Offseasons proceed in stages, effectively beginning late in the preceding regular season and running into the draft in late April. Transactions will go down outside of that framework but the defining deals typically go down in those stages, each one affecting the next and ultimately dominoing into the draft.
So it is with the Bears.
First are in-season re-signings of in-house targets (receiver Earl Bennett, center Roberto Garza, guard Edwin Williams).
Then come re-signings before the onset of free agency (cornerback Tim Jennings) and into the early stages of the open market (tight end Kellen Davis, defensive end Israel Idonije, quarterback Josh McCown, safety Craig Steltz).
Those were preceded by a trade (wide receiver Brandon Mashall) that dramatically altered the Bears course in free agency. That was followed by others: quarterback Jason Campbell, running back Michael Bush, receivers Devin Thomas and Eric Weems, linebacker Blake Costanzo, cornerbacks Kelvin Hayden, Jonathan Wilhite).
Throw in the assorted extension (linebacker Lance Briggs) and you have an active franchise for not just the last six weeks but also the last six months.
So what does all that activity mean for draft needs, which are considerably altered from the premature analyses before the tsunami of change rolled through Halas Hall?
CSNChicago.com assesses the degree of current need for each position group in the wake of the additions.
1 = priority need; likely pick during first four rounds.
2 = moderate need; help wanted but not desperate enough for a need-based reach.
3 = low or no need; could take one but only a value surprise.
With Jay Cutler in place, Jason Campbell in addition, Josh McCown in reserve and Nathan Enderle in question, the Bears have gone into few drafts with less pressing need for help at quarterback.
Running back: 3
Matt Forte isnt expected to be reporting anytime soon in protest over his franchise tag, although a holdout extending into the season is unlikely. Michael Bush would be competing for a starting job with multiple teams and well could be in Chicago before his four-year deal is done. Khalil Bell is a restricted free agent playing for his opp next offseason.
Wide receiver: 1
The problem is still simple numbers. Marshall and Bennett take care of two of the top three spots, and Devin Hester has enough returner help to let him focus on receiving. Devin Thomas and Eric Weems are depth and special teamers wholl put Dane Sanzenbacher in a roster vise. Johnny Knoxs return is still a significant question.
Tight end: 3
Kellen Davis and Matt Spaeth are not big producers but coaches believe in both, and have prospects (Kyle Adams, Andre Smith) down the depth chart.
Offensive line: 2
The Bears had three backs with 100-yard games and 2,015 rushing yards for the season. Pass protection was a problem but Mike Tice isnt Mike Martz and Cutler isnt Caleb Hanie. The Bears believe they have potentially three serviceable tackles (Gabe Carimi, JMarcus Webb, Chris Williams), three guards (Lance Louis, Chris Spencer, Edwin Williams) and three centers (Roberto Garza, Spencer, E. Williams). Free agents have been interviewed but coaches dont see the dire situation outsiders do.
Defensive end: 1
Julius Peppers and Israel Idonije are in place along with injury prone reserve Corey Wootton. The Bears didnt land Jeremy Mincey or Mario Williams and will have trouble landing in the playoffs without more pressure off the edge.
Defensive tackle: 1
Losing Amobi Okoye to Tampa Bay was a setback but Henry Melton and Matt Toeaina are returning starters and Stephen Paea is a returning No. 2 pick. Idonije is a potential swingman with E-T experience but the Bears have drafted at least one defensive linemen within the first four rounds of all but one draft since 2000.
Lance Briggs and Brian Urlacher are set for another year and Nick Roach has missed just three games over the last four seasons. Depth is always a concern but not enough to force a need reach.
The Bears have four corners with starter experience (Kelvin Hayden, Tim Jennings, Charles Tillman, Jonathan Wilhite) plus nickel back D.J. Moore. They have size and depth but if a quality cover man falls within reach, theyll build for the future.
Chris Conte is considered a future star at free safety and Major Wright is expected to perform better with a clear assignment at strong. Craig Steltz is insurance at strong but Conte finished the season on IR. Whether the Bears will invest another fourth-round-or-higher pick for the fourth time in five drafts isnt a given.