The Bears are counting on the veterans they've acquired this offseason via trade and free agency to provide more than just roster upgrades.
"You always look for new guys to come in and lead," said general manager Ryan Poles, who has added 11 experienced veterans since the start of the new league year March 15. "I think these guys have been in the league long enough where they can come in and first earn it, earn the respect of their peers, and then take the leadership skills."
Armed with the No. 1 pick in the draft and ample salary cap space, Poles took advantage of those resources to address several needs. He dealt the No. 1 pick to the Panthers in exchange for receiver DJ Moore and four draft picks. Poles also signed 10 free agents: linebackers Tremaine Edmunds, T.J. Edwards and Dylan Cole; running backs D'Onta Foreman and Travis Homer; guard Nate Davis; quarterback P.J. Walker; tight end Robert Tonyan; defensive end DeMarcus Walker and defensive tackle Andrew Billings.
Leadership is also expected to come from returning players, including members of last year's draft class such as cornerback Kyler Gordon, safety Jaquan Brisker, receiver Velus Jones Jr. and tackle Braxton Jones.
"We also want the guys who were here last year and the ones that we drafted last year to continue to lead and step up," Poles said. "A couple times with [coach] Matt [Eberflus] and I through the exit process, we challenged some of the young guys to step up and lead and take initiative and speak up when they need to. I'm excited to see this new wave and what it looks like."
Seeking highly competitive individuals
Incoming Bears president and CEO Kevin Warren would like every player that Poles selects in the draft to possess similar characteristics.
"You want to build your roster with championship-quality individuals," Warren said. "Individuals who love the game of football; not love the game of football because of all the ancillary items that come along with it, or love to say they're an NFL player, but truly love to compete.
"I love highly competitive people who do things the right way, who want to work hard to be diligent, to be strong in the community, just to really do the right thing … When you get that group of men together who really are focused and it's not about the position or salary, but you get them to come together, that we're going to do something special, you can really change the world."
Not done yet
Eberflus acknowledged last week at the NFL owners meetings that the Bears may not be finished addressing their defensive line in free agency.
"That's certainly one avenue we can take," he said. "A lot of times those things take time … A lot of times these guys want to see the landscape. Sometimes it's after the draft; they want to see the landscape of where teams are and what they look like.
"That's certainly an option. We're always trying to add players all the way through, even up to training camp. We're always going to do that."
Up close and personal
Eberflus enjoyed traveling to several Pro Days throughout the country to get an in-person look at some of the top prospects in the draft.
"We really believe going to the Pro Days are important because you can just glean that much more information about a way a guy catches, the way he moves in space, how he bends, how he moves with his coach," Eberflus said.
"I think that's important. How much stamina he has. You can see the preparation there, and then you get to talk to the coaches. You're just sitting there talking to the head coach. I met with all the head coaches for 20-30 minutes on the field, defensive coordinator, offensive coordinator. You can really get good information from a guy when you're there in person."