It’s going to be an eventful offseason for the Chicago Bears, as the team will look to hire a new head coach for the first time since 2018 and a new general manager for the first time since 2015 after the ouster of Matt Nagy and Ryan Pace.
The Bears missed the playoffs in 2021, and they’ll have to contend with key departures in free agency as they look to build a roster around quarterback Justin Fields.
As the team prepares to shake up its football operations and coaching staff, here are some key dates for Bears fans to keep an eye on in the months ahead:
Jan. 10 – May 2: 2019 Draft Pick Contract Extensions
Beginning Monday, the Bears will be able to offer new contract extensions to their 2019 draft class, and they will have until May 2 to get any such deals done.
The main contender for a new contract would be running back David Montgomery, who will be entering the final year of his rookie deal in 2022. Riley Ridley and Duke Shelley would also be eligible for new contracts should the Bears opt to sign them.
Since the Bears didn’t have a first-round pick in 2019 (it was traded to the Raiders in the Khalil Mack deal), there isn’t a player they will need to pick up a fifth-year option on. In previous years, they declined the option on quarterback Mitchell Trubisky and picked it up on linebacker Roquan Smith.
Jan. 28 – HBCU Combine
For the first time, the NFL will host the Historically Black Colleges & Universities Combine event in Mobile, Alabama later this month, giving teams a look at players from the CIAA, MEAC, SIAC, SWAC and other HBCU institutions.
The event will be patterned after the NFL Combine, will take place ahead of the annual East-West Shrine Game and the Senior Bowl.
Feb. 3: East-West Shrine Bowl
Feb. 5: Senior Bowl
Two of the primary showcase games for NFL Draft prospects will take place ahead of the Feb. 6 Pro Bowl, with the East-West Shrine Bowl taking place in Las Vegas and the Senior Bowl taking place in Mobile.
Traditionally, coaching staffs of two non-playoff teams handle the coaching duties for the Senior Bowl, which is contested between players who have completed their college eligibility.
The East-West Shrine Bowl pits teams of players from the Eastern and Western parts of the United States.
Mar. 1-7: NFL Scouting Combine
The annual NFL Scouting Combine will take place in the first week of March in Indianapolis. Last year's event was transitioned to a virtual gathering because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Hundreds of draft prospects will be on-hand for interviews and physical testing during the event, and it marks the single-biggest gathering of draft talent ahead of the April selection show.
Mar. 8: Franchise/Transition Tag Deadline
With free agency looming, teams will have until March 8 to put franchise or transition tags on their impending free agents.
Franchise tags can either be exclusive or non-exclusive. On an exclusive tag, the player is eligible to receive a guaranteed one-year contract worth no less than the average of the top-five paid players at their position, and a player cannot negotiate with other teams.
Non-exclusive tags give a player a one-year deal worth the average of the top-five cap hits at the player’s position from the previous five seasons. This tag also allows players to negotiate with other teams, but their current team will be given the option to match the contract.
The Bears could also use a transition tag, which would allow them the right of first-refusal on any contract a player may reach with another team.
Mar. 14-16: Legal Tampering Period
During this period, clubs are permitted to contact and negotiate with agents of players who will become unrestricted free agents on March 16. Contracts cannot be agreed to during this window.
Mar. 16: Free Agency Begins
Teams can reach agreements with players beginning at 3 p.m. on this date, with the start of the NFL’s new league year.
April 4: First Workouts of Spring
Teams that hire new head coaches, as the Chicago Bears will do this offseason, can begin offseason workouts on this date. Teams without new head coaches will have to wait until mid-April to do so.
April 28-30: NFL Draft
The NFL Draft will take place in Las Vegas this spring. The Bears do not own a first-round pick, having traded it to the New York Giants in the 2021 swap that landed Justin Fields in Chicago. The Bears also traded their fourth-round pick to the Giants in the swap.
The Bears are expected to have the seventh pick in the second round of the draft, as they were the only team to finish with a 6-11 record this season.
The Jacksonville Jaguars own the first pick, while the Detroit Lions will pick second.