Examining the Bears’ winners and losers after the first phase of free agency
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Breaking down the Bears’ winners and losers after the first wave of free agency:
Mitch Trubisky — Maybe you’ve heard — the Bears’ first wave of free-agent signings were all about giving their second-year quarterback pass-catching weapons in Allen Robinson, Taylor Gabriel and Trey Burton. They brought in two backup quarterbacks who have played under coach Matt Nagy — Chase Daniel and Tyler Bray — to help Trubisky learn the offense.
The pressure will come soon enough; it was easy last year to blame Trubisky’s struggles on the NFL’s weakest wide receiver corps, or on coaches that were content taking the air out of the ball. Once Trubisky learns Nagy’s offense, there should be no excuses for any struggles. Right now, though, no one is benefitting more from the Bears’ free agent spending spree than their quarterback.
Matt Nagy — The head coach earned a victory before his first game. General manager Ryan Pace sold his innovative offense to recruits, and he impressed them with his energy.
Ryan Pace — He needed to sign one of the top two receivers on the market, and one of the top two tight ends. He did just that. Only a fool would give him a grade this early, but that seems like a good start. Bonus points for not trading draft picks for the right to overpay slot receiver Jarvis Landry — and demerits for giving Cam Meredith the original round tender instead of a second-round tender to save $1 million.
Kyle Long’s health — The Bears need at least one more guard — or a center who can shift Cody Whitehair there. The fact they didn’t run out and get two speaks to their confidence that Long will recover from offseason surgeries on his shoulder and neck.
Kyle Fuller — It took the Packers’ four-year offer sheet, and the Bears matching it, to bridge the gap between the cornerback and Pace. The resulting four-year, $56 million deal with $18 million guaranteed is reasonable for both the team and for Fuller.
The cornerback gets a $18 million signing bonus in his bank account now, and that’s a win. If he plays all 16 games next year, he’ll make an additional $2 million, with $9 million coming in 2019. That deal — ostensibly two years, $29 million — is a great haul for someone who we weren’t sure would make the roster in August.
Chase Daniel — If he makes it through the Bears’ two-year, $10 million contract, he will have collected $34 million in 10 years. He’s started two career games. Winning. At. Life.
Leonard Floyd’s double teams — The Bears took away Floyd’s mentors —Willie Young, Pernell McPhee and Lamarr Houston — but still haven’t found a reliable outside linebacker to put opposite their budding star.
Aaron Lynch is getting $4 million as a reclamation project, but he played less than 20 percent of the 49ers’ snaps over the last two years. Sam Acho is a solid run stuffer. The Bears have added no one else. There’s plenty of time to find Floyd a running mate — the draft might be the Bears’ best hope — but he could certainly use one.
Dion Sims’ pass-catching career — The Bears signed him last year vowing to improve his pass-catching prowess, but Sims has been rendered the team’s No. 3 receiving option at the position — and maybe No. 4 behind Daniel Brown. He’s a competent blocker, though, and received $4 million of the $6 million due him last week. Hard to feel too bad for him in that regard.
Defensive backs — The Bears are on Pace to return all four starting defensive backs from next year. The Vikings, meanwhile, have added quarterback Kirk Cousins. The Packers signed tight end Jimmy Graham. A tough division in which to play defense just got harder.
John Fox’s TV career — After avoiding direct questions for three years, will Fox be able to ask them as an ESPN studio analyst? As the unofficial NFL mayor, will he be able to be critical of his friends in the league? Will he tell the Gidget the Monkey story? Fox might be a natural on television; after showing little respect for the media here, though, it would be ironic if he were.