You’d have to argue the wide receiver and tight end positions were the greatest strength of the 2013 Bears.
Brandon Marshall is an elite receiver, minimally one of the top five in the NFL and 2013 was another Pro Bowl season for him with 100 catches, 1,295 yards and 12 touchdowns.
What few saw coming was Alshon Jeffery emerging as one of the top big–play receivers in the NFL. Jeffery actually surpassed Marshall in yards with 1,421 on 89 catches for a 16.0 average with seven touchdowns. Jeffery’s performance earned him a spot in the Pro Bowl.
The problem at wide receiver is the lack of depth where Earl Bennett’s numbers were well down this year at 32 catches for 243 yards and four touchdowns.
After Bennett, there is no one. Rookie Marquess Wilson caught just two balls all season as the Bears’ fourth option.
Martellus Bennett arrived during the offseason via free agency and emerged as the Bears best tight end since Greg Olsen and possibly the best since Mike Ditka. Martellus Bennett caught 65 passes for 759 yards with five touchdowns and, unlike Olsen, he’s a good enough blocker to stay on the field.
The biggest disappointment with Martellus Bennett had nagging injuries most of the season, which kept him from blocking to his ability.
The Bears also have zero depth at tight end. Dante Rosario arrived in season off the waiver wire and was the No. 2, managing just one catch for 13 yards.
The starters Marshall, Jeffery and Martellus Bennett were an A-. A few too many drops from all three and Bennett’s blocking add the minus to the grade. The depth however is a D -. Still, most teams in the league would kill to have Marshall, Jeffery and Bennett. So overall, call it a B+.
Marshall has one year left on his deal, Jeffery two and Martellus Bennett three. Look for the Bears to try and extend Marshall for a couple more years to create cap space and avoid even bigger cap hits if they have to re-sign him in the free agent market next year. Earl Bennett is signed for two more years, but the Bears are likely to restructure his deal or release him because of his cap hit measured against his production. Rosario is a free agent.
Unless the Bears believe Wilson and Joe Anderson are capable of quantum leaps forward during the offseason, they have a serious need for one more receiver who can play now and another young talent to develop.
There is also a need for a No. 2 tight end who can both catch passes and block. Marc Trestman could do wonders with Forte, Marshall, Jeffery, Martellus and a solid No. 2 tight end.