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Packers-Bears Week 17 Q&A: Can the Bears keep their defense together in 2021?

Like everyone, the Bears will have some tough salary cap decisions in 2021. How could it affect their defense?

Houston Texans v Chicago Bears Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images

The Bears defense has righted the ship a bit since giving up 41 to the Packers. With a strong core of players and good reason to fight hard in the regular season’s final weekend, they could give the Packers trouble.

But beyond that, the Bears could have some hard decisions to make in 2021 as the league faces a pandemic-induced salary cap crunch. Can the Bears keep the band together? To get an answer, we again turned to Windy City Gridiron’s Patti Curl. Be sure to check out part one of our conversation with Patti, which centered on the Bears’ offense.

Acme Packing Company: The Bears have been defined by their defense since basically time immemorial. What are the chances they can keep their strong unit from 2020 together next year?

Patti Curl: I’m still not sure they have their strong unit from early 2020 together at the moment. The Bears defense has left a lot wanting since giving up 41 points to a small-town team that’s so antiquated they’re still chasing gold when half the league is getting paid in Bitcoin.

In terms of losing players, there are no big impending free agents. Both Kyle Fuller and Akiem Hicks have tradable contracts, but that won’t happen unless the Bears believe they need a full rebuild. I think the talent on next year’s defense will be similar to this year. A couple of older players might lose a step, but a few younger ones should grow and our star nose tackle Eddie Goldman should be back.

APC: Khalil Mack is the highest-profile player on the Bears defense, arriving via a blockbuster trade in 2018. Given how the intervening years have played out, would you make the trade again if you were in charge of the Bears?

PC: I would. Because I’m the type of fan that wants to enjoy every season as much as possible, and he makes watching the Bears defense so much more fun. I actually just re-watched the time he sacked Aaron Rodgers backward by sitting on him. Thanks for reminding me to do that.

Some fans want their team to set themselves up to win a Super Bowl, and from that perspective, it wasn’t a great trade. The Bears would need a lot of luck to win a Super Bowl in Khalil Mack’s prime. Their best chance was probably 2018. So from that perspective, they’d be better off with the cap space and draft capital.

APC: Looking ahead to 2021, is there a young player on the Bears defense you’re particularly excited about?

PC: It’s definitely Roquan Smith. He’s always had incredible physical gifts, and he showed a great grasp of the game and instincts in college. He sacked Aaron Rodgers on his first NFL play, but after that, it took him a couple of years to get the experience and confidence to play at the same level in the pros. He’s really hit his stride this year and he’s become a relentless menace for opposing offenses.

APC: What’s your prediction for Sunday?

PC: I’m too emotionally invested to give an accurate prediction, so I’ll just choose an arbitrary method to decide. Let’s say each team scores the number of their best player. For the Packers, I guess that would be 12, and for the Bears, let’s see... 52.