To say the Chicago Bears had a busy 2023 offseason would be an understatement.
Since becoming general manager, Ryan Poles has emphasized that the Bears’ rebuilding project will take more than one offseason. He wasn’t kidding. The difference in strategy between his first and second offseasons is obvious. Last year was about clearing the rot from the team’s foundation. This year was about rebuilding a stronger core.
But not every Chicago Bears player can be happy about what’s transpired over the last few months. Some of this team’s holdovers will be fighting for a job — either as a starter or backup — in training camp because of Poles’ transactions in free agency and the NFL Draft.
Here are the Bears’ biggest winners and losers from the 2023 offseason.
Winner: Justin Fields
Justin Fields was, by far, the biggest winner of the Chicago Bears offseason.
First, the Bears’ decision to trade the No. 1 pick was concrete evidence that they believe in him as their franchise quarterback. Second, the acquisitions of wide receiver DJ Moore (trade), guard Nate Davis (free agency), and tackle Darnell Wright (first-round pick) are further proof that the team’s top priority was improving the talent around him.
Now, it’s up to Fields to deliver on the field in 2023. It will be the first time in his pro career that he’s playing in the same offensive system as the year before, and with the upgrades around him on offense, there’s a good chance he’ll finish the season as one of the NFL’s top young superstars.
Loser: Khalil Herbert
Khalil Herbert’s time as the Bears’ undisputed RB1 didn’t last long. Shortly after David Montgomery signed with the Detroit Lions, Poles added D’Onta Foreman in free agency and selected Roschon Johnson in the fourth round of the 2023 NFL Draft.
Herbert will get the first crack at lead-back duties, but the running back room is more crowded than before Montgomery departed.
I believe in Herbert’s natural skills as a runner, but his chance at being Chicago’s bell cow disappeared in free agency and the draft.
Winner: Braxton Jones
Braxton Jones’ rise from fifth-round pick to starting left tackle was one of the best stories of the 2022 season. And while his performance as a rookie was encouraging, there was speculation the Bears could target a pure left tackle in the NFL draft.
Instead, Poles selected the best right tackle prospect in the class. Darnell Wright can play on the left side, but his best fit is at right tackle, which cements Jones as Chicago’s projected long-term blindside protector.
Jones isn’t bulletproof, however. If he doesn’t build off of his successful rookie year, the Bears could flip Wright to the left side and figure things out from there.
For now, Jones is a big winner.
Loser: Lucas Patrick
Last year this time, Lucas Patrick was the Bears’ big offseason signing. He was supposed to be the starting center. But a training camp injury derailed that plan, and he ultimately settled in as a rotational interior lineman.
Now fully healthy, Patrick will remain a top backup with Cody Whitehair’s position change to center. Nate Davis and Teven Jenkins are entrenched as the starting guards, leaving Patrick as the odd man out.
This is life in the NFL; one minute, you’re a headline-grabbing upgrade in the starting lineup. The next, you’re an anonymous backup.
Winner: DJ Moore
DJ Moore wasn’t a Chicago Bear last season, but he’s a huge winner regardless. He’s upgraded from a revolving cast of misfit Panthers quarterbacks to Justin Fields, who’s already built a connection with Moore during offseason workouts.
Moore’s electric playmaking ability has been hidden during a bundle of irrelevant years in Carolina. In 2023, Moore will be one of the biggest stars in one of the NFL’s biggest media markets. If he wasn’t a household name already, playing for a revived Bears offense will change that real quick.
Loser: Velus Jones
Velus Jones already had a tough road to the active roster in 2023 before the offseason kicked off. His rookie year was disastrous, marred by fumbles, muffed punts, and dropped passes.
Jones was selected in the third round of the 2022 NFL Draft to provide the Bears with juice and another offensive weapon. He did neither.
The Bears responded by selecting wide receiver Tyler Scott in the fourth round. He has the same overall profile as Jones but is a more schooled and well-refined receiver.
The only path Jones has to playing time is special teams.
Winner: Trevis Gipson
Trevis Gipson is a winner of the Bears’ offseason… so far.
There’s a good chance Chicago will add to its pass rush on the eve of training camp. For now, Gipson may be the most talented edge rusher with the most upside on the roster.
Gipson had a frustrating 2022 season, totaling just three sacks. After registering seven in 2021, Bears fans were expecting a breakout. He was one of the most disappointing players on the team in what was an overall terrible year.
Free agency and the 2023 NFL Draft came and went, and no real threats to Gipson’s role were added. DeMarcus Walker is more of a run-stuffer and interior pass rusher, which leaves Gipson as the guy who has to threaten 10 or more sacks in 2023.
Loser: Justin Jones
Justin Jones is a solid starter. The Bears could do a lot worse than him at three-tech, and it appeared they were ready to roll with Jones when Poles passed on several talented veteran free agents.
But the 2023 NFL Draft saw two defensive linemen, Gervon Dexter and Zacch Pickens, selected in the second and third rounds. While neither rookie will begin the year as a starter, both have a chance to chew into Jones’ reps as the season marches on.
Jones is in the final year of a tw0-year contract. It feels like the Bears view him as a bridge to the future at this point.
Winner: Kyler Gordon
The best thing that happened to cornerback Kyler Gordon this offseason was the Bears’ decision to move him inside as the slot/nickel cornerback. The selection of Tyrique Stevenson in the second round of the NFL Draft all but assures Gordon’s primary responsibility will be the slot, which fits his skill set much better.
Stevenson’s length will be an asset on the outside, leaving Gordon to rely on his twitchy movement skills against inside receivers. He’ll have a chance to make more plays on the ball and should enjoy a much more productive season than he had as a rookie in 2022.
Gordon’s first season was a mixed bag of good and bad. I expect a lot more good in 2023 now that he’s in a role that will allow him to thrive.