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49ers opponents 2016: Can Jay Cutler build on 2015, without Adam Gase?

Our review of the San Francisco 49ers 2016 opponents continues on with the Chicago Bears.

49ers opponents: Cowboys | Panthers | Falcons | Saints | Bucs | Bills | Dolphins | Jets | Patriots

The 2016 NFL Combine has come to a close, and free agency gets started next week. Since news is going to start picking up shortly, it is time to continue our annual review of the San Francisco 49ers upcoming opponents.

We will be providing three breakdowns. This first one will review the previous season for each team. It will also include a list of each team's free agents, and a look at some potential needs heading into free agency and the draft. The second one will come in April, providing a look at where teams are at following free agency, and what the draft means for each team. The third set will come in July, providing a recap of the offseason and a look ahead to training camp for each team.

Today, we finish up the non-divisional opponents with a look at the Chicago Bears. It was not a pretty season for the Bears, as they finished 6-10 and brought up the rear in the NFC North. They opened the season with three straight losses, two of which came with Jimmy Clausen starting due to a Jay Cutler injury. They managed a pair of good wins in weeks 4 and 5, beating the improved Oakland Raiders, and then going on the road and beating a Chiefs team that eventually went to the playoffs. However, they reverted to inconsistent form after that. They bounced between wins and losses and were 5-6 heading into Week 3, but then finished out the season 1-4 to miss the playoffs and finish in the cellar.

The big plus was the development of the offense. Although it was not pretty at times, Jay Cutler was fairly efficient for much of the season. Had he not gotten hurt early in the season, maybe they win one or both of those games Jimmy Clausen started. Cutler played with an injury-ravaged receiver corps, but still put up strong numbers. Of course, his offensive coordinator, Adam Gase, is now down in Miami, so we'll see what 2016 brings.

The defense was a mess last year. Football Outsiders ranked the unit No. 31, and the unit is expected to continue getting revamped with a handful of free agents likely out the door. Rookie defensive lineman Eddie Goldman and safety Adrian Amos showed promise, with Goldman grabbing 4.5 sacks, and Amos finishing third on the team in tackles.

Free Agents

Unrestricted free agents: RB Matt Forte, WR Alshon Jeffery, OT Jermon Bushrod, CB Alan Ball, ILB Shea McClellin, SS Ryan Mundy, DE Jarvis Jenkins, CB Sherrick McManis, C Will Montgomery, OG Vladimir Ducasse, WR Marc Mariani, TE Zach Miller, RB Jacquizz Rodgers, CB Tracy Porter, OLB Sam Acho, DT Mitch Unrein, SS Chris Prosinski, SS Sherrod Martin, TE Robert Housler

Restricted free agents: WR Josh Bellamy, OG Patrick Omameh, ILB LaRoy Reynolds, OT Nick Becton, WR Deonte Thompson

Earlier today, we discussed the rumor that the Bears might trade Martellus Bennett. It sounds more and more likely that he will not be on the team in 2016. The bigger news this week was the decision to designate wide receiver Alshon Jeffery as their franchise player. He is far and away their best weapon on offense, and all the more so with Matt Forte not expected to return in 2016.

The Bears have a sizable chunk of defensive players hitting free agency, but considering how bad their defense was for significant stretches last season, this is not a bad thing.

Potential Needs

Cap space: $46,550,041
Draft picks: 1(11), 2(10), 3(9), 4(8), 5(11), 6(10), 6(21 or 29 depending on Patriots trade), 6(31), 7(9) - no comp picks

The Bears will get 2015 first round pick wide receiver Kevin White back after he missed 2015 due to a leg injury. If healthy, that is like having a whole other draft pick coming in. Look for the Bears to thus spend this offseason focusing on the defensive side of the ball. They need help in all phases of the game, particularly in the front seven. I suspect they are a team spending big on a free agent or two, and also using the 11th pick of the draft to load up on defense.