The Chicago Bears are coming into the 2016 with major changes likely on the horizon, as longtime running back Matt Forte is unlikely to return on a new contract. Alshon Jeffery is also a free agent and is expected to be retained, while tight end Martellus Bennett could be on the trading block.
Forte is not expected to return after the Bears did not engage in contract extension talks with the running back during the season. Forte has been one of the most productive backs in football during his time with the Bears, but he is getting to the wrong side of 30 and the Chicago Tribune writes that he is not expected to return. Forte had 898 rushing yards this season in 13 games, his lowest total in his Bears career and his first season with fewer than 1000 rushing yards since 2011.
Jeffery is more likely to return to the Bears, as the team sees him as a franchise receiver despite dealing with injuries this past season. Brad Biggs at the Chicago Tribune writes that he would be "very surprised" if Jeffery did not return next season. Jeffery had two huge years in 2013-14 before dealing with injuries this season, putting up at least 85 catches for over 1100 yards in back to back seasons while combining for 17 TD receptions.
The Bears will need a new offensive coordinator for next season as well, as Adam Gase has been hired by the Miami Dolphins as their new head coach. Gase helped turn around the offense this season and helped Jay Cutler put up some solid stats and now John Fox will need to bring in a new play caller. If Forte is gone it likely means that Jeremy Langford and Ka'Deem Carey will take over as the top backs unless the team brings in someone else in free agency or the draft.
The Bears have a top 12 pick in the NFL draft this year and that gives the team the opportunity to bring in a top prospect to the roster. Last year the team picked Kevin White in the top 10 and while that pick did not work out in 2015 due to injuries, White could be a potential number two receiver alongside Jeffery if he returns. White was trying to return towards the end of the season, but the Bears shut him down with a shin injury and now he will have all offseason to get healthy and ready for training camp and offseason workouts.
The Bears may go with defense with their number one pick this year, as the defensive side of the ball had some major issues with consistency this season. There are a number of defensive prospects that should be available in the middle of the first round and players like Jonathan Allen, Mackensie Alexander, Shaq Lawson, Vernon Hargreaves, Myles Jack or DeForest Buckner could be potential picks. Bennett could be a trade option after having a down season in 2015 and if the team brings back Zach Miller, expect a move to be made.