The 2011 NFL Draft is almost upon us and it’s been a pretty interesting offseason to say the least. There hasn’t been a bit of free agency as the NFL Players Association and the team’s owners haven’t been able to come to an agreement so there has been absolutely no player movement like we have seen in the past. This complicates things for teams that like to use free agency to rebuild and reload.
The Bears would have had their struggles in free agency this year had the NFL stuck to the same rules that it did last season. The final eight rule prohibits the top eight teams in the playoffs the previous season to sign free agents unless they have them signed away from their team. For example, the Bears would only be able to sign a free agent if another team signed one of theirs.
That severely limits what the Bears can do in free agency and if the federal judge listening to the case between the NFL owners and the Player Association feels that the lockout is illegal and the NFL should resume business and go back to last year’s rules then the Bears would fall under this rule.
So for now, we should wipe out the thought that the Bears are going to be able to rebuild their team through free agency at least until the rule changes if it does.
That leaves the 2011 NFL Draft as perhaps the best way for the Bears to take care of what they need to take care of but can they do it all through the draft? Can the players that they draft in this draft help them get back into the playoffs?
The answer to that is maybe. If the Bears draft smart and get guys that are the best players at that particular position in the draft then they will succeed. If they take risks on players that are unproven, previously seriously injured or even injured at the time that they are drafted then they will have a problem.
The Bear’s management staff, in particular Jerry Angelo, has struggled in the earlier rounds of the draft finding most of their success in the middle to later rounds of the draft. The jury is still out on Chris Williams. His career with the Bears started off a little rocky as he missed time during his first season with a back injury and now has been converted to the guard position. This year will be a telling year for Williams.
Chicago hasn’t had a chance to make a pick in the first round for two straight years now so this is going to be an important draft for them. They have to get things right in the first round or else it could come back to cause them problems.
The Bears absolutely have to take care of their needs in this draft and it’s easy to see what the Bears needs are. The offensive line basically let almost anything and everything through last year and it had a direct effect on the way that quarterback Jay Cutler played. They need to add some good quality pieces there in order to get the offense on track, protect Cutler and win games.
Now that defensive tackle Tommie Harris is gone the Bears are going to want to find someone to replace him and that’s a high priority for them. Drafting someone that isn’t going to cause them problems (like Harris or Marcus Harrison) is going to be vital.
Chicago needs to add some depth at the wide receiver, cornerback and linebacker position and could get some help in the draft. They need some improvement in those areas in order to have success next year.
The Bears can get back to the playoffs if they have a good draft but they may need a little help from some veteran players and if there is no free agency or if they have to live with the final eight rule then that is going to be difficult. They could keep their eye out for guys that are cut that fit their system well and this could be their only option.
Knowing that the draft may be the only way that they could get some help the management staff has to be spot on this time around. Can we count on them to do that? Right now it’s hard to tell because it’s the same group drafting players again (except for the addition of Tim Ruskell who wasn’t too big of a success in his last job with the Seahawks) but hopefully Chicago will realize what they have to do and do it well.