Those are the positions that will be talked about until they’re addressed. Cornerback, inside linebacker and safety are positions where the Bears have decisions to make. But those aren’t the only positions the Bears should look to address this offseason.
Here are a few positions that the Bears shouldn’t hesitate to upgrade if they have the opportunity this spring:
When the Bears used a fourth round pick on Riley Ridley it was treated as if they were adding to an embarrassment of riches. Less than a year later, it really feels like they need another player there.
Ridley barely played as a rookie, which seemed like it was just a matter of the Bears having too many good players at the position early on. But as Taylor Gabriel suffered two concussions and Anthony Miller/Javon Wims struggled to produce early, Ridley wasn’t able to replace gain traction.
Gabriel seems likely to be a salary cap casualty, if he’s even able to play again. He’s a good player, but not a good fit for a quarterback with accuracy issues. Wims should’ve been a good fit, but still only caught 46.2 percent of the passes thrown his way, the worst rate on the team. He had a couple solid games, but averaged just three catches a game when he played more than 85 percent of the snaps and had just 10.3 yards per catch with nearly 20 percent of his season total coming on one 37-yard catch.
Ridley shouldn’t be judged too harshly considering he was just a rookie and rookie receivers typically struggle. But it isn’t unreasonable to think he should’ve been able to get some snaps as Wims continued to let the ball hit the ground.
Now, add in the fact that Miller is undergoing offseason shoulder surgery for the second straight season. A similar surgery was blamed for Miller starting slowly in 2019. If he struggles out of the gates in 2020 and the Bears no longer have Gabriel, who is going to catch passes outside of Allen Robinson?
If there is one thing we have learned about Cordarrelle Patterson, it’s that he should never be used as a regular wide receiver.
If Miller can start 2020 like he finished 2019, the Bears will have two studs. They wouldn’t need a heavy investment in the position, just someone who is big and can run.
Eddie Piniero showed potential and was actually pretty good outside of a midseason swoon. But those struggles did happen and, even when he wasn’t struggling, there was a clear lack of trust.
The biggest plus for Piniero was suppose to be his leg strength, but the Bears refused to kick 50-yard field goals numerous times this season. In today’s NFL, those kicks aren’t necessarily easy, but certainly should be makeable.
The first-year kicker made 82 percent of his field goals, tied for 21st in the league and ahead of some notable names including Greg The Leg, Robbie Gould and Joey Slye. That looks OK, but consider that only nine of his attempts came from beyond 40 yards and you can see some reason for concern. He was also 30th out of 41 kickers in terms of extra point percentage.
Piniero earned the right to compete for his job in training camp next year, but the Bears either need him to get better, or to find a better kicker.
Akiem Hicks and Eddie Goldman are two of the best players at their positions, but they don’t have much else outside of them.
Nick Williams had a good season, but he’ll be looking to get paid this offseason and counting on a repeat performance probably isn’t wise. Even so, his pressure was more a result of what was happening around him. He had six sacks, but only got to the quarterback three other times.
Bilal Nichols showed promise as a rookie, but had just two quarterback hits last year and struggled against the run. Roy Robertson-Harris has flashes where he looks like he’ll be great, but hasn’t shown enough consistency and gets gashed against the run.
When Hicks went out, it got so bad that the Bears had to sign veteran Brent Urban just to have a chance at stopping the other team’s running game.
There is more to consider with Hicks. He has been in the league since 2012, will turn 31 in 2020. Before he injured his elbow, he missed a game with a knee injury that was considered to be wear and tear. The simple truth is, the Bears can’t rely on him to be the same player he has been since signing with the team in 2016.
Even if Hicks is still great in 2020, Father Time remains undefeated and the Bears would be wise to start grooming a replacement.