It’s never too early for a bold prediction.
Sure, we’re less than a month from free agency, two months from the Cleveland Browns being on the clock on draft day, five months from training camps starting, six months from preseason games and seven months from the start of the New England Patriots’ title defense. But that shouldn’t stop anyone from thinking big about the 2017 NFL season.
Over at Sports Illustrated, Melissa Jacobs started calling her shots well in advance of the start of the league calendar year. Among her most bold predictions: “The Bears will win 10 games. (Okay maybe just nine.)”
Jacobs explains that the Bears might have been the team hurt most by injuries in 2016. It’s a valid point to some extent, considering the Bears had starters at every layer of the depth chart (quarterback , running back, wide receiver, offensive line, defensive line, linebacker, secondary) miss significant time due to injury last season. This isn’t to say that those injuries alone resulted in the Bears’ three-win season, but it’s likely the Bears wouldn’t have been as bad as they were had they been a little bit luckier in the injury department.
The Bears will be better in 2017 if reinforcements can come in the form of better health, top picks panning out for a second straight draft, and free agent additions living up to new contracts. How much better remains to be seen, but putting forth a winning season in a division where the three other teams were .500 or better will be quite the challenge.
- In an perfect draft (from a Bears perspective) the quarterback-thirsty Browns and 49ers each take a quarterback (from the mix of Deshaun Watson, Mitch Trubisky and DeShone Kizer) leaving the Bears to choose from the best available talent with the third overall pick. Because that pick would likely be Myles Garrett, who is the kind of defensive talent a team builds around and opponents have to plan to stop. As far as Garrett is concerned, it seems as if he wouldn’t mind not being chosen by the Browns. In fact, he made a video plea for his hometown Dallas Cowboys to trade up to draft him. Garrett has previously made it known he would prefer not to play in a cold weather city, so openly advising Jerry Jones to deal Tony Romo and other considerations to Cleveland so he can land in Dallas makes sense from his perspective.
- Even though NFLPA leader DeMaurice Smith fired a warning shot across the bow of the Chicago Bears front office saying he would advise free agents not to sign with the team if certain workers compensation reform passes in Illinois, the Bears aren’t worried. Over at the Chicago Tribune, Dan Wiederer writes the Bears have no fears that their support for Senate Bill 12 will dissuade free agents from signing with Chicago. Further, team general counsel Cliff Stein said that neither player nor agent has looked into workers compensation laws in his 22 years of negotiations. It’s not inconceivable that things might change, but it doesn’t seem like it is something that would be top of mind for potential newcomers.
- The Bears could use free agency to find their next quarterback. Or they could explore the draft or trade market. However they do it, at some point this offseason, the Bears are going to address their need for a quarterback — though it remains to be seen whether or not they find a true solution to what ails them. In any case, Dan Durkin of The Athletic writes the Bears vow to pursue all options at quarterback, but asks a very important question along the way — who’s out there? Durkin dives into the quarterback pool and comes up with 12 names who will be available in some capacity. There isn’t a lack of variety here.
- Quarterbacks aren’t the only free agents out there on the Bears’ radar. Pro Football Weekly came up with a list of 10 players the Bears should be interested in signing in free agency. It’s a breakdown of six defensive players and four on the offensive side of the ball. Safeties, cornerbacks, defensive linemen, wide receivers and others are covered. Yet, another reminder of how many needs the Bears have to fill this offseason.
- Busy times ahead for some University of Arizona products who also have ties to the Bears:
? Ahem… pic.twitter.com/OBbPqYzRGr
— Lance Briggs (@LanceBriggs) February 10, 2017
- If the Bears find themselves looking for a kicker this offseason — and why wouldn’t they be? — they might not need to look far and wide for one because there is a prospect from their own back yard. Jake Elliott, who played his high school ball at Lyons Township before moving on to play college ball at Memphis, is one of the top kickers in this draft class. Rich Campbell of the Chicago Tribune pens a detailed feature with plenty of background on the local product turned NFL prospect. Elliott is the second-rated kicker on CBS Sports prospect list, with a sixth round projection.