LAKE FOREST, Ill.-- Despite making the playoffs for the second time in three seasons under head coach Matt Nagy, the Chicago Bears made very little progress in 2020.
Sure, the running game took a step forward and the defense was its typically stalwart self. However, after getting off to a 5-1 start, the team's quarterback problems and inability to produce big plays hindered them, leading to a disastrous six-game losing streak.
A late-season rally to back into the playoffs shouldn't be mistaken with progress, though. The offense only showed life against sub-.500 teams and now this offseason the Bears are faced with the proposition of finding new players for key positions -- as they reboot their passing game -- at quarterback, wide receiver and left tackle.
Here's a look at the Bears' roster and who might still be calling Chicago home in 2021 and those who will likely have new addresses.
Key contracts on the books for 2021: Nick Foles ($4 million base salary; $6.6 million cap hit; $9,333,334 dead money).
Key impending free agents: Mitchell Trubisky
Decisions: General manager Ryan Pace summed up the quarterback position last week when he said, “to get to where we want to go, we definitely need more out of that position.” The Bears gave the impression they are ready to close the book on Trubisky. And rightfully so. The Bears can't claim to be moving in a different direction if Trubisky remains on the roster. Foles -- because of his low salary -- is a candidate to stick around and be the bridge quarterback or the backup. The future quarterback of the Chicago Bears is not on the roster.
Key contracts on the books for 2021: Tarik Cohen ($5.5 million total cash; $3.250 cap hit; $10.650 million dead money); David Montgomery ($850,032 base salary; $1,111,577 cap hit; $523,090 dead money).
Key impending free agents: Cordarrelle Patterson
Decisions: The Bears are all-in with Montgomery and Cohen, who signed an extension last year before he tore his ACL. The Bears always speak highly of Patterson and likely want to bring him back. Patterson is the best kickoff return man in the league and a gadget player on offense.
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Key contracts on the books for 2021: Darnell Mooney ($780,000 base salary, $850,512 cap hit, $211,536 dead money); Anthony Miller ($1,210,050 base salary; $1,703,450 cap hit; $493,400 dead money); Riley Ridley ($850,000 base salary; $1,020,649 cap hit; $341,298 dead money); Javon Wims ($920,000 base salary; $943,978 cap hit; $23,978 dead money).
Key impending free agents: Allen Robinson
Decisions: The Bears and Robinson’s agent failed to reach an agreement on an extension last year. The Bears could use the franchise tag to keep him, but that does not make a ton of sense given the shrinking salary cap. More likely, the Bears will allow Robinson to test the open market and see what offers he receives. The Bears clearly value Robinson, but they do not seem inclined to make him one of the game’s highest-paid receivers. Meanwhile, Miller and Wims ought to be very nervous. Both are on shaky ground after losing their cool versus the Saints on separate occasions against the same Saints cornerback. Wims’ dropped touchdown in the playoffs did not helping his cause.
Key impending free agents: Demetrius Harris
Decisions: Do the Bears wave goodbye to Graham after one season? Is Graham ready to retire? The Bears could use the extra cap space. The Bears open up $7 million in space without Graham on the roster. Harris earned $1.650 million to be Chicago’s third tight end last year.
Key contracts on the books for 2021: Charles Leno Jr. ($9 million total cash; $11.3 million cap hit; $2.3 million dead money); Bobby Massie ($8 million total cash; $9.3 million cap hit; $2.6 million dead money); Cody Whitehair ($6.5 million base salary; $9.6 million cap hit; $11.2 million dead money); James Daniels ($1,427,748 base salary; $2,211,413 cap number; $783,665 dead money).
Key impending free agents: Germain Ifedi
Decisions: The Bears might look to cut loose either Leno or Massie in order to free up salary cap space and get younger at offensive tackle. Tackle is clearly a position of need. The interior of the offensive line appears in good shape with center Sam Mustipher, guards Cody Whitehair, Alex Bars and Daniels, who is coming off a season-ending injury. But the Bears need to figure out a plan at tackle, and do so quickly.
Key contracts on the books for 2021: Akiem Hicks ($10.5 million total cash; $12 million cap hit; $1.5 million dead money); Bilal Nichols ($920,000 base salary; $994,870 cap hit; $74,870 dead money) Eddie Goldman ($4.8 million total cash; $7.8 million cap hit; $7.9 million dead money)
Decisions: The best news for the Bears is Goldman will be back in the mix after the nose tackle sat out the entire season due to concerns related to COVID-19. Nichols is a player the Bears probably want to extend in the future. Urban and Jenkins both made cases to return, but Edwards Jr. likely wrote his ticket out of town following a two-game suspension for violating the league’s performance-enhancing substance policy. Edwards Jr. also is under investigation by the league for an incident that occurred in the Bears’ team hotel in Charlotte, N.C. in the fall.
Key contracts on the books for 2021: Khalil Mack ($17.246 million total cash; $26.646 million cap hit; $21.4 million dead money); Robert Quinn ($11.6 million total cash; $14.7 million cap hit; $23.9 million dead money); Roquan Smith ($3,169,613 total cash; $6,049,098 cap hit; $5,879,098 dead money); Danny Trevathan ($7.125 million total cash; $5.025 million cap hit; $6,956,250 dead money).
Key impending free agents: Roy Robertson-Harris, Barkevious Mingo
Decisions: The biggest question here becomes when to extend Smith, who missed the playoff loss to New Orleans because of an elbow injury. Smith, however, is the Bears’ best all-around defensive player and someone the teams very much wants to retain long-term. Quinn had a disappointing first season in Chicago (two sacks) but his contract makes him unmovable. All the Bears can do is hope Quinn plays better in 2021. Robertson-Harris and Mingo are productive players and candidates to return (depending on price).
Key contracts on the books for 2021: Kyle Fuller ($14 million total cash; $20 million cap hit; $6 million dead money); Buster Skrine ($5 million total cash; $6.1 million cap hit; $1.1 million dead money); Jaylon Johnson ($904,035 base salary; $1,470,176 cap hit; $2,602,458 dead money); Eddie Jackson ($9.050 total cash; $11.450 million cap hit; $18.550 dead money).
Decisions: Gipson probably played well enough to warrant another contract. The veteran safety started all 16 games and enjoyed a productive season -- 65 tackles and two interceptions. However, the Bears could consider replacing Skrine with Duke Shelley, who finished the year at nickel back when Skrine suffered a concussion on Dec. 6.
Key contracts on the books for 2021: None
Decisions: All three are solid players that figure to return. Re-signing Santos is a no-brainer. The 29-year old kicker went 30-of-32 in field goal attempts for 2020. O’Donnell has been a mainstay at punter for the Bears since he entered the league seven years ago, and Scales is far and away Chicago’s best long-snapper since fan favorite Patrick Mannelly retired.