Offseason review: Chicago Bears
C, G, OT, DT, C, DE, SLB, WR
Round 1: Gabe Carimi, OT
Round 2: Stephen Paea, DT
Round 3: Chris Conte, S
Round 5: Nathan Enderle, QB
Round 6: J.T. Thomas, LB
Potential free agents of note
Anthony Adams, DT
Corey Graham, CB
Caleb Hanie, QB
Olin Kreutz, C
Danieal Manning, S
Brad Maynard, P
Nick Roach, LB
C, G, SLB, DT (depth), WR (depth/size), DE (depth)
For a team that won its division and 11 games, the Bears had a lot of needs coming into this year’s NFL draft.
The Bears had arguably the NFL’s worst offensive line last season and gave up a league-high 56 sacks, so it shouldn’t come as a surprise that they selected offensive tackle Gabe Carimi with their first-round pick. While most teams projected Carimi to play on the right side at the NFL level, he could wind up playing on the left side with the Bears — the side he played in college. If he does play on the left side, second-year offensive tackle J’Marcus Webb, who started 12 games as a rookie, would remain on the right side.
But even with Carimi in the fold, the interior of the offensive line still has big question marks. While it’s expected that the team will re-sign starting center Olin Kreutz, they have no other realistic options within the roster should the durable veteran not return for his 14th season. Kreutz, who lined up for all 980 offensive snaps last season, has started 134 straight regular-season games for the Bears dating back to the 2002 season.
The guard positions also need to be stabilized going forward. Chris Williams, who was selected in the first round in 2008 by the Bears to play left tackle, played quite a bit at left guard last season instead.
While the Bears are in decent shape at wide receiver, they lack depth behind starters Devin Hester, Johnny Knox and key backup Earl Bennett. They also could use some size. Wide receiver Devin Aromashodu, who was Chicago’s tallest wide receiver last season at 6-feet-2, was not tendered as a restricted free agent, which would suggest the Bears have no interest in re-signing him when free agency starts.
While it’s believed that the Bears are interested in re-signing starting defensive tackle Anthony Adams, the team drafted former Oregon State defensive tackle Stephen Paea, who is expected to challenge for a starting job as a rookie. With Adams unsigned and with the release of veteran Tommie Harris earlier this year, the Bears have little experience on the interior of the defensive line.
One big hole remains on defense at strong-side linebacker. With the decision to release veteran Hunter Hillenmeyer earlier this year and with starter Pisa Tinoisamoa unsigned, there’s no viable replacement left on the roster. Fifth-year linebacker Nick Roach, who started six games last season, could start if he re-signs. Linebacker J.T. Thomas, a sixth-round pick, could be looked upon as the long-term answer at the position.