- Jeff Dickerson, ESPN Staff Writer
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With offseason workouts and minicamps in the rearview mirror and training camps just a few weeks away, we assess the Chicago Bears’ offseason moves and assign a letter grade in the video above.
Best move: Signing veteran Antrel Rolle to a three-year, $11.25 million contract should enhance the performance and leadership in Chicago’s secondary. Despite being an older player, Rolle is extremely durable. The 32-year-old has missed just one regular-season game in the past nine years and is an upgrade over injury-plagued Chris Conte, who joined the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the offseason. The Bears need savvy, experienced players such as Rolle to help younger players adjust to the new defensive system. He can also still play at a high level -- Rolle intercepted nine passes in the past two years with the New York Giants. After years of enduring a revolving door at safety, the Bears are counting on Rolle and fellow veteran Ryan Mundy to stabilize the position and help stop the run.
Riskiest move: The Bears are still dealing with the aftermath of releasing defensive lineman Ray McDonald on Memorial Day. Money was not the issue; McDonald’s contract did not contain any guaranteed cash. Chicago has also moved past the public relations fiasco it brought upon itself bv signing a player with such pronounced character red flags. Rather, this is a performance problem. McDonald was supposed to be a major contributor on defense, one of the few players familiar with defensive coordinator Vic Fangio’s version of the 3-4. For all of McDonald’s lengthy off-the-field incidents, he is a talented defender, which is why the Bears agreed to bring him on board in the first place. Now the Bears have to scramble to fill the void. Losing a projected starter in late May is bad for business.
Sticking with Cutler: For better or worse, Jay Cutler is still the Bears’ starting quarterback. Cutler is now on his fifth offense, fifth offensive coordinator and third head coach since the Bears traded for him in 2009. So far, Cutler’s relationship with coordinator Adam Gase and quarterbacks coach Dowell Loggains has been productive. Cutler has known both coaches for years, and all parties seem enthusiastic about the quarterback’s chances of succeeding in the new system. From a physical standpoint, Cutler looked strong and fit in the offseason program. Cutler’s arm strength is never an issue. But how will Cutler handle the stress of the regular season if the Bears get off to a slow start? That question cannot be answered in the relaxed environment of OTAs and minicamp. One thing is clear: Cutler needs a strong 2015 to ensure he’s on the Bears’ roster beyond this upcoming season.
Training camp outlook: Now that tight end Martellus Bennett reported to minicamp, the Bears don’t have any potential training camp holdouts to worry about, so health permitting, the full roster is expected to be in Bourbonnais. The coaching staff, however, needs to evaluate linebacker Jon Bostic, cornerback Alan Ball and defensive linemen/outside linebackers Lamarr Houston and Willie Young before knowing exactly what the team has on defense. The Bears have enough talent to win more than five games, but it’s way too early to forecast a playoff appearance for a team in Year 1 of a rebuild.