There are varying levels of skepticism when it comes to the Bears, so stop when you get to the red flag on the signing of Robert Quinn that pushed you to the point of concern.
Was it the moment the Bears gave a $70 million deal, the second-largest in free agency this year, to a 30-year-old who last made the Pro Bowl more than five years earlier? Was it that they signed someone who strongly prefers playing defensive end in a 4-3 scheme to be an outside linebacker in a 3-4?
Maybe it was the moment Quinn said, in total seriousness, that he chose between the Bears and the Falcons by flipping a coin.
If you still felt fine about things at that point, how about when Quinn spent nearly all of the preseason doing conditioning on the side instead of practicing with the team — and the Bears gave no real explanation for it? All they really said was that Quinn was still getting in shape and learning the defense, with defensive coordinator Chuck Pagano noting last month that the latter effort was still a work in progress.
Quinn missed the opener with an ankle injury. Not a great start.
But after all that, on his first snap of the season in Week 2, he obliterated all the worries by unleashing exactly what the Bears paid for. He and Khalil Mack got one-on-one matchups and stormed Giants quarterback Daniel Jones. Quinn sacked him and stripped the ball, and Mack recovered it.
And there has been nothing since.
In 270 snaps, mostly on hand-picked passing downs, the Bears’ $70 million man has one sack and five quarterback pressures.
“Had a lot of opportunities to make some plays, [but] he hasn’t been able to finish,” outside linebackers coach Ted Monachino said. “That’s on me. It’s my responsibility to get him enough opportunities that he can close out and finish some of those plays. . . . He will continue to work and hopefully get some opportunities where he can close some plays out.”
That’s a nice thing to say, but, no, it’s not Monachino’s fault that Quinn has one sack in eight games. Also, that sounds an awful lot like what the Bears used to say about Leonard Floyd.
Film review does show that Quinn is creating better matchups for Mack, but Mack’s 6½ sacks are good, not great. It would be a different conversation if bringing in Quinn vaulted Mack to the top of the NFL.
But even that wouldn’t be the full return on investment that general manager Ryan Pace wanted. He envisioned the Bears having the most dominant pass rush in the NFL. Maybe Mack and Quinn would both be among the league leaders in sacks. Instead, the Bears rank 12th in sacks with 20, averaging a modest one per 17 drop-backs by opposing quarterbacks. They’ve had four games with just one sack.
There’s nothing inherently wrong with Pace’s plan to go all-in on assembling the NFL’s most ferocious pass rush — as long as it works.
But if he cut costs at other positions and still hasn’t gotten the payoff he sought in the pass rush, that’s highly problematic. Paying for Quinn theoretically kept the Bears from making more significant additions at quarterback and tight end, as well as on the offensive line.
And Quinn will be on their books beyond this season. Free-agent contracts are rarely what they appear to be, so, no, the Bears aren’t committed through 2024 and don’t have to pay the full $70 million. But he almost certainly will be here at least two seasons. The Bears would have to take a $9.3 million dead salary-cap hit to cut him after next season and a $6.2 million hit to let him go after 2022.
Pace believed those conversations would be at least a year or two away, but if Quinn doesn’t start producing, the Bears can’t move on soon enough.