With general manager Ryan Pace wading into what he calls the “treacherous waters” of free agency, here are five moves we would make if we ran the Bears:
1. Sign WR Allen Robinson
Is the risk worth the reward? It’s a question Pace considers when approaching all players in free agency.
Robinson embodies risk. He had only one catch last season for the Jaguars because he suffered a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee in Week 1.
His production also decreased in 2016 (73 catches, 883 yards, six touchdowns) after his breakout campaign in 2015 (80 catches, 1,400 yards, 14 touchdowns), though quarterback Blake Bortles’ inefficiency was a likely factor.
But if Pace is going to be aggressive in his pursuit of anyone, it must be the 24-year-old Robinson. His youth and upside fit the Bears’ rebuilding plans.
As always, the competition for Robinson will shape his contract, but some teams likely will push for an incentive-laden contract to offset the risk. Bears chief negotiator Joseph Laine and Pace prefer inserting incentives in contacts. But to sign Robinson, the Bears need to be competitive with the guaranteed money.
That could mean exceeding price parameters they’ve set for Robinson, a course of action they’ve refused to take with other free agents.
Robinson should change that, though. Have we mentioned that quarterback Mitch Trubisky needs the help?
2. Sign WR Albert Wilson
Coach Matt Nagy lured senior offensive assistant Brad Childress, the former Chiefs assistant head coach and offensive coordinator, to help install the Chiefs’ offense.
That’s partly why Wilson, a 5-9 speedster, should be signed, too.
Adding Wilson wouldn’t solve the Bears’ woes at receiver. He’s a complementary piece. But Wilson’s familiarity with Nagy certainly would help.
Wilson, 25, set career highs last season with 42 catches for 554 yards and three touchdowns, including a 63-yarder.
3. Sign TE Jimmy Graham
Pace prefers signing players who have connections to him or his coaches. It limits risk. The successful signings of defensive lineman Akiem Hicks and linebacker Danny Trevathan are examples.
Pace was part of the Saints’ front office that drafted Graham in 2010. That familiarity could result in a short-term deal. If Pace can convince Hicks to leave the Patriots, then there’s hope that Graham will at least entertain Pace.
The Packers and Saints are reportedly interested in Graham, 31. But his age should limit the years attached to potential offers, which helps the Bears.
Evaluating free-agent tight ends starts with the Eagles’ Trey Burton. But NFL Network reported that he’s expected to have a robust market. Burton has potential, but it’s best not to overpay for his limited production.
Graham, meanwhile, still is productive. His 10 touchdowns last season for the Seahawks were his most since he had the same for the Saints in 2014.
4. Re-sign CB Prince Amukamara
Amukamara, 28, played under a one-year, $7 million contract last season, and re-signing him to another short-term deal makes sense.
The Bears have had new starters in the secondary every year under Pace. Keeping Amukamara changes that, with the Bears using the transition tag on Kyle Fuller and safeties Eddie Jackson and Adrian Amos already in place.
The Bears also tendered nickel back Bryce Callahan, a restricted free agent. They have the right of first refusal.
The Bears are evaluating a talented group of cornerbacks in the draft. It starts with Ohio State’s Denzel Ward or Iowa’s Josh Jackson, who are worth considering with the eighth overall selection.
5. Create a pass-rush competition
Adding outside linebackers/pass rushers is a priority. Only Leonard Floyd, Isaiah Irving and Harold Jones are under contract.
Targeting young players whose careers have been derailed by injuries or organizational changes could result in fierce battles in training camp. Trent Murphy, Jeremiah Attaochu and Aaron Lynch are among the available players who stand out.
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