Chicago Bears Q&A: Is a Leonard Floyd reunion a possibility? How much improvement can be expected from Justin Fields?

The NFL calendar never rests. With the draft and rookie minicamp in the rearview mirror for the Chicago Bears, this week brings the release of the 2023 schedule, followed by the start of organized team activities on May 22.

The Bears still have holes to fill on their roster as well, and that’s where Brad Biggs’ weekly bag begins.

With an NFC North wide open, why don’t the Bears sign some of these defensive ends in free agency to prove contracts? Lots of room to make this list better. — @jameslawrencef2

Some thoughts here. The Bears certainly have enough cap space to accomplish almost anything they want at this point in the offseason. estimates they have nearly $31 million in cap space after signing the entire draft class. CEO Ryan Poles talked about being calculated and staying flexible while also being right division occurs wide openthis doesn’t seem like the time or place to go big to meet a pressing need.

There is an abundance of experienced edge defenders on the market and I picked one up look carefully at the situation at begining of the week. Neither of them is a top player, the kind of guy who would tilt the court on Sunday. Would a fair signing make the Bears better? No question. Would the right signing significantly alter the trajectory of the 2023 season? I’m skeptical.

I think the Poles would rather use a chunk of their remaining cap space to at least explore contract extensions with players on the roster. I’m thinking tight end Cole Kmet and cornerback Jaylon Johnson. There could be other considerations as the summer and season unfolds. Any remaining space can of course be carried over until 2024.

Also, I think you’re using the term “proven business” wrong. Established veteran shortstops like Frank Clark, Leonard Floyd, Jadeveon Clowney, Justin Houston, Yannick Ngakoue and others would scoff at the suggestion that they have anything to prove. They’re all unsigned because they didn’t get the offers they want and ultimately could be had for a one-year deal with the idea that they can perform and do better on the open market next year. Generally, the only time a veteran looks for a proven deal is when they are coming off a serious injury and looking to restore their value.

The Bears and Leonard Floyd? Is this a reunion to be or not to be? — @nickstiglic

It’s certainly possible — and I listed Floyd among 10 potential defensive ends in the this week’s column — but if I had to guess, I’d say no. Floyd is likely looking to get paid in the upper echelon of edge rushers, and I doubt the Bears are looking to make that kind of investment given where they are. As I detailed in the column, they’ve long relied on free agency or trades for pass rushers, and what Ryan Poles really needs to do is find long-term solutions in next year’s draft.

How does the Bears’ strength of schedule fare this season? — Tom G., Western Springs

Based on the final 2022 standings, the Bears program is tied for 18th at .497. That sounds good, but offseason judgments about the ease or difficulty of a program that’s four months away can be misleading. The Bears’ 2022 schedule ranked 24th at .471, based on records from 2021. It seemed like a relatively easy slate, and then the NFC East and AFC East were both extremely competitive, and when the season ended, the Bears had the most difficult schedule in the NFL at .571. That was certainly a factor in their 3-14 season.

How good will Justin Fields be in Year 3? — Stefano, Chicago

There’s no reason to put a cap on Fields’ improvement – in all areas – in his third and second season with this coaching staff. Three major factors provide an opportunity for significant growth. First, he has a full year of experience in the offense and the Bears have had no major personnel changes on offense. He knows the coaches. The coaches know him.

Second, the roster around Fields has been improved. The Bears got a big producer at receiver when they acquired DJ Moore and then added speed to the position by drafting Tyler Scott. They also picked up an experienced veteran tight end in Robert Tonyan and added two potentially big pieces on the right side of the offensive line in rookie tackle Darnell Wright and veteran guard Nate Davis.

And third, Fields has plenty of game experience to draw on now. He won’t see anything for the first time. Combine all of that with the drive Fields has expressed to improve, and it’s easy to daydream about what the offense could look like this season.

The Bears are focusing on the basics right now in the voluntary offseason. Fields throws routes in the air — meaning no defensive players on the field — but he can work on his footwork and operate in the pocket. The passing game needs a much better pace this season and we won’t get a clear indication if things have progressed until they are played. But the coaches will have an idea of ​​where things stand as the spring and summer unfold. All signs point to Fields having an opportunity to make a big leap.

Does Ryan Poles need to add a veteran cornerback to the roster in case some of the young players fail to impress? — Erik T., Chicago

Interesting question and something I would absolutely not rule out. After Jaylon Johnson, the Bears are very thin on experience at cornerback. Kindle Vildor has played in 44 games with seven starts, followed by Michael Ojemudia and Greg Stroman. Ojemudia has appeared in 22 games with 12 starts over the past three seasons with the Denver Broncos. Eleven of those starts came as a rookie in 2020. Stroman has appeared in 22 games with four starts over the past five years for the Washington Commanders and Bears.

Every other cornerback on the roster is entering their first or second season. That said, Kyler Gordon (864 snaps), Jaylon Jones (464) and Josh Blackwell (133) saw plenty of playing time as rookies last season, and the Bears are excited about what picks Tyrique Stevenson and Terell Smith can provide . I think they want to give young players opportunities to learn, make mistakes and grow before considering a veteran addition.

In the absence of big passing threats, how about 300-pound Gervon Dexter and Zacch Pickens getting involved with opposing O-linemen and giving LBs TJ Edwards and Tremaine Edmunds the freedom to make big plays? — @margasmike

The better the defensive tackles are against the linebackers, the more effective the linebackers will be. However, I wouldn’t confuse Dexter and Pickens with two-gap tackles whose primary responsibility is to keep offensive linemen away from quarterbacks and allow them to flow freely to the ball. Dexter and Pickens should be at their best to get off the ball, get up field and hopefully disrupt the backfield. I think the Bears are more interested in getting them to penetrate than focusing on keeping the linebackers clean.

How will the Bears handle reps with what is now a crowded room? — Mike D., Belvidere, Ill.

The Bears apparently have four players to fill three spots on the 53-man roster. Of course, an injury at any time could change that. They could also decide to keep four defensemen on the roster, but that would be a bit unusual. Khalil Herbert is the starter and the Bears signed D’Onta Foreman and Travis Homer in free agency and drafted Roschon Johnson out of Texas in the fourth round. That kind of investment makes you think they see Johnson as a significant part of the future.

“We have pieces to the puzzle and these guys are going to put it all together,” quarterbacks coach David Walker said. “That’s the good thing about it. Nobody has earned a spot in that room yet, and they’re all going to earn their spots from what we’re doing now until … whenever the third preseason game rolls around. So that’s the good thing and they know it. This was communicated to them. Just like the first representative on the very first day, Khalil will be the first guy. But after that all bets are off.”

Herbert rushed for 731 yards (5.7 per carry) last season, but he is the back that was acquired before the current front office and coaching staff arrived. He performed well last year, but will clearly be pushed and has limitations in the passing game. Walker said he discussed the overall situation with Herbert.

“We will always overcommunicate,” Walker said. “A player shouldn’t be asking, ‘What are they doing?’ They should know exactly what we are doing because we discussed it, or after we made the decisions, we talked about why we made those decisions.

“But those guys know there’s no room for anyone in our room. There is no depth chart. There is a chart of representations. Everyone’s going to get reps, but there’s no one, two, and three in our room right now. Eventually there will be, but there isn’t that now.”

When an undrafted free agent is signed to a contract by the Bears and then released after a few weeks, what is their compensation? — @danieronk

In this case, the player would keep whatever they received in the way of a signing bonus. They would also be entitled to any money guaranteed in the contract – if any. Sometimes undrafted rookies get a signing bonus of several thousand dollars. In other words, they wouldn’t walk away with much.


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