September 30, 2023

Bears must make three key moves before training camp begins

Three moves Bears must make before training camp begins originally appeared on NBC Sports Chicago

General manager Ryan Poles spent the offseason trying to get his big Bears off the ground. He injected top talent with wide receiver DJ Moore, linebacker Tremaine Edmunds and first-round pick Darnell Wright.

Poles have also made several additions that didn’t get the buzz of Moore or Edmunds, but are no less important. The Bears signed linebacker TJ Edwards, defensive end DeMarcus Walker, tight end Robert Tonyan and running back D’Onta Foreman. Add to that the selections of defensive tackles Gervon Dexter Sr. and Zacch Pickens, cornerback Tyrique Stevenson and running back Roschon Johnson, and the Bears roster is filled with competence in areas it wasn’t last season.

While there is a wave of optimism surrounding the 2023 Bears, there is still work to be done as we enter the second week of OTAs. The Bears have about $32 million in salary cap left and a few more critical needs that need to be addressed.

No, DeAndre Hopkins isn’t in the Bears’ future, but there are three moves the Bears need to make before training camp begins at the end of July.

Draw Chase Roullier

The Bears strengthened their offensive line this offseason with the selection of Wright and the addition of right guard Nate Davis.

From now on, Teven Jenkins is supposed to move from right to left with Cody Whitehair being the starting point. Lucas Patrick is slated to be the best backup at both guard and center.

The Bears’ “best five” look much better than last season, but they are one injury away from catastrophe. The Bears’ lack of offensive line depth was apparent during the first OTA session that the media attended, with Davis not present. Patrick and sophomore guard Ja’Tyre Carter rotated at right guard on the first team.

It was not a pretty sight.

Given Whitehair’s unique quick movement and Jenkins’ inability to stay sane, the Bears need to add offensive line depth inside.

Roullier, 29, was recently released by the Washington Commanders with an appointment after June 1. Roullier started all 46 games for the Commanders between 2018-2020. But he suffered a broken fibula in week 8 of the 2021 season and tore his MCL in week 2 last year.

Roullier is a good wide zone center that excels in pass protection. In 2,571 career pass-blocking snaps, Roullier has only given up 68 total pressures and five sacks.

Signing Roullier would allow the Bears to have an inland game between Jenkins, Whitehair and Roullier, giving them more insurance for a possible injury. Having Whitehair or Jenkins as your sixth offensive lineman looks much better on paper than Patrick, who was ineffective last season, Carter or Alex Leatherwood.

Draw Yannick Ngakoue and/or Dawuane Smoot

Edge rusher is the one area the Poles haven’t addressed enough during the off-season. Walker is a good addition, but the Bears need more pass rush help if they plan to consistently pressure the quarterback in 2023.

The good news is that there are still a plethora of edge rushers on the open market.

While I have a fondness for Justin Houston, I’d bet the veteran is clinging to a contender rather than an operation still on the ground floor of a remodel. Same with Frank Clark.

RELATED: Schrock: Moore, Edmunds show why 2023 will be different for Bears

But Yannick Ngakoue and Dawuane Smoot would give the Bears exactly what their defense lacks: fierce pass rushers who can pin their ears back and reach the quarterback.

Smooth has pressed at least 32 times and scored six sacks in each of the past three seasons. According to Pro Football Focus, Ngakoue has had at least eight sacks in every season of his career. That includes four seasons with double-digit sacks.

Poles said the Bears are looking at every opportunity to meet their pass rush needs. One-year deals for both Ngakoue and Smoot would allow the Bears to rely on only one of Trevis Gipson, Dominique Robinson and Rasheem Green instead of all three.

This is coming. The sooner it’s done, the better.

Poland and head coach Matt Eberflus arrived and stripped the roster down to the last detail. That is to be expected with a new regime.

But at the end of the day, they need to reward players for their production, buy-in, and belief that they are part of the bigger picture.

They traded Roquan Smith and David Montgomery went into free service.

With Kmet, Jaylon Johnson and Darnell Mooney all up for renewal, the new regime must show the key players it has inherited that their work will be rewarded.

Of the three players eligible for overtime, Kmet will almost certainly be the first to put pen to paper. The Bears praised his work during the 2022 season, touting him as everything they want these Bears to be.

The Bears want to see Mooney, who underwent ankle surgery in November, run and cut before entering into contract talks. In February, Johnson told NBC Sports Chicago that he expected contract talks to get underway this summer. The star angle was not present at OTAs last week.

If Kmet is locked up, it will send a positive message to the rest of the locker room, especially those players left over from the Nagy-Pace regime that the Bears want to keep for their planned advance.

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