How Much Better Should We Expect the Bears to Be in 2023?

Brad Biggs at the Chicago Tribune answers your questions:

“What are realistic expectations this year? Anything short of the playoffs would be a disappointment in my opinion … and not a No. 7 seed backing their way into the postseason. — @atown2956

“The Bears have a ton of moves to make before we can evaluate the roster and schedule and offer any informed guesses about the 2023 season. It sounds like you have grand expectations for free agency and the draft. The Bears have to be worlds better on defense and much better on offense to compete for a division title or playoff berth.

“There is plenty of history of worst-to-first turnarounds in the NFL. One complicating factor, a little more than a month before the start of the new league year and free agency, is this roster lacks difference makers. The Bears don’t look anything like the teams you’ll see Sunday in Super Bowl LVII. Right now I think getting closer to .500 would be a realistic goal, but we have to see what moves are in store.”

I’m with Biggs on this. When I envision what a playoff roster looks like and I look at the Bears roster, they are so far apart that I have a very difficult time imagining that the Bears will anywhere get close to that in one off-season.

Grand expectations like this worry me a bit. I think some fans are setting an unrealistic standard for the Bears to turn things around that quickly.

Yes, last to first turnarounds are certainly well-known to happen in the NFL. But it seems to be like it most often happens to teams that have finished last or nearly last fairly consistently for a fairly long period of time. Teams such as the Lions and Jaguars tend to have “fast” turn arounds that actually took years and years. These teams have had a chance to acquire significant talent that has developed for multiple seasons and then acquired top talent in one final draft to suddenly push them over the edge.

The Bears are not in such a situation. I have been surprised before. But I think it’s dangerous to expect it.

How Much Will the Bears Cash Budget Affect What They Do in Free Agency?

Brad Biggs at the Chicago Tribune answers your questions:

“I know that the Bears have a great deal of cap space to play with this offseason. But it was always my understanding that more cap space can always be made available in the NFL if you really want to do it and that it was the cash budget that is often what determines who you can sign and who you can’t. Do you think that could be a limiting factor for the Bears this offseason? — Tom S., Chicago

“Excellent observation. While cap figures for each team are readily available, what’s never known is the cash budget each team is operating with during a given league year. With nearly $100 million in available cap space for 2023, Ryan Poles has more room than he can realistically use, especially when you consider it’s not expected to be a banner year for free agents.

“I would expect Poles to have enough of a cash budget to accomplish pretty much anything he wants to do. The Bears have gone light the last two years and have not shied away from throwing around big money under George McCaskey. They went heavy in free agency in 2018 and then made the biggest move of that year by trading for and extending the contract of outside linebacker Khalil Mack. My guess is the Mack move might have taken them over their cash budget for that season, but presented with a special circumstance, ownership signed off on what was the largest contract for a defensive player in league history at the time.”

I tend to agree with Biggs on this. As far as I can tell the cash budget has never kept the Bears from spending money where they felt like they needed to and there’s no reason to believe that this offseason will be an exception.

Having said that it’s not my money.

Personally I would prefer that the Bears spend a lot of the money in free agency on contracts that are front-loaded with guaranteed money. This frees that cap space that you are spending back up more quickly for future free agents.

But that means lots of cash up front. I could hardly blame the Bears for wanting to spread the cash hit to the budget out over more years.

Should the Bears Draft a Quarterback?

Brad Biggs at the Chicago Tribune answers your questions:

“Why shouldn’t the Bears draft the best QB available? Someone that complements Justin Fields. Why not have two great QBs? Now that the season is longer, how many QBs make it through the whole season? It is obviously the most important position. — Spencer, Warrenville

“No argument from me that quarterback is the most important position. But I can’t agree with anything else. It would be a fantastic problem if the Bears were suddenly to have two great quarterbacks. Imagine the possibilities for the future. Currently, I don’t think you can say the Bears have one great quarterback. [Quarterback Justin] Fields needs to make some significant improvements, and the team has been pretty straightforward saying as much.

“In order for Fields to do that, the Bears need to be better around the quarterback — and better on defense. Using the first pick on a quarterback would not improve the offensive line, wide receivers or a porous defense. The Bears need to see if a better-supported Fields can become their quarterback of the future before they consider choosing another one in the first round.”

I agree with Biggs on this. I don’t think the Bears have any business taking a quarterback in the first round. Having said that, they should definitely be thinking about taking one somewhere.

Perhaps the biggest issue that I have had with the Bears over the last few years is that they have been sold on going all in on one quarterback and spending every single resource that they have in an effort to getting the team around him up to a winning standard immediately. This sounds like a good thing but it’s poor future planning.

The Bears should always have another quarterback in the hopper that they are trying to train up and get ready to start. At worst, such quarterbacks may become good backups. At best, you manage to coach such a player up to the point where they exceed expectations become potential starters. They could eventually replace your current starter if necessary and have significant trade value if not.

Like most Bears fans I think Fields shows promise. But I would love to see the Bears take another quarterback somewhere in the mid- to late rounds.