Exactly How Far Away Are the Bears from Being Contenders?

Analysis: Bears president and CEO Ted Phillips would have you believe everything else is there for the team to become a legitmate contender except quarterback, but this hardly seems the case
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At the end of my second year covering the Bears, coach Dave Wannstedt gathered a group of reporters and told everyone "all the pieces are in place."

Over the next three seasons, Wannstedt's teams went 15-33 without a single winning record and the only thing in place was his ticket out of town.

So when people associated with the Bears say everything is set, fans need to open their eyes and look closely because chances are great there is more unset than there is set.

It's why team CEO Ted Phillips had everyone's hair standing on end near the end of the ownership side of the season-ending press conference when he journeyed into Wanny World.

"Have we gotten the quarterback situation completely right? No," Phillips said. "Have we won enough games? No.

"Everything else is there."

Before anyone gets their hopes up, the quarterback situation obviously isn't close to being right. It's so far from being right they could probably draft three of them, discard the three they had this past season and no one would complain next season if they just went with all rookies.

More importantly, few of the other areas of the team appear set with the kind of talent capable of being proven and consistent winner.

Wide Receiver

This is set? Allen Robinson doesn't have a contract. Anthony Miller put himself into a doghouse even he might find difficulty escaping from -- that's saying a lot because he frequently drew coaching criticism in the past. The only thing really set at receiver for 2021 is Darnell Mooney, a fifth-round pick who enjoyed a good rookie year but this year's standout rookie often goes through a sophomore slump.

Tight End

If the Bears could be sure Jimmy Graham would do what he did in 2020 again, then keeping him around in 2021 would be worthwhile. He'll turn 35 during the season and definitely isn't getting faster. Beyond this, he offers a small bit of salary cap savings if cut so the only sure thing at tight end is Cole Kmet. And he might be a year away from establishing anything greater than the fact he has the necessary talent.

Tackle

They can save too much money by cutting Charles Leno Jr. and/or Bobby Massie, so at least one seems destined for another team in 2021. The other option at right tackle, Germain Ifedi, is an unrestricted free agent so absolutely nothing is set at tackle.

Inside Linebacker

Danny Trevathan has been a dependable player and leader but struggled much of the past season against both the run and pass, which is new. He'd always been a good run defender. There is no experience behind him so the position for 2021 might be set since Travathan is under contract but saying they're set with talent at the posiiton is a huge stretch.

Outside Linebacker

Unless you like your edge pass rusher without sacks, they're not set here either. Robert Quinn's two sacks were 33% less than the Bears got from Leonard Floyd in 2019 and unacceptable whatever way you measure. There isn't much of an alternative option on the roster.

Slot Cornerback 

Buster Skrine's time in Chicago could be done. The salary cap savings by cutting him alone is enough but he also has concussion problems. They used Duke Shelley and Kindle Vildor in 2020 and got them experience, but passer ratings against of 118.1 and 131.2 said the two have plenty to learn, if not everything to learn.

Kicker

The good news: They found the fabled kicker. The bad news: Cairo Santos is a free agent now.

If all this is having everything else set, then it would really be a wild ride and true test of someone's endurance to go through building or shaky seasons.

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