No Offseason Hibernation for Bears and NFL Central

With the hiring of Marc Trestman from the offense-centric Montreal Allouettes, it’s time for the Bears to focus on the upcoming March 12th free agency period. The Bears have a seemingly solid defense, but with the uncertainty of Brian Urlacher’s return for his 14th season the new regime at Hallas Hall may have to consider turning the defense over.  This would be a daunting task while simultaneously addressing the need for OL help and more offensive weapons to go with Marshall and Forte in whom the Bears have invested a lot of money. The Bears have some serious outstanding issues, not least of which include the contracts for Israel Idonije and Henry Melton that will greatly affect the team’s cap flexibility and corresponding trust in younger players like McClellin and Roach.

The Bears need to figure something out with their OL to improve Cutler’s productivity and safety.   Jake Long, Ryan Clady and Brandon Albert might be available to fit the bill.  If Trestman gets a hold of just one of them and then drafts for O-Line depth in April, Chicago immediately becomes a very dangerous team. San Francisco is in the Super Bowl not only due to their defense – which the Bears can compete with – but they also have a superb offensive front allowing Kaepernick to stay well within his comfort zone. The 49ers draft that brought Iupati and Davis to San Francisco changed the team’s outlook.  In 2010, the 49ers had two first round draft picks and grabbed two offensive lineman, which is what Chicago needs to do. The Bears have a better quarterback than the 49ers in Alex Smith, they have a better outside weapon than Michael Crabtree, and  Frank Gore is at best on par with Matt Forte.

The Bears can build a nice championship foundation for themselves if Emery does the right thing with this new plan of direction; however, it has to start promptly after Super Bowl Sunday.

Among the rest of the NFC, Minnesota is closest to making some noise behind Green Bay and Chicago.  The NFC North had potentially three playoff teams in their division, which is a good sign for the strength of competition. Minnesota needs to get healthy and acquire depth in their secondary. They’ve got a great young core of linebackers and good offensive weapons with Harvin, Rudolph and Peterson, who is clearly still in his prime.

Green Bay has to get better at the run.  Their D-Line is also only mediocre.  They also need to resolve their revolving-door of tailbacks (only one back had more than 400 yards, and Rodgers was the second leading rusher on the team).  In order to return to glory, they have to find a Ryan Grant replacement who can keep defenses honest.

For Detroit it’s another year of question marks.  Can Suh perform up to draft expectations?  Will the D-Line achieve their potential as a whole unit and record the most sacks in the league?  But the biggest question is the play of Matthew Stafford, who was God-awful down the stretch last year and needs to throw for at least 4,500 yards next year in order to take full advantage of Calvin Johnson Jr.  The Lions are such a tough team to figure out because they keep getting prized prospects high in the draft only underachieve year after year (after year).

The NFC North is a top flight division and they can compete with the NFC West, which now seems to be the charm of the NFL world.  However, this division has star power and good organizations; they just need a few pieces to turn the corner.