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State of the 2024 Chicago Bears: Caleb Williams should lead well-rounded roster to playoffs in Year 1

Where does your squad stand ahead of the 2024 NFL season? Adam Rank sets the table by providing a State of the Franchise look at all 32 teams, zeroing in on the new faces to know, one significant fantasy spin and the stakes at play in the campaign to come.

Members of the Bears organization, Bears fans around the world and those who understand you never put ketchup on a hot dog (although we will , but that's it) ...

This is such a great time to be a Bears fan. Yes, I know that I opened the State of the Lions file with that exact same sentiment, but what can I say? These are heady times in the NFC North. I also know skeptics will say, "We've heard this kind of Bears hype before." And you know what? Those skeptics will be correct. There has been optimism in Chicago for guys like Jay Cutler, Mitch Trubisky (I guess) and Justin Fields. Anybody with kids knows you can't keep crying wolf over and over again. But I'm going to tell you that this era -- the Caleb Williams era -- feels different. Seriously! The Bears have a lot of competent football people in charge. They are on Hard Knocks, for crying out loud! That's something I thought I'd never be able to see. These are NOT the same Bears who fumbled quarterback development over the last 30 years. So, what are these Bears? Let's take a look.

2024 brain trust

Table inside Article
POSITION NAME
Head coach Matt Eberflus
General manager Ryan Poles
Offensive coordinator Shane Waldron
Defensive coordinator Eric Washington
Special teams coordinator Richard Hightower

Roster reshuffling

Below is a rundown of the Bears' most notable roster developments for the 2024 season, including this year's draft class, as well as key acquisitions and departures via free agency and trade.

Table inside Article
Draft class (round-pick) Key additions Key departures
Caleb Williams, QB, USC (1-1) D'Andre Swift, RB Justin Fields, QB
Rome Odunze, WR, Washington (1-9) Keenan Allen, WR D'Onta Foreman, RB
Kiran Amegadjie, OT, Yale (3-75) Gerald Everett, TE Darnell Mooney, WR
Tory Taylor, P, Iowa (4-122) Matt Pryor, OL Equanimeous St. Brown, WR
Austin Booker, DE, Kansas (5-144) Jake Curhan, OT Robert Tonyan, TE
Ryan Bates, C Cody Whitehair, OL
Coleman Shelton, C Dan Feeney, OG
Kevin Byard, S Lucas Patrick, C
Jonathan Owens, S Rasheem Green, DE
Yannick Ngakoue, DE
Justin Jones, DT
Eddie Jackson, S
Trenton Gill, P

New faces to know

Keenan Allen
WR · Year 12

It's still hard to believe the Bears were able to snag the six-time Pro Bowler for just a fourth-round pick. Allen has eclipsed 100 receptions in five of the past seven years, posting a career-high 108 last season. The route artisan will be hard-pressed hitting the century mark in 2024, but that's because Chicago also has DJ Moore and first-round pick Rome Odunze. Not a bad receiving corps for the rookie quarterback.

Rome Odunze
WR · Rookie

Speaking of Rome, what a great draft pick. In past Bears regimes, management would have traded for Keenan (probably giving up a second-round pick if it were Ryan Pace at the helm) and called it a day. Instead, these Bears grabbed a superstar wideout of the future to grow with Caleb. Here's the thing: Allen is likely going to be that guy who gets you 9 yards on a third-and-8, but he's a 32-year-old in the last season of his contract. Rome and DJ are going to be in Chicago for a long time.

Tory Taylor
P · Rookie

I know: Chicago used a fourth-round pick on a punter. But before Devin Hester finally got the Hall call this past February, Bears fans spent years stumping for the dynamic returner to get a gold jacket. It's a fan base that fully appreciates the importance of special teams. Chicago knows what a weapon Taylor could be.

State of the QB

Caleb Williams has arrived. And for starters, yes, it's unfortunate Justin Fields never had a receiver room like the one Caleb immediately inherits. But timing is everything. What's funny is that Justin came to the Bears and actually saw a downgrade at wide receiver, considering what he was working with at Ohio State. Here's the thing, though: Caleb is one of the most celebrated prospects to come into the league since Andrew Luck. I know Chicago has botched this before, but all of the moves the Bears have made are setting up their new QB for success. Small things like already naming him the starter -- as opposed to initially sitting him behind someone like Mike Glennon or Andy Dalton -- again show you that these Bears are different.

Most important non-QB

Montez Sweat
DE · Year 6

The Bears acquired Sweat at last season's trade deadline. Right off the bat, many folks called it an overpay because Chicago gave up more for Montez than San Francisco forked over for Chase Young, and then swiftly signed Sweat to a four-year extension with $98 million in new money. But how'd that work out again? Oh, yeah: Over the final 10 weeks of the regular season, with Sweat in tow, Chicago ranked sixth in scoring defense (17.9 ppg) and 10th in total defense (309.2 ypg). Meanwhile, Young underwhelmed with the 49ers and just signed a one-year, prove-it deal with the Saints. Sweat will be great for a developing offensive line, testing the blockers every day in practice, but it's fair to say the Bears need to make another addition to the D-line, as Montez needs a running mate on the opposite edge. Still, No. 98 is the most important player on the defensive side of the ball. Although, shoutout to CB Jaylon Johnson, who signed a four-year, $76 million extension in March. Pro Football Focus gave him the highest overall grade among cornerbacks (90.8) in 2023.

My HOTTEST Bears fantasy take:

D'Andre Swift is going to FEAST in this offense.

Ryan Poles wasted no time in signing Swift, and I applaud the aggressiveness. Swift's numbers in last year's Pro Bowl campaign (1,049 rushing yards and five touchdowns) might not seem that impressive at first blush, but when you remember how many scores he conceded to the "Brotherly Shove," you understand my excitement over his fantasy prospects in 2024. Swift will be the Bears' goal-line back and he's going to out-produce his ADP this coming season. Even with a crowded backfield and so many mouths to feed in this offense, I'm loving Swift.

2024 roadmap

Three key dates:

  • Week 1: vs. Tennessee Titans. Many Bears fans were fearful they'd stick Chicago in a prime-time slot against the Packers in Week 1. Not the case. In fact, this is the best possible opponent. A noon kickoff at home against a team with a first-year head coach and a second-year QB. Not saying this is an automatic win, but you couldn't really ask for a more accommodating opener.
  • Week 11: vs. Green Bay Packers. The first 10 weeks of the season look pretty favorable to the Bears and their rookie quarterback. And then the Packers come to town. I'm the biggest meatball in the world, and yet, this is very concerning to me as a Bears fan because we've been down this road before. Chicago also closes out the regular season in Lambeau once again.
  • Week 13 (Thanksgiving Day): at Detroit Lions. The Bears should play in Detroit every Thanksgiving. That would be super fun.

For 2024 to be a success, the Bears MUST:

A) Win the Super Bowl
B) Make a playoff run
C) Earn a playoff berth
D) Finish above .500
E) Show progress

My answer: A) Win the Super Bowl. I'm kidding. Sort of. If you've followed along with these files over the years, most of the time when I'm talking about teams with rookie quarterbacks, the main thing is developing the young franchise cornerstone. Which is obviously a goal here for the Bears. But this isn't a normal situation for a rookie quarterback, especially one who was the first overall pick in the draft. Caleb Williams is joining a team that narrowly missed out on the playoffs last year. (Chicago lost three games where it had over a 90 percent chance of winning in the fourth quarter.) These Bears boast a top-notch defense and a legit claim of having the best receiving corps in the NFL. Ten wins and a trip to the playoffs should be the expectation here.

So I guess my real answer is: C) Earn a playoff berth. This team is ready to rock.

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