With $20-plus million in available salary-cap space and nine draft picks (one choice in each round, plus two picks in the fourth and sixth), the Bears have plenty of work to do before the club reports to training camp in July.
Here is a quick look at six of the remaining areas of need following the first and second wave of free agency.
1. Defensive line: The Bears improved up front when they signed Akiem Hicks for two-years. Hicks’ contract includes $5.5 million in guarantees, so you can pencil him in the starting lineup, alongside second-year nose tackle Eddie Goldman. But there is still another starting spot up for grabs. Veteran Mitch Unrein is expected to be on the 53-man roster -- Unrein is guaranteed $500,000 in 2016 -- but in a draft class filled with quality, young defensive linemen, the Bears can easily justify using a high pick on the position. Former second-round choice Ego Ferguson is a wild card after spending much of last year on injured reserve.
2. Safety: 2015 fifth-rounder Adrian Amos is a pleasant surprise. Amos deserves to remain on the first team. The other safety spot, however, is fluid. Veteran Antrel Rolle fell way short of expectations. Rolle is out of guaranteed money and is scheduled to earn a base salary of $2.4 million, plus per-game roster bonuses that could equal an additional $500,000. He is vulnerable. The Bears need to create more competition in the secondary. As it currently stands, Harold Jones-Quartey and converted nickel back Demontre Hurst are the only experienced reserves on the roster.
3. Quarterback: General manager Ryan Pace said last month that the 2016 NFL Draft class contains several intriguing mid-round quarterback prospects. With so many picks at his disposal, Pace needs to think long and hard about drafting a developmental quarterback. Jay Cutler cannot play forever. David Fales and Matt Blanchard are the other two quarterbacks on the offseason roster.
4. Tight end: Zach Miller, who signed a two-year, $6 million deal, is the favorite to start now that Martellus Bennett plays for the New England Patriots. The Bears also brought back Rob Housler on a one-year deal. Khari Lee is under contract through 2017. Miller had a solid 2015 season, but he does have a history of injuries. The Bears need to draft a tight end, unless they can find an affordable veteran on the open market.
5. Cornerback: Tracy Porter already pocketed a $1.6 million roster bonus, and his $1.750 million base salary in 2016 is fully guaranteed. Porter is one of the Bears’ top-three cornerbacks, along with Kyle Fuller. The Bears gave Sherrick McManis $750,000 in guarantees, but McManis proved last year he is at his best playing special teams. There is definitely room for Chicago to add another cornerback; one who can potentially push for a starting role, either in the base defense or nick sub-package.
6. Outside linebacker: The top three linebacker roles have been defined: Pernell McPhee, Danny Trevathan and Jerrell Freeman. However, the final edge-rusher is yet to be determined. Lamarr Houston had a productive 2015 (8.0 sacks); same with Willie Young (6.5 sacks). The question is whether or not the Bears consider Houston or Young long-term solutions. Young sure sounds like he wants to still play defensive end in a 4-3 defense. Houston is scheduled to make $6 million in 2016. Stay tuned.