer.
Starters: DJ Moore, Darnell Mooney, Chase Claypool
Backups: Equanimeous St. Brown, Velus Jones Jr., Nsimba Webster, Daurice Fountain, Joe Reed
The Bears feel good about the trio of starters. Claypool needs to show more than he did late last season. St. Brown is better suited for a role off the bench than a starting spot, but the depth drops off quickly after him. In his second year, Jones has to prove he can contribute on offense. The Bears should still look to add a receiver in the draft.
Starter: Cole Kmet
Backups: Robert Tonyan, Chase Allen, Jake Tonges
Kmet will still dominate the snap count. Tonyan is a clear upgrade over former backup tight end Ryan Griffin. Allen has a year under his belt and could contribute next season. Tonges will compete for a roster spot as a reserve tight end and a backup fullback.
Starters: Braxton Jones (LT), Teven Jenkins (LG), Cody Whitehair (C), Nate Davis (RG), Larry Borom (RT)
Backups: Lucas Patrick, Dieter Eiselen, Ja’Tyre Carter, Alex Leatherwood, Kellen Diesch, Doug Kramer
Poles hinted that Whitehair could make the move back to center. If that’s the case, Jenkins could slide over to left guard so that Davis can play the right guard position that he is so familiar with. Borom is the starter at right tackle for now, but that won’t last if the Bears draft a tackle with one of their four top 100 picks, which seems like a near certainty.
Starters: DeMarcus Walker (DE), Andrew Billings (DT), Justin Jones (DT), Trevis Gipson (DE)
Backups: Dominique Robinson, Gerri Green, Andrew Brown, Jalyn Holmes, Donovan Jeter
The Bears will almost certainly draft a pass rusher with one of their top draft picks. Ideally, that would be someone who could fit into the starting lineup from day one. Gipson had three sacks last season. He might be better suited for a role off the bench. Walker is a nice signing, a player who had seven sacks in 2022, but Poles should be looking for a big-time difference maker on the D-line.
Starters: Tremaine Edmunds, T.J. Edwards, Jack Sanborn
Backups: Dylan Cole, Sterling Weatherford, DeMarquis Gates, Kuony Deng, Terrell Lewis
This was easily the team’s most improved position in free agency. Edmunds and Edwards will slide into the starting lineup. Sanborn will likely be on the field in the base 4-3 scheme. The Bears signed Cole to be a backup this week. Like Cole, Weatherford is a solid special teams player. Signing Edmunds and Edwards doesn’t necessarily preclude the Bears from drafting a linebacker, although it’s no longer a high priority.
Starters: Jaylon Johnson, Kyler Gordon
Backups: Kindle Vildor, Josh Blackwell, Jaylon Jones, Harrison Hand, Greg Stroman Jr., Michael Ojemudia
Just like last year, Johnson and Gordon will start as the boundary corners. When the Bears use a fifth defensive back in sub-packages, Gordon will slide into the slot and Vildor will take his place on the outside. Blackwell and Jones were solid rookie backups. Blackwell is a stud on special teams. Cornerback should be a low priority in the draft.
Starters: Eddie Jackson, Jaquan Brisker
Backups: Elijah Hicks, Adrian Colbert, A.J. Thomas
Jackson and Brisker are locks to be in the starting lineup. They compliment each other well on the field. Hicks proved to be a solid contributor on special teams as a rookie and a decent backup at the safety position.
Starters: Cairo Santos (K), Trenton Gill (P), Patrick Scales (LS)
The coaching staff liked the chemistry these three developed on the field goal unit, with Gill serving as the holder. Keeping them together for another year made too much sense.