INDIANAPOLIS — Buzz already had crackled through the NFL Scouting Combine that the Bears were interested in reuniting Matt Nagy with a Chiefs receiver by the time the coach’s former boss made it official Thursday.
Chiefs general manager Brett Veach, who has been close friends with Nagy since he caught passes from him at Delaware, was asked whether Albert Wilson would get a long look from other teams in free agency.
“Well, Matt’s in Chicago,” Veach said. “He knows all about him.”
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An undrafted player out of Georgia State, the 5-9, 200-pound Wilson would be a complementary piece to a Bears receiving corps in need of a revamp. He set career highs with 42 catches, 62 targets and 554 receiving yards last year.
“He’s a very tough player,” Veach said. “He does everything, from the slot to the outside. He can block. He can return if you need him to. He’s a very valuable commodity for us, and certainly has done a lot for us over the last few years.”
The familiarity between Nagy and Wilson works both ways. Nagy didn’t bring a single position coach with him from the Chiefs; only friend Brad Childress, who Nagy hired as an offensive consultant, has any sort of institutional knowledge about his offensive system. Wilson, then, could become somewhat of a coach on the field.
“I think there’s a lot of flexibility with this offense, so football IQ is important at that position,” Bears general manager Ryan Pace said. “There’s a lot of different alignments at that position, so we have to be mindful of football IQ as we go forward.”
The Bears are in need of a major upgrade at receiver after fielding a group that was among the league’s worst last year. Kevin White is recovering from a broken shoulder; after three unproductive, unhealthy seasons, the Bears won’t pick up his fifth-year option for 2019.
Cam Meredith, who tore his knee last preseason, is an unrestricted free agent. Markus Wheaton, who made $6 million and caught three passes last year, likely will be cut. Kendall Wright, Josh Bellamy and Dontrelle Inman are free agents; none are locks to return.
Pace figures to attack the Bears’ most glaring need via free agency and the draft. Asked whether he’d prefer a young receiver to grow alongside Mitch Trubisky or a veteran to make his life easier, Pace said he wants a mix.
Wilson, who started 26 of 55 games over four seasons with the Chiefs, won’t turn 26 until July. There’s enough upside in the slot receiver to intrigue the Bears, but the Bears would still need a home-run hitter. Or three.
“You get through this phase where you get through the common names and then you know them . . . and then you get into your [unrestricted free agent] meetings, and you watch every single player that is available,” Veach said. “I think when teams watch Albert, they will understand how valuable he is, and we certainly feel the same way. We would be super excited to get him back, but we know we have to go through the process here.”
Nagy is the greatest obstacle to that process. Veach knows his friend well enough to be concerned he’ll lure Wilson away. But he’s thrilled that Nagy, with whom he worked in Philadelphia and Kansas City, landed his first job as head coach.
“He’s passionate,” Veach said. “He trusts the people around him, and that’s a big deal. He’s going to let people do what they do. He’s going to trust the process and he’s going to put full faith in them. In that quarterback room and that install room, he’s going to be creative, be innovative and try to bring the offense to another level.”
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