Can the Monsters of the Midway Bare their Fangs in 2023?

The Chicago Bears look to go from the bottom feeders of the NFC North to the golden standard.


Michel Sauret

The Chicago Bears playing at Soldier Field on November 16, 2022.

By Victor Roberts, Sports Reporter

Where Are They?  

The Chicago Bears are entering the 2023 off-season with a treasure trove of resources at their disposal. With the team holding the number one overall pick in the 2023 draft, and the highest cap space in the NFL, it is no wonder that many analysts have the Bears making a splash in the upcoming season should they draft well and fill their holes this off-season. There is good reason for the Bears faithful to have hope for the 2022-2023 season.  


A traditional moniker for the Bears was “The Monsters of the Midway.” The team historically boasted a mean defense that scared any and all who opposed them. Even throughout the 2010s, the Bears produced two of the best defenses ever in 2012 and 2018 by DVOA metrics. Quarterback Justin Fields does need new offensive weapons to continue his growth, but a disciplined defense would also greatly help ease pressure on him. During the 2022 season, Fields was often forced to play from behind, causing the Bears to change their offensive game plan to try and catch up. This issue could be mitigated if the Bears put together a better defense that doesn’t leave the offense in big deficits. 

On the other hand, the offensive side of the ball is not much better off. I believe that other main priorities this off-season should be a star wide receiver and an improved offensive line, as the “trenches” are often considered the backbone of a team. Giving a young quarterback time to think and process his reads in the pocket is important to their development as a passer. If the Bears can give Justin Fields some protection and a sure-handed target, magic may happen.   

The Bears are a team with a lot of holes, and this off-season the front office must figure out which holes need to be filled first. The front office will not be able to fill every need in one off-season, but if they go about it right, they can mask positions that are lower in quality by surrounding them with newly injected talent. To begin this analysis, let’s address the positions I believe the Bears do not need to prioritize this off-season. 

Quarterback: Pretty self-explanatory. Justin Fields is him.  

Tight End: I find the Bears having to sign a top five TE if they are going to replace Cole Kmet. He’s young, cheap, and has flashed immense potential. Personally, I would keep him in 2023.  

Cornerback: The CBs currently on the team are young and growing. I think giving Jaylon Johnson, Jaylon Jones, and Josh Blackwell time to continue to adapt will be helpful for the upcoming season. However, adding a corner in free agency would not be a bad idea.  

Safety: Like the cornerbacks, while the Bears’s safety core is not anything particularly special, they have the potential to be a solid group in 2023. With Kyler Gordon, Jaquan Brisker, and Eddie Jackson hopefully returning from the injury reserve, they should show some promise.  

Linebacker: While this should be a position the Bears look to upgrade in the off-season, Nicholas Morrow and particularly Jack Sanborn showed some upside in 2022, so it is much lower in priority; perhaps bringing in a veteran linebacker or drafting one on Day 2 would be beneficial.  

The First Overall Pick: Should They Keep It?  

The Bears find themselves in an interesting position regarding the upcoming draft. With how well Justin Fields performed last season—he boasted 3380 total yards of offense and 25 touchdowns to 11 turnovers—there is little reason for them to draft a new quarterback, historically the most common thing to do with the first pick of the draft. Instead it would be smart to trade the pick for a haul of other picks from a team in need of a quarterback, such as the Colts, Raiders, Panthers, or frankly any of the NFC South. Many NFL reporters have said this is what the Bears plan to do. Dov Kleiman stated on February 1 that “The Bears have decided to go ahead with Justin Fields as the franchise QB and will try to trade the 1st overall pick in the draft… Fields impressed the Bears organization on how he handled the 2022 season.” 

While I believe this to be a smart move that could set the Bears up for success, as they would receive a king’s ransom for their pick, I do think there is some merit in holding on to the number one overall pick and drafting a monster of a defensive tackle in Jalen Carter, or even the best edge rusher of this year’s draft in Will Anderson. There is never a guarantee that the picks a team receives will land on hits, no matter how many of them a team has. However, the likelihood of hitting on a star player is much higher the higher up a team drafts, meaning that should the Bears stay at number one, there is a much higher chance of them landing a cornerstone for their franchise, and a generational player to rebuild the franchise around. 

While I do present two options that teams have done in the past, I believe that the latter option of holding on to the number one overall pick would not be the wisest decision for the Bears; they simply have too many holes to fill, and the more picks they can accrue for this draft, the better off they will likely be. Trading it away is the right choice. 

Offensive Help  

The Bears have a daunting task at hand in trying to rebuild their offensive line. However, I believe they already have a few pieces that may expedite the process. Braxton Jones played very well for a rookie in 2022, and the Bears are expected to start him in 2023. They also liked the performances of left guard Cody Whitehair and center Sam Mustipher, with guard Lucas Patrick coming off IR next year. An area that does need immediate attention, however, is right tackle. There are no standout free agent tackles this off-season, so this may need to be an area that is addressed through the draft. 

On another note, I think a great player Chicago could add to the offensive line is Isaac Seumalo, a free agent right guard for the Philadelphia Eagles. The Bears already have the solid Teven Jenkins at right guard, but by switching around some positions, this would be a solid pickup. Seumalo has played himself out of Philadelphia’s price range, being stout this entire season, allowing only one sack and earning himself a Pro Bowl alternate nod. 

Seumalo is also part of an elite run offense in Philly that could be mimicked in Chicago, considering the Bears possess a mobile quarterback in Justin Fields and a solid running back group in Khalil Herbert and David Montgomery. The Bears should definitely prioritize maintaining their one-two punch in the run game. Having a backfield consisting of two running backs has proved to be an effective strategy to change pace and keep players healthier—just look at Isiah Pacheco and Jerick McKinnon in Kansas City, or Kenneth Gainwell and Miles Sanders in Philidelphia. The pieces are in place to recreate those teams’ same magic. Montgomery was a disruptive workhorse with Khalil Herbert showing impressive flashes of talent in 2022. 

The Bears should certainly look to resign Montgomery for the right price. However, if the Bears do lose Montgomery this spring, the good news is that there are a plethora of other quality running backs to choose from. A-list free agents include the likes of Saquon Barkley, Tony Pollard, Jamaal Williams, and Miles Sanders. While I do believe these guys are all exceptional backs, their price range should be out of the question for a rebuilding Bears team. Instead, I suggest looking for a back with major upside, such as Devin Singletary from the Buffalo Bills or James Robinson from the New York Jets. Both should be available for cheap, and Robinson especially will be looking to prove himself in new scenery. After two campaigns that saw him around 1000 scrimmage yards in back-to-back years, he will be looking to bounce back in the 2023 season.   

Defensive Help  

On the defensive side of the ball, free agents Yannick Ngakoue from the Indianapolis Colts and Daron Payne from the Washington Commanders should be priorities. Payne should be a no-brainer; at the age of 25, he still has plenty of football-playing years ahead of him. He is also coming off a 12-sack, 20-QB-hit season, and is a pure disrupter up the middle of the line. Another interesting development is the Chargers potentially releasing Khalil Mack due to being unable to afford his wages this upcoming season. Is a reunion between the two sides in the cards? Personally, I believe only for the right price. Mack is a phenomenal player, but he’s on the wrong side of 30, and his production has begun to dip. I believe that the draft is chiefly where the Bears should look for defensive help; there are plenty of promising edge rushers available. They should also keep close eyes on how Dominique Robinson, Armon Watts, and Justin Jones develop, but they clearly need help along a line that was last in almost every metric this past season

Wide Receiver  

I’m sure that the Bears’ front office is paying close attention to the success that bringing in a star wide receiver does for your quarterback. The young quarterbacks for Buffalo Bills and Philadelphia Eagles, Josh Allen and Jalen Hurts, each made significant leaps in their game with the addition of Stefon Diggs and A.J. Brown respectively. The interesting decision will be whether the Bears want to get their wide receiver of the future through the draft or via trade. Here are a couple options I believe are feasible:  

Trading draft assets for Bengals WR Tee Higgins seems like a smart move considering the resources the Bears have, as well as the cap space to get a long-term deal done with the young wide receiver. Tee Higgins will be entering his fourth season coming off back-to-back 1000-yard campaigns, not to mention doing so while playing second fiddle to fellow Bengals wide receiver Ja’Marr Chase. At only 24 years old, this move would be a huge get for Justin Fields and the Bears’ offense.  

A situation to keep an eye on has been what’s going on in Los Angeles, where there is much discussion about the possibility of the Chargers releasing Keenan Allen as a victim of the cap. Should the Chargers go through with this (highly questionable) decision, I believe the Bears should be all over signing Keenan Allen. One thing to note is Allen’s durability. Allen only played 10 games last season due to a nagging hamstring injury, and as we’ve seen with older receivers like Julio Jones, this can be an injury that greatly hampers a receiver’s game. However, prior to this season, Allen’s fewest games played was 14, and his lowest yards in a season was 992. He is very much a quality receiver worth getting a contract considering the Bears’ cap situation. My only comment on this decision is that I would not let this signing stop the Bears from also getting a younger receiver to pair with Allen, either through the draft or in free agency. 

Speaking of current free agents, someone who might be looking for a change of scenery might be Allen Lazard, at least pending Aaron Rodgers’ future plans. Although he is yet to prove himself as a bona fide first-choice receiver, he would come relatively cheap and would be a great number two to whichever wide receiver you wanted to pair with him. Another solid choice would be D. J. Chark, who had a 30-reception, 503-yard, three-touchdown season in 2022 for the Detroit Lions. He has the makings of an excellent deep threat that could help tune Justin Field’s long ball.  


Fortunately for the Bears, the NFC North will no longer be controlled by the juggernaut that is the Green Bay Packers. Green Bay is likely to lose four-time MVP Aaron Rodgers next season after missing the playoffs due to a disappointing 8–9 season. Unfortunately for the Bears, in Green Bay’s stead now enter two challengers: the Detroit Lions and Minnesota Vikings. As of right now, the Bears are behind both of these franchises. The key will be to not fall too far behind, as the gap will only widen in the coming years if the Bears remain complacent and unaggressive.   

The Bears have the potential to be a very fun team to watch this upcoming year. However, it is all contingent on how Ryan Poles, Matt Eberflus, and the rest of the Bears front office treat this off-season. If they take advantage of Justin Fields’ rookie contract and go all in by providing the surrounding pieces, I think they will find success similar to other teams in recent memory, such as the Bengals and Eagles. On the contrary, if they are conservative with their resources, they will waste a valuable window that comes with a young quarterback.