The Chicago Bears are heading into a new era with Matt Nagy and Mitchell Trubisky, making it time to spend in free agency.
On the opening night of the 2017 NFL Draft, Bears general manager Ryan Pace traded up. Chicago, desperate to secure its future at quarterback, surrendered second and third-round picks while swapping firsts with the San Francisco 49ers, all to move up from third to second-overall.
The price was steep, the criticism sharp, but Pace got his guy in Mitchell Trubisky. After sitting behind Mike Glennon for four games, the North Carolina product took over for the duration. The statistical results were mundane, with Trubisky throwing for 2,193 yards and seven touchdowns against seven interceptions, completing 59.4 percent of his attempts.
However, Trubisky was surrounded with one of the league’s worst receiving corps. The Bears’ wide receivers and tight ends totaled 2,347 receiving yards, ranking 31st, only seven yards better than the Buffalo Bills. Chicago’s two leading receivers, Kendall Wright and Josh Bellamy, combined for 990 yards.
This offseason, Pace must give both Trubisky and new head coach Matt Nagy much more to work with. Last spring, Pace went on the cheap, signing Markus Wheaton and Victor Cruz on small-time deals, hoping to hit paydirt. Instead of that route, Pace has to spend aggressively, hoping to lure a big fish to the Windy City with a projected $41 million in cap space.
Chicago would be wise to look at a tight end first, specifically a reliable red-zone target. If the Seattle Seahawks don’t place the franchise tag on Jimmy Graham, he would be an ideal fit. Graham, 31, only had 520 receiving yards last season but racked up 10 touchdowns. He’s not an All-Pro anymore, but the tools remain to be an effective, veteran target for a young quarterback.
The Bears only have a glaring need at the position, with Dion Sims certain to be released, and Zach Miller likely looking at retirement after almost losing his leg.
On the outside, Chicago has a bevy of potential options. While the Miami Dolphins kept Jarvis Landry off the market by tagging him, there are ample intriguing talents to pursue. Any of Sammy Watkins, Paul Richardson, Donte Moncrief, Allen Robinson, Albert Wilson, Terrelle Pryor and Taylor Gabriel would be significant upgrades.
The Bears should be looking at multiple signings here, targeting one more expensive name with another smaller name, such as a pairing of Robinson and Wilson. Paired with the dynamic backfield duo of Tarik Cohen and Jordan Howard, Chicago would be setting the stage for an offensive rebirth.
After investing a litany of financial and draft capital in Nagy and Trubisky, the Bears have to support them in all facets. The draft should be viewed through that prism as well, looking to shore up any remaining holes after free agency.
If Chicago is going to get the best from Trubisky, it has to give him the best possible situation. Pace has a chance to get it right over the coming months, and if the Bears are going to rise out of the NFC North basement, he has to.