Despite only being four games into the 2022 NFL season, it’s pretty easy to identify the Chicago Bears’ biggest needs in the upcoming offseason: offensive line and wide receiver.
The good news for general manager Ryan Poles (and Bears fans) is Chicago will have the most money to spend on those premium positions in free agency and will have a first-round pick in the 2023 NFL draft. Remember, this time last year, the Bears’ salary cap was in bad shape, and they didn’t have a first-rounder in the ’22 draft because of the trade for Justin Fields.
Poles has a chance to flip this roster in one offseason. And he’ll need to be aggressive to gain the trust and confidence of the fans. We’re seeing in real-time the deficiencies in the roster that were known by anyone who has paid attention to this team since the end of last season. The lack of talent around Fields — namely the offensive line and pass-catchers — was as obvious in February as it is now. Poles was conservative in his first offseason, however, and didn’t take any big swings to fix the obvious problem areas.
That’ll change in a few months.
One way Poles can level up the offense is through the NFL Draft, and in the latest 2023 Mock Draft by USA Today’s Luke Easterling, the Bears do just that. They land Maryland offensive tackle Jaelyn Duncan with the ninth overall pick.
“The Bears are wasting their franchise quarterback in Justin Fields, and next offseason simply has to be spent giving him as many resources as possible,” Easterling wrote. “That starts up front, where Fields desperately needs an upgrade at pretty much every offensive line spot. Duncan has all the traits to become a franchise left tackle, and would be an immediate upgrade.”
Rookie Braxton Jones has been OK as Chicago’s starting left tackle so far. In fact, he’s been the team’s most promising rookie and has a chance to develop into a legitimate long-term starter at this rate. I think there’s room for an upgrade over Larry Borom at right tackle, and the interior offensive line spots could all be up for grabs in a few months.
Duncan will be an NFL tackle. He won’t be kicked inside. And, let’s be honest, teams rarely select an offensive lineman in the top 10 to play guard. If the 2023 NFL draft falls this way, it’ll mark the end of either Jones or Borom’s run as a starting tackle. And that’s fine. Left (and right) tackle is a premium position that needs to be filled by premium players.
If Jones and Borom don’t prove to be ‘that guy’ over the next 13 games, a prospect like Duncan will be a welcome sight in Chicago.