Bears’ free-agent shopping spree all about helping QB Mitch Trubisky
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Before noon on Tuesday, the Bears’ official Twitter account posted a GIF of quarterback Mitch Trubisky smiling into the camera with two words attached: “Happy #TRUSDAY.”
It was indeed. The Bears surrounded their second-year quarterback with three premier receiving options, sources said, after agreeing to terms with receiver Allen Robinson, tight end Trey Burton and speedster Taylor Gabriel. The Bears also will bring back cornerback Prince Amukamara; his three-year deal is worth $27 million, per ESPN.
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When the three sign after free agency officially begins Wednesday, they’ll represent the culmination of general manager Ryan Pace’s No. 1 offseason goal — to give his new coach, and franchise quarterback, weapons with which to work.
Much like former Chiefs offensive coordinator Matt Nagy was hired to hasten Trubisky’s growth, the three pass-catchers will represent dynamic options the quarterback sorely lacked in 12 starts as a rookie.
It comes at a cost. Robinson, the former Jaguars receiver, will receive a reported three-year, $42 million deal. Burton, the Eagles tight end who threw a trick-play touchdown in their Super Bowl victory, will get a four-year deal worth $32 million. Gabriel, a former Falcon who starred on their 2016 NFC title team, will receive a four-year contract.
The bet is that all three still have room to grow. Only 16 months younger than Alabama wide receiver prospect Calvin Ridley, the 24-year-old Robinson tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee in Week 1, costing him the 2017 season.
The Bears envision a return to his dominant 2015 season, when Robinson posted career highs with 80 catches, 1,400 yards and 14 touchdowns. The former second-round draft pick caught 73 passes for 883 yards and six scores the next year.
Burton, 26, caught 23 passes for 248 yards and five touchdowns last year, and is best remembered for throwing a Super Bowl touchdown pass to quarterback Nick Foles on a play the Eagles borrowed from the Bears. Originally an undrafted free agent, Burton was targeted only four times in his first two seasons before a breakout 2016 season, when he caught 37 passes for 327 yards.
The speedy Gabriel, who has been clocked running 40 yards in around 4.2 seconds, had 33 catches for 378 yards last season. Though the 27-year-old has bristled at being labeled a slot receiver in the past, the 5-8 Gabriel’s speed and sure hands — he dropped three of 82 catchable balls the last two seasons, per Pro Football Focus — should benefit the Bears over the middle. Slot receiver Albert Wilson, who played for Nagy in Kansas City and was considered a favorite to re-join him, signed with the Dolphins hours before Gabriel agreed to come to Chicago.
One day after informing their representatives, the Bears officially extended right-of-first-refusal tenders to two more receivers: Cam Meredith and Josh Bellamy. Slot cornerback Bryce Callahan received the same and, along with Amukamara and Kyle Fuller, could keep the Bears’ starting unit intact. Linebacker John Timu and tight end Daniel Brown weren’t tendered, but could still return.
Outside linebacker Sam Acho will return on a two-year deal, his brother Emmanuel wrote on Twitter, while linebacker Christian Jones will sign with the Lions.
Pace’s shopping spree even extended to special teams. Placekicker Cody Parkey, who spent last season with the Dolphins after playing for new Bears special teams coach Chris Tabor as a member of the Browns, will sign with the team as early as Wednesday.
With his pass-catchers locked up, Pace will turn his focus to the Bears’ other needs: interior offensive line, edge rushers and depth pieces.