When Jay Cutler and Matt Forte were lost for the season, the defense knew they had to step their game up. For the most part they did, but in the end, they didn't make enough plays to make up for the lack of production from the offense.
Lovie Smith's Cover 2 lives and dies by the pass rush. With a consistent pass rush comes nervous quarterbacks, misfired passes and interceptions. While there were bright spots on the defensive line with Julius Peppers, the Bears need to bring more pressure opposite of him. Israel Idonije is a solid pro and plays the run well but he doesn't get to the quarterback as he should, especially with Peppers getting double teamed on nearly every snap.
With the Bears being $20 million under the salary cap, they have plenty of room to upgrade their roster. Don't be surprised if they bring in more than one of the top free agents in this year's market. One of their needs is at defensive end. After watching how the Giants' defensive line made plays against the Packers' offensive line in the playoffs, upgrading defensive line could become more of a priority than any other position the Bears need to upgrade.
The Bears could very well use one of their four picks in the first three rounds to draft a defensive end but the list of players at this position in the free agent market is intriguing.
Mario Williams -- Imagine Williams lining up opposite of Julius Peppers. How about him lining up next to Peppers? If there's money left over after getting a top free agent wide receiver, the Bears should do everything they can to sign Williams. The Bears defensive line could be the most feared in the league overnight. Last season, Williams played outside linebacker with the Texans, after Wade Phillips changed to a 3-4 from a 4-3. Williams has played as an end his entire career so he may have been playing out of position.
Robert Mathis -- The 30 year old defensive end has played opposite of Dwight Freeney with the Colts. He's a little under-sized (6-2, 245 pounds) like Freeney but he has the quickness the Bears prefer and can bring the heat on an opposing quarterback. Mathis is a four-time Pro Bowler and has 83.5 sacks.
Chris Avril -- The Lions had one of the best defensive lines in the league last year and Avril lead the team in sacks. The Lions will probably re-sign him so there's no telling that he'll be available. Avril does play with a mean stream, as did the entire Lions team, so you have to like that about him... not so much if he's playing the Bears.