Bears have to make offseason decisions

Jacob VanZuiden, Courier Staff

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The 2018-19 season was a memorable one for Chicago Bears fans. In year one under head coach Matt Nagy, the “Monsters of the Midway” took the league by storm, finishing with a superb 12-4 regular season record in route to their first NFC North title in nearly a decade.

While they failed to make it past the first round of the playoffs, crushing fans’ Super Bowl dreams, it was a promising year nonetheless for a developing squad that looks to be in a position to contend for the next several seasons. Now a team on the rise, the Bears are now faced with some difficult decisions to make this offseason if they want to make a legitimate championship run next year. Without a first or second-round pick in the upcoming draft, general manager Ryan Pace will have to use his checkbook wisely once the free agency market opens for business.

For one, the Bears come into the 2019 offseason with a quality characteristic they aren’t quite used to, relevance. In a matter of a year, Chicago has completely flip-flopped expectations surrounding their organization. Unlike many years prior, a winning season is no longer seen as a luxury. In fact anything less in 2019 would be seen as a massive failure. The days of mediocrity and searching for their next superstar talent via the NFL Draft are now over. Instead, Pace will be tasked with putting the finishing touches on a championship-caliber roster. The question that remains is, will he look to keep his roster intact or find replacements for players with expiring contracts through free agency and limited draft capital?

Pace managed to cross his first task off the list by re-signing starting offensive tackle Bobby Massie to a four-year contract extension on Jan. 26. The 29-year-old tackle has missed a total of just two games in his three-year stint as a Bear and has produced efficiently for the team. While he may not be a world-breaking talent, the importance of this signing traces back to keeping an offensive line intact that surrendered the eighth fewest sacks in the league in 2018. More importantly, Chicago now has all but one of their 22 starters from last year’s squad signed through next season.

Starting safety Adrian Amos remains as the last of the bunch who will be an unrestricted free agent this offseason. Amos has drawn rave reviews from followers of advanced metrics, such as Pro Football Focus, who graded him as the eighth best safety in football last year. However, one of the biggest arguments than can be made is that an elite defensive front elevated his play to an unsustainable level. Simply put, Amos is a good safety who does his job well but doesn’t really stand out as an irreplaceable playmaker. Perhaps the largest perk for the Bears when it comes to negotiating with Amos is the depth of this year’s free agent class at defensive back. At just 25- years- old and arguably reaching the prime of his career, Amos will have no shortage of suitors if Pace hesitates to make a deal. However, there are a multitude of replacements that Chicago can look toward.

Considering slot-corner Bryce Callahan is also a free-agent-to-be, Pace would be walking on thin ice if he were to let both him and Amos walk. Re-signing Callahan would be ideal, given that he provides good depth off the bench and could immediately slide into a starting spot barring an injury, but it’ll be hard to convince him to stay if another team offers him a larger role. If the Bears are indeed faced with this dilemma, they will undoubtedly kick the tires on free agents like Tyrann Mathieu (better known as the “Honey Badger”), LaMarcus Joyner and Bradley Roby, all of whom Bears’ fans should be content with.

While keeping the defense intact should be a primary objective of the Windy City’s front office, perhaps the largest thing the Bears must address is their kicker. Cody Parkey has outworn his welcome in Chicago, and it didn’t take long. By now, we’ve all seen the infamous missed field goal that sent the team packing after just one playoff appearance. This offseason need is about as obvious as they come, but who will replace Parkey? The move that all fans want to see is the legendary Robbie Gould back in navy blue and orange, and it’s quite possible that dream could become a reality. On Friday, 49ers reporter Matt Barrows announced on Twitter that Gould and his current team would like to work on a contract extension but the two sides haven’t come close to an agreement thus far. If Pace is as smart as he’s proven to be, he will jump on this opportunity immediately. Gould hasn’t lost a step even at 36- years- old, converting on 97 percent of his field goal attempts last season. A reunion between him and the Bears could be the key difference between making the playoffs and making noise in the playoffs.

Regardless of what Pace decides on in the near future, it’s imminent that the Bears come into 2019 as the NFC North favorites and will remain a force to be reckoned with. The 2018 season was a step in the right direction for this young and developing roster, but the right acquisitions this offseason could write them a one-way ticket to compete for the ultimate prize next year, the Lombardi Trophy. Can Pace make the right moves to do so? We will all have the answers to that question soon enough.

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