The Bears kept Kyle Fuller away from their biggest rival and on their roster by quickly matching the cornerback’s offer sheet from the Packers late Friday.
Fuller will receive a four-year deal worth $56 million, with $18 million guaranteed, sources confirmed.
The Packers were able to sign Fuller to an offer sheet because the Bears used the transition tag, not the franchise tag, on their former first-round pick earlier this month, guaranteeing him $12.971 million for 2018.
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By using the little-used transition tag for the first time in 17 years, the Bears allowed Fuller to seek offers from other teams. The Bears had the right to match any offer, but would not have received compensation had they declined.
Had they paid him $14.975 million for the franchise tag, the Bears would have been entitled to two first-round picks had Fuller left — a cost no other team would have been tempted to pay.
The Bears and Fuller disagreed on his price leading up to the deadline for the transition tag, which invited Fuller to find his market value. In need of a cornerback — and probably eager to force the hands of their rivals after their free-agent spending spree earlier this week — the Packers made their move.
By matching, the Bears are keeping their starting cornerback tandem of Fuller and Prince Amukamara together. Amukamara signed a three-year deal earlier this week.
In the draft, the cornerback prospects are considered strong, and the Bears will draft eighth.
Fuller’s salary won’t match the upper-tier of cornerback prices this offseason — Trumaine Johnson got $34 million guaranteed from the Jets and Malcolm Butler reeled in $30 million from the Titans.
Drafted No. 14 overall by then-GM Phil Emery in 2014, Fuller missed all of the 2016 season after arthroscopic surgery. Pace then understandably declined his fifth-year option for 2018. After entering camp not guaranteed a starting job, Fuller posted a bounce-back season, intercepting two passes and impressing coaches and teammates with his hard-hitting style.
Asked about the Bears’ decision to give Fuller the transition tag, Pace was complimentary of the cornerback Thursday.
“Obviously, you guys know how we feel about Kyle,” he said. “We value Kyle. We like Kyle, and we just figured that was the best course of action.”
NOTE: The Bears signed quarterback Tyler Bray and tight end Daniel Brown to one-year deals. Bray, who knows new coach Matt Nagy’s system after five seasons with the Chiefs, will serve as the team’s third-string quarterback. His presence means Mark Sanchez won’t return. Brown had 13 catches for 129 yards last year and played 43 percent of the Bears’ special-teams snaps.
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