Finding eventual replacements for Brian Urlacher and Lance Briggs are clear goals but the modern NFL is all about rushing the quarterback and protecting him. Which one should the Chicago Bears rank moving forward?
Julius Peppers and Jay Cutler both offer good arguments
Bears fans have gotten tastes of how good their offense and defense can become but neither has started to click yet. The defense is a veteran unit led by Julius Peppers that could slow the best offenses down but can't get regular pressure with four rushers. The offense is a mixed of speed and size featuring the cannon-armed Jay Cutler that can have big days but only if the offensive line can protect. Some teams have worse problems but if Chicago wants to win a championship they know they have to keep upgrading the roster. With many roster areas upgraded where should the team focus going into next season. Predictable wisdom says General Manager Phil Emery should use every dollar and draft pick to make sure the best quarterback in decades is protected. On the other hand finding help for Peppers may become more important because of the aging stars at linebacker and unreliable coverage in the secondary. Getting rookie Shea McClellin was a start but can the Bears keep digging in free agency and the draft next season?
Cliff Avril and Ryan Clady can't overshadow strong NFL draft
Free agency will stay important through the entire season but the next real infusion of talent won't come until March of 2013. If things were to stay as they are now, which is unlikely, Chicago will find a host of big names that could fill their needs. Pro Bowl left tackle Ryan Clady is in the last year of his rookie deal. Blooming pass rusher Cliff Avril still doesn't have a long-term extension from the Detroit Lions. He more than Clady is more likely to hit the market. Detroit has a defensive line packed with good rushers but more than that the team has loads of work to do just to get under the salary cap before the regular season starts. Most of their money sits wrapped up in core stars like Calvin Johnson and Ndamukong Suh. Given the holes in their defense they may have to sacrifice Avril to save money for help in those areas. For the Bears it comes down to philosophy. Emery said he wants the team built through the NFL draft. Early signs show it will have its share of athletic rushers like LSU defensive end Sam Montgomery (nine sacks in 2011) or Texas A&M tackle Luke Joeckel.
The Chicago Bears know Brian Urlacher is their leader but Julius Peppers and Jay Cutler are the engine of the team. Helping them creates wins. Whether it's proven veterans like Cliff Avril and Ryan Clady or the NFL draft the team must make sure they get it right.