Dropping Leonard Floyd to sign Robert Quinn is swap Bears would make 100 times over
Quinn has only one sack this season and is a much more specialized player than Floyd, but he provides the scary pass-rush presence that Floyd never could. Cutting his losses on Floyd was one of GM Ryan Pace’s best offseason moves.
At every turn, Bears coach Matt Nagy and general manager Ryan Pace declared how happy they were with Leonard Floyd despite his lack of sacks.
And the first chance they got, they shelled out $70 million to replace him.
Wasting the No. 9 overall pick in 2016 on a speculative investment was foolish. They failed to turn Floyd, who wasn’t a natural pass rusher, into a pass rusher, but at least the Bears had the sense to move on. It’s human nature for a GM to cling to a player he chose so highly with the hope that someday he’ll break through.
To Pace’s credit, however, he dealt in reality rather than wishful thinking and got the Bears out of Floyd’s $13.2 million option for this season. They signed Robert Quinn instead, and Floyd went to the Rams on a one-year, $10 million contract.
“He’s just relentless,” Rams coach Sean McVay said. “The versatility, the length — I think you’re seeing a relentless competitor who plays with an effort that is everything he has, every single snap. We love Leonard, and Leonard’s been extremely productive and great to be around here.”
Floyd gets his first opportunity to show the Bears they were wrong about him when the teams play Monday night. So far, though, the Bears have come out ahead on the Floyd-Quinn swap.
The versatility that McVay lauded isn’t necessarily a compliment in Floyd’s case. The Bears would’ve preferred a one-dimensional pass-rush specialist — exactly what Quinn is — instead of a decent performer in a variety of categories. No matter how much Nagy claimed to “really like where he’s at” last season and how much he raved about how “he’s done a lot of great things,” the truth is the Bears needed more than 18½ sacks in 2,810 snaps.
Quinn had 19 for the Rams in 2013 alone and averaged nearly nine per season before signing with the Bears. He has only one so far, but the more he has been on the field, the more Khalil Mack has gotten one-on-one matchups. Mack, Quinn and defensive lineman Akiem Hicks are so potent that offenses can’t key in on any one of them, and the expectation is that Quinn will reach double digits in sacks for the fifth time in his career as long as he stays healthy.
That was never the trajectory for Floyd. Each season, his playing time went up, and his sack total went down. He bottomed out at three sacks last season — zero in his last eight games — before the Bears finally gave up.
Floyd was at a loss, too, without an explanation for why he hadn’t been able to do what the Bears drafted him to do.
“I just go out and play football as hard as I can for the team to win,” he said last December. “Whatever plays I make, I make them.”
He’s getting another ideal opportunity this season with the sack-happy Rams under defensive coordinator Brandon Staley, his position coach with the Bears in 2017 and ’18. With All-Pro defensive tackle Aaron Donald leading the NFL with 7½ sacks, Floyd should see relatively clean blocking schemes, but that hasn’t translated into sacks yet. He had one in the opener, another in Week 3 and none since.
At this point, five seasons into his career, there’s little indication that he’s ever going to be a great pass rusher. The Bears were smart to stop waiting on him.