With a majority of key players on the Chicago Bears roster - particularly on defense - already in their 30s, General Manager Jerry Angelo needs to start looking for long-term replacements. And he needs to do it now.
Consider that Charles Tillman, Israel Idonije, Lance Briggs, Anthony Adams, Julius Peppers, Brian Urlacher, and Olin Kreutz are all in their 30s.
And while most of those guys played at very high level in 2010, it's foolish to think you can continue to count on that for years to come. If their age doesn't already worry you, consider that, according to a study performed by Strength Planet, the average NFL player is retired by the age of 28.
And while there are plenty of immediate needs that have to be addressed in order for this team to take the next step, the question comes into play, exactly how to improve now vs. how to secure your franchise's future? Logic would suggest drafting for the future and utilizing free agency to fill immediate needs.
In both 2009 and 2010, we all saw just how much Brian Urlacher means to this team. Angelo has to find an athletic linebacker who can play in the Bears' base cover 2 scheme. If the Bears feel Urlacher still has a couple years left in the tank, give your draft pick time to learn and develop under Brian. They will need it.
The Bears truthfully do not have a No. 1 corner. But, they do have Charles Tillman. Last year, Tillman managed to stay relatively healthy all season. But, his body is already showing signs of his age. Jerry has to look towards a future replacement for Charles Tillman - who I still feel is one of the best corners to ever put on a Bears uniform. And before you go commenting about how Tim Jennings is that guy, no ... just, no.
Julius Peppers is currently 31 and still performing at the highest possible level. He made this defense what it was last season, despite Urlacher's return. Who's next in-line behind Peppers? Corey Wootton? While I've had high hopes for Wooton - even before the Favre sack - you can't put all your eggs in one basket. We can assume that, barring any injury, Peppers still likely has 2-3 really good years left. So, while this may not be as pressing, it's key to find guys who can step-in more frequently as time goes on.
It's no secret that Olin Kreutz needs to be replaced. Heck, it's no secret that he should have been replaced a long time ago; he's been bad for the past two years. Many are hopeful Mike Pouncey could fall to the Bears in the draft, but that's highly unlikely. This is probably the most obvious need of them all. Jerry cannot miss on a future center for the Bears this year.
Angelo has never really put in any sort of long-term plan to replace these guys. No contingency plan is in place whatsoever, and that's sad. The task Jerry has ahead of him now is going to be really tough; so many needs, so little time, and so little talent to choose from. Looking back at his history, I can't expect anything but mediocrity out of this year's draft.
And don't be disappointed when Angelo trades out of the first round; count on that to happen.