Despite slipping one notch in the first post-draft rankings, the Bears are still considered in the top half of the league. They acquired Pro Bowl wide receiver Brandon Marshall in a trade with the Miami Dolphins, and picked up running back Michael Bush in free agency to complement Matt Forte, who has yet to sign his franchise tender which would guarantee the all-purpose rusher approximately $7.7 million in 2012. Forte has been absent for the start of the teams' offseason workout program and there have been no indications that he plans to attend the Bears' veteran mini-camp in mid-June without having agreed to a new long-term contract.
The Bears attempted to upgrade their pass rush last weekend at the NFL draft by selecting Boise State defensive end/linebacker Shea McClellin in the first round at No. 19 overall. McClellin is expected to jump into a rotation at defensive end that includes perennial Pro Bowler Julius Peppers and veteran Israel Idonije, who returned to the team on a one-year deal.
In the second round, the Bears moved up five spots to grab South Carolina wide receiver Alshon Jeffery at No. 45. The hope is Jeffery, one of the top wideouts in the country in 2010, turns out to be a perfect complement for Marshall and another big target for quarterback Jay Cutler. Temple tight end/H-back Evan Rodriguez is also projected to be a contributor to the offense his rookie year, according to Bears general manager Phil Emery. The Bears hardly utilized the tight end in the passing game last season, but that is expected to change under new offensive coordinator Mike Tice. Rodriguez views himself in the mold of New England pass-catching tight end Aaron Hernandez, which if true, means the Bears got a steal in the fourth round. Tice must now figure out how to incorporate all three of his tight ends -- Rodriguez, Kellen Davis, Matt Spaeth -- into the game plan.
When you add up all the Bears' offseason transactions, it's clear that on paper the offense projects to be much stronger in 2012, just as long as the key components stay relatively healthy. For that reason alone, the Bears appear to be in a much better position post-draft than a year ago, which justifies their top-15 ranking.