The list of offseason needs Chicago Bears GM Ryan Poles must address is long. Whether it’s wide receivers, offensive linemen, or upgrades along the defensive line, Poles has his work cut out for him in the most important free agency and NFL draft stretch of his young career.
The good news is the Bears have the most money in the NFL to spend in free agency and the No. 1 overall pick in the 2023 NFL Draft. It’s a rare combination of assets that should set up the franchise to take a massive step forward over the next few months.
But what need is the most pressing for the Chicago Bears? According to a recent breakdown of every team’s biggest offseason need by The Athletic, the Bears require the most help at edge rusher.
“The Bears have many needs,” The Athletic’s Adam Jahns wrote. “You can make strong arguments for wide receiver or offensive tackle. But Matt Eberflus, a defensive-minded head coach, fielded a defense that ranked last in sacks (20) and QB hits (43). Their most productive pass rushers shouldn’t be safeties and linebackers, which they were last season. Assuming they’re committed to Justin Fields at quarterback, improving the pass rush comes next. For the Bears, that includes three-technique defensive tackle, too. Eberflus has described the position as the “engine” behind his defensive scheme. It will take free agency and the draft to improve the Bears’ rush.”
We can safely remove the word “assuming” from the Bears’ commitment to Fields. Chicago is committed to the 2021 first-round pick as their franchise quarterback. It’s a huge advantage for Poles to have an elite quarterback in place to build around, and every move he makes this offseason will be guided by how it helps Fields in 2023 and beyond.
And while I agree that edge rusher is among the Chicago Bears’ most pressing needs, I’m not sure it will be the priority in free agency. Instead, I think Poles will focus on making the offensive line a strength. I have a hunch the Bears will strike quickly at right tackle and perhaps look to add a center in the first wave of free-agent signings.
Chicago’s pass rush can be improved in the 2023 NFL Draft, especially if they stay within striking distance of Alabama’s Will Anderson Jr. The Bears can stay at No. 1 overall and draft him, or they can slide down to a pick like the Indianapolis Colts’ at No. 4 and still be in Anderson’s range.
In a way, having so many needs makes it almost impossible for Ryan Poles to screw up. No matter what position he prioritizes, the Chicago Bears will get better.
What Poles can’t do is sit on the sideline and not be aggressive in free agency or NFL draft trade negotiations. The short- and long-term future of the Bears depends on the decisions he makes over the next 90 days.