Bears free-agent primer: Who’s coming, who’s going and how much they can spend
Monday marks the start of the NFL’s official tampering period, a two-day window during which teams can negotiate with agents — but not players — before free agency opens at 3 p.m. Wednesday. Here’s what the Bears need, whom they figure to target and whom they could lose:
Ryan Pace’s free-agent history is inconsistent, at best. A look at five hits and five misses:
DL Akiem Hicks (2 years, $10 million
in 2016) — His first year was so good he earned a four-year, $48 million deal in September.
ILB Danny Trevathan (4 years, $28 million in 2016) — He has been solid when healthy but has appeared in only 21 of 32 games.
G Josh Sitton (3 years, $21 million
in 2016) — Signed in September, Sitton made one Pro Bowl in two years before the team decided he wasn’t worth $8 million in 2018.
RT Bobby Massie (3 years, $18 million in 2016) — The Bears owe him a $1 million roster bonus by Friday.
CB Prince Amukamara (1 year, $7 million in 2017) — Was solid last year, but his last interception came in 2015.
QB Mike Glennon (3 years, $45 million in 2017) — Pace is on the hook for $18.5 million guaranteed — for four starts.
CB Marcus Cooper (3 years, $16 million) — His goal-line gaffe against the Steelers alone is worthy of inclusion, but he played less than a quarter of defensive snaps, too.
WR Markus Wheaton (2 years, $11 million in 2017) — He caught three passes last year.
QB Quintin Demps (3 years, $13.5 million in 2017) — He and Antrel Rolle (3 years, $11.25 million in 2015) are neck-in-neck.
WR Eddie Royal (3 years, $15 million
in 2015) — Got $10 million guaranteed for 70 catches over two years.
Ranking the Bears’ needs
1. Wide receiver — Kevin White (two catches for six yards) might be the only 2017 contributor to make it to Week 1 of 2018.
2. Outside linebacker — Leonard Floyd is likely only returnee who played more than 41 snaps last year.
3. Cornerback — They’ll target a veteran to play opposite Kyle Fuller. Prince Amukamara, who spent 2017 with the Bears, sounds like a quality fallback.
4. Offensive line — Cody Whitehair’s ability to play both center and guard means the Bears need a starter at either one of those positions.
5. Quarterback — Wanted: a vet to mentor Mitch Trubisky.
6. Tight end — Dion Sims is owed $4 million if he’s still on the team March 16.
7. Specialists — They have zero kickers, punters and snappers under contract for 2018.
8. Defensive line — They never settled on an end to start opposite Akiem Hicks.
9. Safety — Could need only a backup if they believe in Adrian Amos.
10. Inside linebacker — Danny Trevathan and Nick Kwiatkoski were solid.
11. Running back — Don’t rule out a pass-catching vet.
Money to spend
The Bears have the fifth-most money to spend in free agency, via spotrac.com, but also the second-fewest players (46) under contract for 2018:
1. Jets ($90.6 million in cap space)
2. Buccaneers ($67.0 million)
3. Browns ($66.1 million)
4. Colts ($65.6 million)
5. Bears ($64.6 million)
10 free agents the Bears could target
1. WR Allen Robinson — Despite tearing his ACL in the Jaguars’ opener, he’s still the top target in his position group, particularly since the Dolphins signed Jarvis Landry to his tender and dealt him to the Browns on Friday.
2. WR Albert Wilson — Chiefs GM Brett Veach wasn’t the only one at the NFL Scouting Combine to connect him to former coordinator Matt Nagy.
3. TE Trey Burton — Nagy has had wild success with tight ends, but seemingly half the league wants the Super Bowl hero.
4. G Andrew Norwell —Former Panthers GM Dave Gettleman could lure him to the Giants on a monster deal.
5. WR Sammy Watkins — The Rams receiver can fly.
6. CB Malcolm Butler — We still don’t know why he was benched in the Super Bowl.
7. WR Marqise Lee — Best of a second-tier group that includes Terrelle Pryor, Donte Moncrief and Paul Richardson, among others.
8. OLB Trent Murphy — After nine sacks in 2016, the Stanford alum was popped for PEDs and missed all of 2017 with a knee injury. Still, he might be the top choice in a paper-thin edge rusher class.
9. QB Chase Daniel — The backup knows Nagy’s system and worked with Pace while with the Saints.
10. CB Trumaine Johnson — He has made more than $30 million the last two years on the Rams’ franchise tag. Bashaud Breeland, E.J. Gaines or Aaron Colvin will come cheaper.
Five Bears who could stick around
1. Kyle Fuller — The transition tag all but guarantees he’ll be here in 2018, and probably beyond.
2. Mark Sanchez — The Bears loved his presence in the quarterback room as the No. 3, but would another team offer to make him the backup?
3. Cameron Meredith — The restricted free agent was their best WR before tearing ACL in August.
4. Sam Acho — They need depth at edge rusher and special-teams bodies, giving Acho and Christian Jones extra value.
5. Sherrick McManis — The Bears have a new special teams coach, but McManis is respected across the league.
Bears on the market
Here are the Bears who are available this offseason, either as unrestricted free agents, restricted free agents or exclusive-rights free agents. The Bears have right of first refusal on restricted free agents, while exclusive-rights players can’t negotiate with other teams. All the players below are unrestricted, unless otherwise noted, with their 2017 average annual value:
QB: Mark Sanchez ($2 million).
RB: Benny Cunningham ($855,000).
TE: Zach Miller ($2.75 million), Daniel Brown ($615,000 — exclusive rights).
WR: Dontrelle Inman ($2.765 million), Kendall Wright ($2 million),
Josh Bellamy ($775,000 — restricted), Cam Meredith ($615,000 — restricted).
OL: Tom Compton ($1.85 million), Bradley Sowell ($775,000).
DL: Mitch Unrein ($1.13 million), John Jenkins ($800,000).
ILB: John Timu ($542,647 — restricted).
OLB: Lamarr Houston ($900,000), Sam Acho ($885,000).
CB: Prince Amukamara ($7 million), Sherrick McManis ($1.43 million), Bryce Callahan ($615,000 — restricted).
K: Mike Nugent ($1 million), Cairo Santos ($690,000).
LS: Andrew DePaola ($690,000), Patrick Scales ($615,000 — exclusive rights).
P: Pat O’Donnell ($581,327).
Already cut: OLB Pernell McPhee, OLB Willie Young, S Quintin Demps, G Josh Sitton and ILB Jerrell Freeman. QB Mike Glennon will be released Wednesday.
The QB market
The Bears won’t be investing in these top free-agent quarterbacks, but others will.
1. Kirk Cousins — The Redskins quarterback could get the largest deal in free-agent history from someone, perhaps the Jets or Vikings.
2. Drew Brees — He figures to stay with the Saints.
3. Case Keenum — The Vikings standout is a solid consolation prize in the Cousins sweepstakes.
4. Sam Bradford — A knee injury forced him to yield to Keenum after Week 1 — except for a first-half cameo against the Bears — but he’s still starting caliber.
5. A.J. McCarron — The Browns tried to get him at the deadline, but after agreeing to trade for the Bills’ Tyrod Taylor on Friday, a match seems unlikely.
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