The Chicago Bears have been off the field for about a month and a half, and there have been some significant changes to both the front office and coaching staff as the team tries to recover from one of their worst seasons in recent memory.
As Ryan Pace and John Fox debate what the next step is for the Bears in their rebuilding process, we have compiled a list of roster questions that the team is going to have to address in the weeks and months ahead.
The first one on the docket is one involving the quarterback position, but not the one that you think: what are the Bears going to do with their back-up quarterback spot in the 2015 season?
At this point, it’s unclear on whether the Bears will bring back Jimmy Clausen for next season, as the quarterback is due to hit unrestricted free agency next month. Clausen was signed by the team to compete with Jordan Palmer for the back-up job in training camp, and he ended up winning it as he outplayed Palmer and rookie quarterback David Fales in Bourbonnais and in the preseason.
Clausen ended up being rewarded for his patience with a start in Week 16 against the Detroit Lions, and he did a decent job as he threw for 181 yards and two touchdowns in a losing effort.
He ultimately did leave the game with a concussion, and he wasn’t able to start the final week of the season against the Minnesota Vikings.
Although a reunion with Clausen is possible, there are several other directions that the team could go. The Bears could bring back Josh McCown, who had signed a two-year deal with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers after a successful 2013 season with the Bears but was cut by the team earlier this week. McCown is getting up there in age, but he had some great chemistry with Jay Cutler during his time in Chicago, and so a reunion based on those grounds certainly isn’t out of the realm of possibility.
Other possible candidates to replace Clausen as the team’s backup are Christian Ponder, who likely won’t be returning to the Vikings next season, Jake Locker, who wasn’t re-signed by the Tennessee Titans, and Tarvaris Jackson, who spent the 2014 season backing up Russell Wilson with the Seattle Seahawks.
Ultimately, it will be that type of player that the Bears will probably bring in if they decide to keep Cutler. They don’t want to bring in a guy who is going to be a distraction, and that likely precludes a union with a player like Mark Sanchez or Michael Vick.
Both of those guys could compete with Cutler for a starting job, and while that may ultimately be good for the Bears’ quarterback to have to defend his own turf, it doesn’t feel like Fox’s style to let something like that happen.
McCown, Locker, and Ponder are all guys who could back-up Cutler more quietly, and that would be ideal for the team overall. Fales will also get a serious look after the Bears thwarted the efforts of the New England Patriots to poach the rookie last season, but Adam Gase would likely be more comfortable with a veteran in the back-up role.