Chicago Bears Q&A: Is a reunion with Leonard Floyd a possibility? How much improvement can be expected from Justin Fields?

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The NFL calendar never rests. With the draft and rookie minicamp in the rearview mirror for the Chicago Bears, this week brings the schedule release, followed by the start of organized team activities on May 22.

The Bears still have holes to fill on their roster, and that's where Brad Biggs' weekly Bears mailbag begins.

With the NFC North wide open, why aren't the Bears making deals to prove it by signing some of these defensive ends in free agency? Enough cap space to make this roster still better. – @jameslawrencef2

Some thoughts here. The Bears certainly have enough cap space to accomplish whatever they want at this point in the offseason. They are estimated to have around $31 million available after signing their entire draft class. General Manager Ryan Poles talks about being calculated and staying flexible, and 're right when split appears full openIt doesn't strike me as the time or place to start a big fire to satisfy a pressing need.

There are an abundance of seasoned edge defenders on the market, and I've take a closer look at the situation earlier this week. Neither of them is a top class player, the kind of person who will bow out on the field on Sunday. Would the right signing make the Bears better off? no question. Will the right signing significantly change the trajectory of the 2023 season? I doubt it.

I imagine the Poles will use a portion of the remaining cap space to at least explore contract extensions with the players on the roster. I'm thinking of tight end Cole Kemet and cornerback Jaylon Johnson. There may be other considerations when it comes to heat and weather. Any remaining cap space, of course, can be rolled over to 2024.

I also think you are misusing the term “prove-it deal”. Established veteran pass rushers like Frank Clark, Leonard Floyd, Jadeveon Clowney, Justin Houston, Yannick Ngakoué and others would scoff at the suggestion that they have anything to prove. They're all unsigned because they haven't received the offers they desire, and they could eventually be in for one-year deals with the idea that they might do better next year on the open market. Usually a veteran only proves himself when he is recovering from a serious injury and trying to re-establish his value.

Bear and Leonard Floyd? Is this reunion to happen or not to happen? — @nickstiglic

It's Certainly Possible — And I Listed Floyd Among 10 Potential Defensive Ends In this week's column – But if I had to guess, I'd say no. Floyd is probably seeking to pay in the upper echelon of edge rushers, and I doubt the Bears are looking to make that kind of investment where they are. As I detailed in the column, they've long relied on free agency or trades for pass rushers, and what Ryan Poles really needs to do is find a long-term solution in next year's draft. searches for

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How does the Bears' strength of schedule stack up for this season? — Tom G., Western Springs

Based on the final 2022 standings, the Bears are ranked 18th in schedule strength at .497. It sounds good, but off-season decisions about the ease or difficulty of a schedule that's four months away can be misleading. The Bears' 2022 schedule was 24th based on their 2021 record at .471. It seemed like a relatively easy slate, and then both the NFC East and AFC East were highly competitive and when the season ended, the Bears had the toughest schedule in the NFL at .571. It certainly was a factor in their 3–14 season.

How much better will Justin Fields be in Year 3? – Stefano, Chicago

There's no reason to put a ceiling on Fields' improvement — in all areas — in his third season and second with this coaching staff. Three key factors provide significant growth opportunity. First, he has a full year of experience on offense and the Bears didn't have any major personnel changes on offense. He knows the coaches. The coaches know that.

Second, the roster around the outfield has been upgraded. The Bears found a big-time producer at wide receiver when they added momentum to the position by acquiring DJ Moore and then drafting Tyler Scott. They also picked up a seasoned veteran tight end in Robert Tonin and added two potentially big pieces on the right side of the offensive line in rookie tackle Darnell Wright and veteran guard Nate Davis.

And third, Fields has plenty of playing experience on which he can now rely. He must not be seeing anything for the first time. Combine all of that with the drive that Fields has expressed to improve, and it's easy to daydream about what the offense could look like this season.

The Bears are currently focused on basics in a voluntary off-season program. Fields is throwing Roots into the air — meaning there are no defensive players on the field — but he can work on his footwork and work in the pocket. The passing needs better rhythm this season, and we won't have a clear indication of whether things have progressed until the game is played. But the coaches will get a feel for where things are as the spring and summer go on. All signs point to Fields having an opportunity to make a big jump.

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Does Ryan Polse need to add a veteran cornerback to the roster if some of the younger players fail to impress? – Eric T., Chicago

Interesting question and something I wouldn't completely rule out. After Jaylon Johnson, the Bears are really thin in terms of experience at cornerback. Kindle Wilder has played in 44 games with seven starts, and is followed by Michael Ojemudia and Greg Stroman. Ojemudia appeared in 22 games with 12 starts over the past three seasons with the Denver Broncos. Eleven of those starts came in 2020 as a rookie. Stroman has appeared in 22 games with four starts over the past five years for the Washington Commanders and Bears.

Every other corner on the roster is entering his first or second season. That being said, Kyler Gordon (864 snaps), Jaylon Jones (464) and Josh Blackwell (133) got plenty of playing time as rookies last season, and the Bears are excited that Tyreek Stevenson and What draft pick can Terrell Smith make? I think they want to give young players an opportunity to learn, make mistakes and grow before considering the experienced addition.

Short of big pass-rushing threats, what are your thoughts on opposing 300-pounders Gervon Dexter and Zach Pickens O-linemen and giving LBs TJ Edwards and Tremaine Edmonds the freedom to make big plays? — @margasmike

The better the defensive tackles in front of the linebackers, the more effective the linebackers will be. However, I would not confuse Dexter and Pickens with two-gap tackles, whose primary responsibility is to keep offensive linemen away from the linebackers and allow them to flow unencumbered to the ball. Dexter and Pickens should be at their best getting off the ball, getting up the field and hoping to be disruptive in the backfield. I think the Bears are more interested in penetrating them rather than focusing on keeping the linebackers clear.

How will the Bears handle the rep from a now overcrowded back room? — Mike D., Belvidere, Ill.

The Bears have four players to fill three spots on the 53-man roster. Of course an injury at any time can change that. They could also decide to keep four backs on the roster, but that would be a bit unusual. Khalil Herbert is the incumbent, and the Bears signed D'Onta Foreman and Travis Homer in free agency and drafted RoShawn Johnson of Texas in the fourth . This kind of investment leads you to believe that they see Johnson as an important part of the future.

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Running backs coach David Walker said, “We've got the pieces to the puzzle and those guys will figure it out.” “That's the cool thing about it. Nobody's earned a seat in that room yet and they're all going to earn their seats from what we do now … whenever that third preseason game happens. So it's Good point and they know it. It's been told to them. Like the first representative on the first day, Khaleel will be the first one. But after that all bets are off.

Herbert rushed for 731 yards (5.7 per carry) last season, but he is a back that was acquired before the current front office and coaching staff arrived. He played well last year, but will clearly be pushed, and has his limits in the passing game. Walker said he discussed the overall situation with Herbert.

“We're always going to have more communication,” Walker said. “A player shouldn't wonder, ‘What are they doing?' They should know exactly what we're doing because we've talked through it, or after we've made the decisions, we've talked about why we made those decisions.

“But those guys know there's no room for anybody to sit in our room. There's no depth chart. There's a rep chart. Everybody's going to get reps, but we don't have one, two and three in our room right now. Eventually, But now it is not so.

When an undrafted free agent is signed by the Bears to a contract and then released after a few weeks, what is their compensation? — @danieronk

In that instance, the player keeps whatever he receives as a signing bonus. He will also be entitled to any guaranteed money in the contract – if any. Sometimes undrafted rookies get signing bonuses of a few thousand dollars. In other words, they may not be carrying much.