LAKE FOREST, Ill. - Chicago Bears general manager Phil Emery has a short list of candidates he expects to be available with the 14th pick in next week's draft.
Six players, to be precise.
"I'd be happy that two out of the six were on the board at our pick, and I'd be ecstatic if three out of the six were on the board at our pick," Emery said Thursday.
The Bears went 8-8 last season and missed the playoffs for the sixth time in seven years, hurt by a defence that ranked among the league's worst.
Emery has spent the off-season overhauling that group, bringing in Jared Allen and parting ways with Julius Peppers. The makeover figures to continue in the draft even though Emery would not rule out going with an offensive player at No. 14.
The most obvious holes, though, are on defence.
The Bears still could use help on the defensive line, at linebacker and in the secondary. Assuming they go with a defensive player — and assuming they keep the pick — the options at 14 could include Pittsburgh defensive tackle Aaron Donald, Alabama free safety Ha Ha Clinton-Dix and Oklahoma State cornerback Justin Gilbert.
Dropping back a few spots could give the Bears more selections, and Emery said he has been fielding calls from teams looking to move up.
"Just say in theory you go down six picks," Emery said. "That means you have to count your pick you're giving up is one, and if you're going to pick six picks later, you have to have six players on the board that have that graded value that you're comfortable taking. ... So if you don't have that number of players you feel good about you shouldn't trade."
Emery also indicated that trading up is unlikely.
"Trade ups are expensive, obviously, and you just have to feel like that that player you're trading up for makes a dynamic difference in your team," he said.
The Bears have already made plenty of noise this season.
They made a huge splash when they signed Allen, hoping the five-time Pro Bowl defensive end energizes a defence that ranked 30th overall and last against the run. He had 11 1/2 sacks last season, his seventh straight in double figures, and is a solid run defender.
The Bears also added defensive ends Lamarr Houston and Willie Young along with safeties Ryan Mundy and M.D. Jennings. They brought back cornerback Charles Tillman on a one-year deal, re-signed defensive tackle Jeremiah Ratliff to a two-year contract and split with safety Major Wright.
There have been some big moves. But there are still some big questions.
The starting safety spots are up for grabs after Wright and Chris Conte struggled last season. Emery called it "a wide-open competition, best player wins."
Wright signed with Tampa Bay in the off-season. Conte had shoulder surgery in late March and could start training camp on the physically unable to perform list, although Emery expects him to be ready for the first preseason game.
Emery also said he's "absolutely" comfortable with Jordan Palmer backing up Jay Cutler at quarterback, with Josh McCown now in Tampa Bay. And he made that clear when the team started off-season workouts last month.
"Same thing I told Josh: 'Glad you're here, looking forward to your contributions and we're counting on you,'" Emery said. "And Jordan, since the time that he came last year has been nothing but a positive."
Emery also reiterated the team's long-held desire not to be documented on HBO's "Hard Knocks," although he acknowledged the decision is not the organization's. He cited the franchise's history, fan base and interest as reasons to look elsewhere.
"I think there's a number of teams that don't have as much attraction, have as big a base for whatever reasons — their population or their history," he said. "Obviously, this is a tremendous, historic franchise. I think there will probably be other places that could benefit from it other than the Chicago Bears. How's that for an answer?"