Since Ryan Pace showed up in 2015, there has been nearly complete roster turnover, with only Kyle Long, Charles Leno, Sherrick McManis, and Pat O’Donnell remaining from the previous regime. Every single offseason has seen significant changes, with a host of prominent players leaving and a sizable new batch of faces coming in.
Consequently, Bears fans are used to offseasons of sweeping change. But that pattern should end in 2019. To understand why, let’s look at who is already under contract on both sides of the ball.
Key players under contract: QB Mitchell Trubisky, RB Jordan Howard, RB Tarik Cohen, WR Allen Robinson, WR Taylor Gabriel, WR Anthony Miller, WR Javon Wims, TE Trey Burton, TE Adam Shaheen, LT Charles Leno, LG James Daniels, C Cody Whitehair, RG Kyle Long
Notable free agents: RT Bobby Massie, Eric Kush
Possible Cap Casualties: RG Kyle Long, TE Dion Sims
Chicago’s offense is young and locked-in for the next two years. Nobody on this list except Kyle Long is over 28 years old, and over half of these players are still on rookie deals. 2018 should see the best offense the Bears have had since 2013 (not exactly stiff competition) and there’s every expectation at this point that the same group returning basically intact in 2019 should be even better.
The only place where we should expect to see real changes is on the right side offensive line. Bobby Massie will likely be upgraded (hopefully in the draft) and Kyle Long will likely be cut if he can’t stay healthy and play well this year. WR Kevin White is also a free agent, and almost certainly won’t be a Bear in 2019. If he plays poorly, he won’t be brought back, and if he plays well, he’ll sign somewhere else for more money and opportunity than he can get in Chicago.
You can expect the Bears to look to add depth via the later rounds of the draft next offseason, but otherwise the offense won’t change much at all.
Key players under contract: DE Akiem Hicks, DE Johnathan Bullard, DE Bilal Nichols, OLB Leonard Floyd, OLB Kylie Fitts, ILB Roquan Smith, ILB Danny Trevathan, ILB Nick Kwiatkoski, ILB Joel Iyiegbuniwe, CB Kyle Fuller, CB Prince Amukamara, S Eddie Jackson
Notable free agents: NT Eddie Goldman, S Adrian Amos, CB Bryce Callahan, DE Roy Robertson-Harris, OLB Aaron Lynch
Possible Cap Casualties: ILB Danny Trevathan, OLB Sam Acho
There’s potential for a little bit more movement on the defense next season, but the 2018 version of this unit is already pretty similar to what we saw in 2017, and the same can be expected next year. Once again we see there aren’t really any old guys on this list, as Sam Acho tops the ranks at 29 years old. Key FA like Kyle Fuller and Prince Amukamara were brought back this offseason, and I expect we’ll see something similar with Eddie Goldman and Adrian Amos for sure, and potentially guys like Bryce Callahan, Roy Robertson-Harris, and Aaron Lynch if they play well this year.
Depending on the development of young players at inside linebacker, Danny Trevathan may prove to be expendable, and the same goes for Sam Acho on the outside. The main spot where I could envision a high-profile player being added next offseason is opposite Leonard Floyd at outside linebacker, but otherwise we’re probably looking at the same unit with a few more depth pieces added in the draft and free agency.
There seems to be a growing national feeling that the Bears are a team on the rise, and Bears fans better hope that’s true, because they are more or less locked in to this roster for the next two years. There’s a little bit of flexibility to tweak the roster, especially on defense, but the main pieces all have contracts that stipulate they won’t be going anywhere until after 2019 at the earliest.
The days of wholesale changes are over. Now comes the offseasons of minor tweaks. At its core, this is the roster that Ryan Pace has built and Matt Nagy has to win with.