The Chicago Bears didn't necessarily sit pat in 2021 free agency, retaining star wide receiver Allen Robinson on the franchise tag and signing former Bengals starter Andy Dalton as a presumptive stopgap quarterback. But that doesn't mean they're entering this month's draft without some serious questions still on their roster. It's unlikely Chicago will be able to address every hole with its eight picks starting April 29, but here are three action steps we'd use to headline a perfect 2021 draft plan for the Bears.
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Trade up for a franchise QB
To be clear, this would depend on which QBs are available, and where. In our mind, it would not be smart, for example, to mortgage all kinds of future picks to go as high as No. 4 for Mac Jones. But let's say Justin Fields or Trey Lance slips into the back half of the top 10. There's no reason Chicago shouldn't be on the phone attempting to move up.
Yes, general manager Ryan Pace is still trying to overcome his biggest personnel blunder, a trade up for a supposed franchise QB. But fear of reliving the Mitchell Trubisky experiment should not stop a desperate front office from doing the thing most likely to revitalize the team (and the current regime's job security): moving up to secure a top QB prospect.
But they already paid Andy Dalton and assured him a starting job (!), you say. To that, we say: Who cares? And to the Bears, we say: Do you care about winning? If so, the smart thing, regardless of whether Dalton starts and even plays well in 2021, is to take a bigger swing at the most important position. If it means giving up a 2022 first-rounder (or more) to get Fields or Lance in the building, so be it.
Stock up on pass-catching talent
Allen Robinson is in tow after getting the franchise tag, but that hardly guarantees he'll be around beyond 2021. Even if he is, the Bears are in dire need of more downfield weapons. Anthony Miller's days appear to be numbered as the slot target, and none of Javon Wims, Riley Ridley, etc. are regularly scaring opposing defenses, let alone Chicago's practice squad.
If the Bears were to follow this draft plan exactly, they'd likely be sacrificing this year's first and maybe a couple early 2022 picks to get a top QB. But they can still afford to spend a premium pick or two this year on a wide receiver. Terrace Marshall Jr. or Rondale Moore in the second? Tutu Atwell or Amon-Ra St. Brown in the third? Any kind of upside injection would be huge, not to mention a boon for a new long-term signal-caller.
Invest in OT and CB as early as possible
Solving QB and WR should be the top priority, especially in an increasingly offensively driven league. But if the Bears were to forgo a QB in the first round, both offensive tackle and cornerback would be logical targets. At present, Chicago is set to trot Charles Leno Jr. and Germain Ifedi out as starting bookends, with Jaylon Johnson and Desmond Trufant at corner. Leno and Johnson are both potential building blocks, but beyond them, Chicago is pretty bare when it comes to long-term starting material.
The team's cap crunch is partly responsible for the depth shortage in these areas, with the Bears cutting both Bobby Massie and Kyle Fuller this offseason. Now they need to replace them, or else they'll be in danger of reliving 2020's occasionally Swiss cheese O-line and/or witnessing a decline from its underrated defense. There should be no scenario where Chicago enters Day Three without an addition at one of the positions at least.