The Chicago Bears are in the midst of a pivotal 2023 offseason, where general manager Ryan Poles will be retooling the league’s worst roster from last season.
The Bears are headed to Indianapolis for the NFL Scouting Combine, where Poles, head coach Matt Eberflus and their staff will get to meet with and get a look at the nation’s best prospects ahead of the 2023 NFL draft.
And with Chicago holding the No. 1 overall pick — which they’re looking to trade — there are some important decisions in the coming months for Poles when it comes to getting the Bears on the path to success.
With that in mind, we’re ranking the team’s biggest position needs ahead of the NFL Combine this week:
While there are bigger needs on defense, cornerback is a premier position that Poles will look to upgrade. Jaylon Johnson is entering the final year of his rookie deal, where he appears poised for an extension. Kyler Gordon is coming off an up-and-down rookie year where he started putting it together in the final stretch. But outside of those guys, the Bears need a solid CB3 for this defense, be it on the boundary or in the slot — and that guy isn’t Kindle Vildor. Ultimately, it depends on where Chicago wants Gordon to line up in Year 2, as he played both outside and inside during his rookie season. But there are some options both in free agency and the NFL draft to upgrade.
Jack Sanborn is the only starting linebacker on the roster right now, making that position a need heading into the 2023 offseason. Sanborn is coming off an impressive rookie season, where he showed starter potential in limited action after Roquan Smith was traded. Sanborn is the favorite to start at MIKE linebacker while there’s a glaring hole at WILL linebacker. While the Bears could look to bring back Nicholas Morrow on a one-year deal as a stopgap, there will be options both in free agency and the NFL draft to help address one of the most important positions in Matt Eberflus’ defense.
Another offseason, another need for wide receiver help for quarterback Justin Fields. The Bears have a receiver group that consists of Darnell Mooney, Chase Claypool, Velus Jones and Equanimeous St. Brown. But they’re in need of a No. 1 wideout for Fields, which is something many young, successful quarterbacks have benefited from. The problem is, there aren’t any true WR1 in free agency, which means Chicago’s best bet would be trading for one (like a Tee Higgins, if on the market) or looking to draft a playmaker at receiver. Names like Jaxon Smith-Njigba, Jordan Addison and Quentin Johnston are some big names to watch in this draft class.
There are needs across the offensive line, including along the interior at center and guard. Last year, Lucas Patrick was brought in to serve as the starting center. But injuries limited him to just a few regular-season snaps at center, and Sam Mustipher started 16 (and played 17) games at center for Chicago last season. Mustipher isn’t the answer at center, which means the Bears need to find a replacement. Will Patrick factor into things? Or will Poles look to start fresh? While Teven Jenkins figures to be the starting right guard heading into 2023, there are questions about Cody Whitehair’s future. Whitehair is slated to have a $14.1 million salary cap hit in 2023, which makes him a prime cap casualty candidate. If Chicago parts ways with Whitehair, the Bears will also be in need of a replacement at left guard (where Larry Borom might factor into things).
The Bears need to build around Fields, and that includes shoring up an offensive line that gave up a league-high 55 sacks on Fields last season. While the interior of the line needs to be addressed, the tackle position should be a big focal point for Poles. Fifth-rounder Braxton Jones had a solid rookie season at left tackle, but that’s not a guarantee that he’ll be back starting in 2023. Riley Reiff and Larry Borom split time at right tackle, and that’s a starting job that’s definitely up for grabs (and an upgrade) this offseason. There are a number of options at tackle both in free agency and the NFL draft where Chicago can upgrade and help build a strong offensive line around Fields.
The Bears had the worst defensive line in the NFL least season, and defensive tackle Justin Jones was probably the only player worth bringing back as a starter. While Jones had a solid year, that doesn’t mean he’ll be starting in 2023. The Bears could have two new starters at three-technique and one-technique in 2023, and Chicago has some options to upgrade along the interior in free agency and the NFL draft. Whether it’s veterans like Javon Hargrave or Dre’Mont Jones or a rookie like Jalen Carter, we could see a new starting starting duo along the defensive interior in 2023.
The Bears had the worst pass rush in the NFL last season, totaling just 20 sacks in 17 sacks. The fact that rookie safety Jaquan Brisker led the team in sacks (with four) says everything you need to know about how big of a need edge rusher is this offseason. Following the release of Al-Quadin Muhammad, who was coming off a disappointing season, Chicago essentially needs two starters off the edge to pair with rotational pieces Trevis Gipson and Dominique Robinson. Adding a veteran in free agency and drafting a young prospect — perhaps Alabama’s Will Anderson — would go a long way in shoring up the Bears’ biggest weakness.