Tuesday, February 19, 2013
Top offseason needs: NFC North
By ESPN.com staff
Football Outsiders examines the most pressing 2013 offseason needs for every team in the NFC North, including the Chicago Bears’ need for a wide receiver outside Brandon Marshall.
Chicago Bears: Wide receiver and tight end
Remember when the Bears traded for Brandon Marshall? That was a fairly adept move by new Bears GM Phil Emery, because if Marshall hadn't been around last season, Jay Cutler might not have completed a pass. Marshall absorbed 192 targets, third-most in the league behind Calvin Johnson and Reggie Wayne, and he had to do this because the Bears had no other receivers who could beat man coverage. While part of that falls on the diminishing returns of the fifth year of the Devin Hester experiment at WR, as well as the general lack of receiving depth Chicago had while waiting for Alshon Jeffery to develop, another big factor was Emery's trade of Greg Olsen to the Carolina Panthers back in 2011. Without a reliable tight end to serve as an underneath threat, Cutler was forced to spend a lot more of last season scrambling while waiting for his targets to get open.
Kellen Davis had a truly magical season, dropping seven passes on just 44 targets, and finishing with a minus-26.6 percent DVOA rating that placed him 46th out of 49 qualifying tight ends. (DVOA is Football Outsiders' defense-adjusted value over average metric, explained here.) Secondary tight end Matt Spaeth, primarily a blocker, caught the ball about as well as you'd expect a blocking tight end to, accumulating a -34.6 percent DVOA on the 10 passes thrown his way. Due to a poor offensive line, the Bears often had no choice but to use both of their tight ends as blockers rather than waste their time trying to throw to them.
The Bears will have a decent amount of cap space, but assuming they won't chase an upper-echelon free-agent receiver like Dwayne Bowe or Mike Wallace, they don't figure to have a lot of enticing options to fill this hole on the market. With tight ends like Jared Cook and Dustin Keller possibly drawing franchise tags, the Bears could opt to try a relatively underused player like Texans fullback/tight end James Casey. Or they could simplify the whole process and draft Stanford's Zach Ertz with the 20th overall pick.
To read about the top offseason needs for the Lions, Packers and Vikings, click here .