QB Mike Glennon. (AP)

Free-agency focus: Analyzing the Bears’ offense, options

SHARE Free-agency focus: Analyzing the Bears’ offense, options
SHARE Free-agency focus: Analyzing the Bears’ offense, options

This time of year is full of lies and speculation. It’s just part of free agency.

But general manager Ryan Pace, who is in middle of his third offseason with the Bears, feels at home working through all of it.

It might be his specialty.

“Coming from New Orleans, my background had always been more in pro scouting,” Pace said last week during the combine. “So I’ve always been very comfortable in free agency and kind of understanding that, ‘Hey, free agency is dangerous.’ ”

That’s especially true when you have questions at quarterback and receiver to answer this offseason.

The breakdown

2016 offensive rankings: Total: 15. Scoring: T-28.

2016 Pro Bowl players: Running back Jordan Howard (alternate).

Notable free agents: Receiver Alshon Jeffery, quarterback Brian Hoyer, quarterback Matt Barkley, receiver Marquess Wilson, tight end Logan Paulsen.

Top five salary-cap hits for 2017: Quarterback Jay Cutler ($16 million), right guard Kyle Long ($8 million), left guard Josh Sitton ($6.82 million), right tackle Bobby Massie ($6.03 million), receiver Eddie Royal ($5 million).

Offensive draft picks: 11: Howard, center Cody Whitehair, receiver Daniel Braverman (2016); receiver Kevin White, center Hroniss Grasu, running back Jeremy Langford (2015); running back Ka’Deem Carey, left tackle Charles Leno Jr. (2014); Long, Wilson (2013); Jeffery (2012).

The big decision

Nothing is more important than quarterback, of course.

The Bears’ belief and interest in Brian Hoyer shouldn’t be overlooked, but Mike Glennon is obviously the hot name.

Glennon, 27, hasn’t started since 2014, but that’s partly because he was caught up in coaching changes with the Buccaneers. The Bears’ interest in him likely is rooted in their draft evaluations.

According to The Times-Picayune, the Saints, with Pace in their front office, had a high grade on Glennon when he was coming out of North Carolina State in 2013. Former Bears coach Marc Trestman also thought very highly of Glennon, who eventually became a third-round pick of the Bucs.

Glennon faced Pace’s Saints twice in his career, losing both times in New Orleans.

In a 42-17 loss on Dec. 29, 2013, Glennon completed 22 of 41 passes for 219 yards, two touchdowns, one interception and a 75.2 passer rating.

In his second season, Glennon went 19-for-32 for 249 yards, two touchdowns, an interception and a 91.8 rating in a 37-31 loss on Oct. 5,


Even though Glennon could reportedly get as much as $15 million per season, the Bears will be cautious when it comes to committing to him for the long term.

The finer points of a deal will matter. Over the last two years, the Bears have displayed a preference for filling contracts with incentives.

But would Glennon really go for that?

Either way, if trading for Jimmy Garoppolo or Kirk Cousins is not possible, the most important decision the Bears will make at quarterback will come early in the draft. It’s still best to pair Glennon with a young quarterback from the draft. The same, of course, applies to Hoyer.

OK, so what’s up with Cutler?

At the combine, Pace said Cutler remained an option to return. But a league source suggested that a trade market might develop for Cutler after free agency settles and teams search for answers.

Cutler can’t be traded until the new league opens with free agency at 3 p.m. Thursday. He also has to pass a physical after undergoing surgery to repair a torn labrum in his right shoulder.

The big decision (part 2)

Can the Bears find common ground with Jeffery?

The Bears needed Jeffery to test the market in order to improve negotiations.

Last year, Jeffery was looking for a deal around $14 million annually. It would have been put him among the league’s highest-paid receivers. Jeffery’s pursuits were similar this year.

But according to a Yahoo! Sports report, the market is expected to be around $10 million annually for Jeffery.

There’s more to the talks with Jeffery, too. It includes the Bears’ future decision at quarterback.

“I wouldn’t say it’s all about the money,” Jeffery said Tuesday during an ESPN podcast with NFL insider Adam Schefter.

“It’s just about the best fit for me — the right coaches, the best team I think that’s going to win a championship or whoever’s got a quarterback that’s going to be there for a while.”

Draft implications

Knowing the strengths and weaknesses of the draft compared to who is available in free agency is a must for the best plans.

This year, the draft is considered special for tight ends and running backs. The receivers class also offers a deep collection of talent and speed.

Still, everything starts and ends at quarterback. It’s an average class, but quarterbacks always rise up draft boards.

For the Bears, it likely will be a matter of who is available on Day 2 of the draft. Selecting one at No. 3 seems unlikely, which means the Bears could miss on Clemson’s Deshaun Watson, North Carolina’s Mitchell Trubisky and Notre Dame’s DeShone Kizer.

The Bears’ picks in the second and third rounds (Nos. 36 and 67) make more sense. We’ll see if the Bears can add more picks, too. They’d love to.

Texas Tech’s Patrick Mahomes, Pittsburgh’s Nate Peterman and Cal’s Davis Webb top the second tier of quarterbacks.

Free-agent fodder

Beyond quarterback, the Bears are actively pursuing free-agent receivers with Jeffery in flux and Royal likely to be released.

In this case, think speed.

At the combine, coach John Fox bemoaned the Bears’ lack of long touchdowns in 2016, citing a need for “more playmakers.”

So keep an eye on the Dolphins’ Kenny Stills, who scored touchdowns of 24, 74, 66, 39, 43, 28, 52, six and 25 yards last season.

Stills also was a fifth-round pick of Pace and the Saints in 2013. The Bears tried to trade for him in 2015, but the Dolphins acquired him.

In his two years with Pace and the Saints, Stills scored eight touchdowns, going for 34, 69, 42, 52, 76, 46, nine and 69 yards.

The Bears also have interest in Raiders receiver/special-teamer Andre Holmes and tight end Dion Sims. They’ve also been linked to Vikings kick returner Cordarrelle Patterson and Ravens right tackle Ricky Wagner.

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Email: ajahns@suntimes.com

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