Many Factors to Consider When Thinking About Bears Decision Not to Match the Offer For Cam Meredith

Brad Biggs at the Chicago Tribune answers your questions:

“Can you please explain this whole restricted free-agent thing? So the Bears tendered an offer to Cameron Meredith. He goes looking for an offer sheet. What would have happened if no one made him an offer? Does he remain a Bear? Does he have other options? I’m trying to make sense of all this talk of Ryan Pace messing up with the tender level he offered to Meredith. Did he really mess up? Should he have offered a higher tender? Did he misjudge Meredith’s worth on the open market? Or was this the right tender level to make? — John J., Parts Unknown

“Restricted free agents are players with three accrued seasons. An accrued season is defined as one with six or more regular-season games with the team. Yes, time on injured reserve counts toward this. Many of the players that become RFAs were undrafted when they entered the NFL, like Meredith. That is because draft picks are signed to four-year contracts and when a player has four accrued seasons, he becomes an unrestricted free agent. An an RFA, Meredith was allowed to shop for offers (an offer sheet specifically) from other teams. If no one had offered Meredith an offer sheet, his only option would have been to sign the tender the Bears made him at $1.9 million and play for them this season. Had the Bears elected to place a second-round tender on Meredith at a cost of $2.9 million, it’s safe to say no team would have signed him to an offer sheet because they would have had to fork over a second-round pick as compensation. At the original-round compensation ($1.9 million), the Bears receive no compensation because Meredith was undrafted. If the Bears misevaluated anything here, I think they figured other teams would not make Meredith an offer based on the medical evaluation of his knee. Obviously, there’s a difference of opinion between the Bears and the Saints when it comes to the health of his knee and his value in the immediate future — this season and in 2019. If Meredith is productive in New Orleans in 2018, it will be fair to say the Bears made an error by not using the second-round tender to secure him. You also have to consider what his projected role in the offense would be. Allen Robinson is the clear No. 1 and he’s also recovering from a knee injury but one that is not quite as involved (one ligament damaged as opposed to two). Taylor Gabriel has been paid big money and the Bears insist they will have plenty of work for three tight ends. Figure they also keep a fullback — the Chiefs have used one in their offense — and you have a lot of skill-position players in the mix.”

It appears that they believe that Meredith was simply not a lock to make the roster. That could either be because of the knee injury or because he only had one productive season and they weren’t convinced he could stain that production. One or both seems to me to be most likely.

Having said that there are other potential reasons.

The Bears are already committing a lot of cap to the receivers. Without Meredith, the Bears are committing the fourth most cap dollars to wide receiver league-wide. Some teams don’t believe in sinking an excessive amount of cap into one position regardless of the overall cap situation. That could be a factor.

I was listening to Hub Arkush at Pro Football Weekly on a podcast and he brought up the possibility that the Bears made this decision because they are depending upon former first round pick Kevin White to be the second wide receiver (with Robinson as #1 and Gabriel as the slot receiver). Physically Meredith and White are similar.

I would find that last thought to be disturbing for all kinds of reasons, not the least of which is that White apparently didn’t look very good even before the injury last year. The thought that Pace would be so stubborn about protecting his former first round pick as to actually deceive himself into thinking the Bears could depend upon him this year is not a very happy one for the future of the franchise under the GM.

There’s a lot about this I don’t like. We’ll know if the Bears made the correct evaluation when we see what Meredith does for the Saints this year.

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Welp. At Least the Bears Future Doesn’t Depend on Mike Maccagnan.

Manish Mehta at the New York Daily News answers your questions:

“Did they trade three second-rounders to move up three slots to take a pipsqueak QB from a spread offense? They should be sued for gross negligence if that is the case. — @BigOliveri

“The Jets quarterback decision is absolutely fascinating. My understanding is that it’s a fluid and complicated situation. Shortly after Gang Green traded with the Colts to jump up to the No. 3 spot a couple weeks ago, I touched base with folks on One Jets Drive to get a better handle on the motivation behind the deal.

“The people in the organization that I spoke to loved Baker Mayfield’s fire, competitiveness and leadership, but thought he was a tick below Sam Darnold, Josh Allen and Josh Rosen at that time. However, they cautioned that there was still an important part of the evaluation process that included Pro Days — and more importantly — the impending private workouts and visits to Florham Park.

“Make no mistake: The Jets are currently divided on which quarterback to take at No. 3. Oh, sure. The team will invariably try to sell us that (INSERT DRAFTED QB HERE) was the top choice all along, but I’ve heard enough varying opinions about these four quarterbacks from inside the organization to know better.”

“If you would have told me on April 4, 2016, that the Jets would have drafted Christian Hackenberg in the second round, I would have called you coo-coo for Cocoa Puffs since just about nobody other than the GM wanted to take the Penn State quarterback that high.”

First, Mehta is one of my favorite NFL writers outside of Chicago. I subscribe to the Daily News in the Apple News app on my iPad more or less just to read his articles. He’s pretty funny and often spot on.

I, too, thought general manager Mike Maccagnan’s selection of Hackenberg in the second round of the 2016 NFL draft was “coo-coo for Cocoa Puffs”. Although I usually settle for the more mundane “insane”. Hackenberg was a fourth round flier if I ever saw one and to set him up as the potential franchise quarterback there was pretty nuts and I did say so at the time.

The specter of the Hackenberg selection has to be still with you if you are a Jets fan for a couple reasons.

First, Hackenberg was selected for his physical characteristics – big, tall player with an arm to match but not the production. So stiff that he was strictly a pocket quarterback with little mobility. If you are guessing which player in the draft matches that profile, its probably Allen. He’s more athletic than Hackenberg but he’s got a big arm, worked from the pocket in a pro-style offense but lacked production and accuracy. If you are a “he’s got all the physical characteristics and we can coach him up” guy, as Maccagnan appears to be, then he’s the guy to keep an eye on there. Rosen would be a close second as he appears to be the quarterback who projects to be the best pocket quarterback.

Second, and this is the biggie, if a guy who selected Hackenberg is still there to select your franchise quarterback this year, you have to be quaking in your boots. You’d better hope that past history doesn’t predict future results because that was not a decision that inspires confidence.

Most people I know around the league actually pity Bears fans. I pity Jets fans.*

 

*OK, and Browns fans.  But that’s it.

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Would the Bears Trade Jordan Howard?

Brad Biggs at the Chicago Tribune answers your questions:

What’s up with these Jordan Howard trade rumors again? He deleted every picture off of his Instagram relating to the Bears, how serious might this situation be? — @zberg034

You might be better off asking the folks who produced the rumors to get a better answer on the speculation surrounding his future. There were a ton of inquiries about Howard on Wednesday and to my knowledge, there’s nothing going on with Howard’s roster status. I don’t follow Howard on the Instagram machine so I can’t speak specifically to what was there before. You learn to never say never and not be surprised by a whole lot, but right now I don’t believe anything is happening with the running back.

I also am not an Instagram guy as I feel like I’m forced to give away enough of my information already. But having said that, this does sound like a “where there’s smoke, there’s fire” situation.

Let’s be honest. Howard has a tough time holding on to passes and he’s going to be expected to be able to catch them in the offense under new head coach Matt Nagy. I’ve heard it said that with Tarik Cohen and Benny Cunningham on the roster that the position is “well rounded” with each back having a role. But I don’t buy that. You can’t limit the play call nor can you provide potential tips to the defense based upon what back is lined up.

Cohen is going to have to become better at catching the ball and I would not too shocked to see the Bears take a running back in the draft if the right one fell their way. At that point, you’d look for them to trade Howard. In fact, it wouldn’t be too surprising if Howard had already gotten word about a deal that the Bears had worked out ahead of the draft, hence the deleted pictures.

Personally, I hope this doesn’t happen. First I think the pass catching weakness is overblown and that it’s entirely possible that some good coaching could make Howard at least adequate out of the backfield. Second, as much as I value pass catching out of the backfield, its hard to find a good, powerful back with the vision that Howard has. They don’t seem to me to just fall out of trees.

But the Bears may have something else in mind.

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The Bears Need to Think Seriously About Extending Eddie Goldman

Brad Biggs at the Chicago Tribune answers your questions:

“What’s your thoughts on the Bears signing Johnathan Hankins? I think it would be great to see him with Akiem Hicks and Eddie Goldman. Is the DL depth for the Bears being overlooked? It seems like a greater need than what is being talked about. — @BillHol71306847

“The Bears are not in play for Hankins at this point… I think the Bears are probably more interested in investing in their own player Goldman later in the year, or at least trying to get something done. With as many issues and roster holes the Bears needed to fill, they weren’t going to get them all covered in free agency, or the first two weeks of it anyway.

The draft remains and that’s where the franchise can get the biggest boost for the remainder of this offseason. They’ve got to nail the draft and whether they add help up front (that wouldn’t surprise me) remains to be seen.”

The Bears need to think seriously about extending Goldman. Nose tackle isn’t a big generator in terms of statistics and that makes it an undervalued part of the 3-4 defense. But the Bears defense wasn’t the same two years ago after Goldman got hurt.

The Bears may be depending upon Rashaad Coward to develop into a reliable backup at this position in his second year. But, like Biggs, I wouldn’t be surprised if the Bears drafted a defensive lineman.

In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if the Bears drafted almost any position this year. They need pass rush (who doesn’t?) and they need a starting interior lineman (depending upon how they feel about Eric Kush). But otherwise, like last year, what they need more than anything else is depth almost everywhere on the field, especially on defense.

As Biggs said, the Bears have to nail the draft. Because when the injury bug hits, they’re going to need the players they add there to step up.

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Kendall Wright Wasn’t A Fit For the New Bears

Brad Biggs at the Chicago Tribune answers your questions:

Kendall Wright was the Bears’ leading receiver in 2017. He was often double-teamed due to the lack of other credible Wide Receiver threats. Given that he had a relatively inexpensive contract and had synergy with Mitch Trubisky, why has he not been re-signed as a depth or insurance for Kevin White? Is there a detail or back story that I’m missing as his salary was a rounding error compared to the new contracts? — David D., Parts Unknown

“Wright was productive for the Bears in the final month of the season but let’s not overstate the value he brought to what was a really challenged offensive unit. I’d disagree with your assessment that he was often double-teamed. Wright is an average slot receiver at this point and the Bears have candidates that they believe will be more productive in the new scheme — Taylor Gabriel and Trey Burton. The Chiefs brought Wright in for a visit last week and it will be interesting to see if he generates a little more interest from the market. The Bears should be credited with some nice moves to overhaul and upgrade the position.”

Wright signed with the Vikings after this was written.

Like Biggs, I was curious to see what the interest was going to be for Wright around the league. Wright had success under former Bears offensive coordinator Dowell Loggains with the Titans in

  1. After that, he had more trouble. His last offensive

coordinator there, Terry Robiskie, was particularly blunt about Wright’s tendency to “freelance”.

“We’ve got 11 guys that are going to be on the field,” Robiskie said. “We’ve got 11 guys that we say, ‘This is your job and here is your responsibility,’ and I think Kendall is like everybody else — realizing those other 10 guys are counting on Kendall to be where he’s supposed to be and do what he’s supposed to do.”

Perhaps Wright found a home in Minnesota where they will let him do what Loggains apparently allowed him to do. But evidently, like Robiskie, new Bears head coach Matt Nagy is of a different sort.

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The Bears Need More Kyle Fuller’s

Brad Biggs at the Chicago Tribune answers your questions:

“Please set me straight. The Bears pay Kyle Fuller an average of $14 million a year for four years and because the structure is back-end loaded with dead cap space in all years they essentially must keep him at least three years. Other young and just as highly ranked (based on the well respected Pro Football Focus) corners are getting signed at a fraction of a price (E.J. Gaines, Ross Cockrell, Tyrann Mathieu, who plays all over etc). I know there is some injury concern on some of those guys. Still, this is a high-risk contract. There were alternatives for that money and in the draft. The Bears will need to re-sign young drafted talent the next few years and I worry this could hinder that. Fuller must be an All-Pro to justify the value. — Dan W., Parts Unknown

“For starters, I would not lump Gaines and Cockrell in the same category as Fuller. In fact, I’d put Prince Amukamara and Fuller ahead of those two players. Mathieu is more of a safety than he is cornerback so that’s not really an apple to apple comparison, in my opinion. Is there risk involved with the Fuller contract? Sure. He had one full season of high level play and it followed a season in which he did not set foot on the field. The Bears were flush with cap space and had they not matched the offer sheet made by the Packers, they would have had a glaring hole in the secondary, one that might have pigeonholed them into drafting a quarterback in the first round.”

“I don’t look at this with a doom and gloom view. The Bears kept a really good player, one they believe is still ascending and they did fit that deal into their cap space and salary structure with relative ease.”

Amen.

We say it year after year. The goal is to sign your own free agents. The Bears know Fuller better than anyone and they believe his talent and his attitude justified the long-term deal that was offered. I say, “Fantastic”.

The Bears have to find more of these guys. More guys that they believe in and can sign with confidence for the future. Pace didn’t draft Fuller and isn’t invested in him like he would be had he done so. But he matched the offer for Fuller without hesitation in a matter of hours. I think that’s a great sign.

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Bank On It: 4 QBs Ahead of the Bears Pick in the First Round

Brad Biggs at the Chicago Tribune answers your questions:

“I keep hearing people say it’s better for the Bears if all the top QBs get drafted BEFORE their pick at No. 8. Why? With mediocre talent in the top 10 this year, wouldn’t it be better if at least a few of the top QBs dropped so the Bears are best positioned to trade down and gain picks? – @kunicks

“I don’t know about that. There could be a damn good player sitting there at No. 8 if three quarterbacks come off the board in the top seven picks. If somehow, and I think this is a bit of a longshot, four quarterbacks go in the top seven, I know there will be a damn good football player available at No. 8. For the sake of discussion, let’s say three quarterbacks are selected in the top seven picks. Let’s assume Penn State running back Saquon Barkley and North Carolina State defensive end Bradley Chubb are also gone in the top seven picks. That’s five players off the board and that leaves Alabama defensive back Minkah Fitzpatrick, Notre Dame guard Quenton Nelson, Virginia Tech linebacker Tremaine Edmunds and Georgia linebacker Roquan Smith as well as Ohio State cornerback Denzel Ward and Florida State safety Derwin James, among others. That’s a pretty good group if you ask me.”

It sounds to me like Biggs is underestimating the odds that 4 quarterbacks are going off the board before the Bears pick. The key is how highly do teams value that fourth guy, presumably former Oklahoma quarterback Baker Mayfield.

I’ve participated in a seven round mock draft with representatives from the other 31 NFL teams every year for the last five or six years. These guys know their teams and have a pretty good idea of what they’re thinking is. The trends that come out of these mock drafts tend to be very representative of what happens on draft weekend.

Amongst other things, this group very accurately predicted the run on first round quarterbacks last year at a time when not that many people thought as many would go as early as they did.

This year’s mock started last week and I’m not allowed to release the results, yet. But suffice it to say 4 quarterbacks went in the top 5 picks.

Four quarterbacks will be gone before the Bears pick at #8. Book it.

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Trading for Odell Beckham? Not Likely But…

Brad Biggs at the Chicago Tribune answers your questions:

“Do you think there is a possibility the Bears will give their first-round pick for Odell Beckham Jr.? I wouldn’t mind. — @maliek4ever

“I was a little surprised by the number of folks that had the very same question. There is zero possibility the Bears will trade the No. 8 pick in the draft to the Giants for Beckham. Let’s be real here. Beckham wants a new contract and it’s been floated that he will seek a deal that approaches the range of quarterback money — think $20 million per season. The Bears are not going to fork over a first-round pick, the kind of thing that would give them control of the player for four seasons with a club option for a fifth year to acquire a guy that they would then have to sign to a massive contract.

“Let me put this further in perspective. The No. 8 pick a year ago, Panthers running back Christian McCaffrey, got a contract worth $17.24 million for four years. That will bump up a bit this year and will still be less than $20 million for one season. The nature of Twitter is for folks to jump on the marquee names and play connect-the-dots but there’s just no way this is happening especially with the large investments the team has made in the position already this offseason. Have we already forgotten about Allen Robinson and Taylor Gabriel not to mention pass-catching tight end Trey Burton?

First let me say up front that I agree with everything Biggs said.

Having said that, from a fan’s point of view Beckham makes more sense. Fans don’t care a lot about the money except as it affects the salary cap. By all accounts the Bears still have plenty of room and Biggs himself has said many times that you can always create more. It isn’t a big barrier. Cash budget is more important nowadays.

Given that is the case would you rather have Beckham, the best receiver in the game, or McCaffrey, a pretty good running back but hardly what I’d have called a difference maker last year?

The biggest problem I have with Beckham is his attitude. He’s one of the most entitled and immature players in the league and it leads to problems both on the field and off. Those problems are a bit overblown in New York.  Former Eagles president Joe Banner apparently agrees.  Via Don Banks at The Athletic:

“You talk to the players on the Giants, and is he a high maintenance player? Yes. Does he do things that frustrate people and take up unnecessary time and energy? Yes. But he’s not one of these guys that you’re waking up every single morning thankful that the phone didn’t ring and he wasn’t arrested or something like that. That’s not what he is.”

But still, the fact remains that you’re talking about committing to a guy who is a huge challenge to coach. So you really want to stick him with first year head coach Matt Nagy in a large media city like Chicago?

It looks like a potential Marc TrestmanMartellus Bennett relationship if I ever saw one.

The South Florida Sun-Sentinel’s Dave Hyde related the other day about a question posed to former GM Charley Casserly was asked about the Dolphins move for a better “culture.” Casserly said, “Don’t sacrifice talent for character.” I tend to agree. But Beckham’s a bad fit for the Bears right now.

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Warning: Incoming Rainbows and Sunshine at 6 O’Clock

Rich Campbell at the Chicago Tribune hypes the tight working relationship between new head coach Matt Nagy and general manager Ryan Pace:

“More than a few times this offseason, the GM has dropped an index card on the coach’s desk, detailing a player about whom Pace covets Nagy’s opinion.

“’I can pick up phone and call Matt at 3 in the morning, and he’s going to answer on the first ring, and right away we’re talking football,’ Pace said. ’I just appreciate his drive and his dedication to get this going. We share that, and it’s a fun time to be together.’”

Pace’s determination to be collaborative in shaping the roster under their shared vision “means the world,” Nagy said.

“’That partnership that Ryan and I talk about … extended into our coaches and scouts. When you have those two departments working together, you end up getting what you want in free agency.’”

I hate this time of year. I really do. Especially with a new head coach.

It’s all sunshine and rainbows being blown up your posterior and all kinds of comments about how it’s all completely different now and everyone is so close and they’re all on the same page. Just like it was with John Fox. And Marc Trestman. And Lovie Smith… Like we’ve never heard all this before or the lack of sustained success over the last 25 years doesn’t still serve as a potential harbinger of things to come.

To be clear, I don’t blame Campbell or any of his peers for this. It’s not fair to start hammering on a new regime before the new guy has even coached his first game. He knows as well as I do that Nagy has a half a season of calling plays and no head coaching experience under his belt. He’s never even installed an offense before.

Campbell (and everyone else) is doing what he has to do. And even a cynic like me can see that the team has gotten more talented in the offseason. Well, potentially more talented, anyway. As in the new tight end is a total projection and the new #1 wide receiver has had one really good year three years ago and may or may not be totally healthy coming off of a devastating knee injury.

But hey, there’s plenty of time to talk about that and similar problems over the next three years. No reason to be in a hurry to start being realistic now.

I’m just tired of it. I’d rather read nothing at all than deal with the hand holding and the kumbayas. And perhaps that’s what I’ll do.

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To Pay or Not to Pay. That is the Question.

Brad Biggs at the Chicago Tribune answers your questions:

“Did the Bears make an error in not placing a higher tender on Cameron Meredith as a restricted free agent? It looks like he could be signed to an offer sheet which could force the Bears to pay him much more? – Nick, Schaumburg

“The Bears made a calculated move in placing the original round tender on Meredith at $1.907 million. Because he was undrafted, they will not receive any compensation in the event he signs an offer sheet with another club and the Bears elect not to match it. Meredith visited the Colts on Tuesday and from what I understand he has at least one more visit lined up. The Colts and any other team are going to want to take a close look at Meredith’s surgically repaired left knee and allow their doctors and medical staff to gauge exactly where he’s at in terms of recovery. There’s an element of risk involved there, not unlike the situation the Bears got into by signing Allen Robinson, who is coming off a torn ACL. The Bears could have placed the second-round tender on Meredith and ensured no one came knocking on his door because it’s highly unlikely another team would have forked over a second-round pick in order to sign him. That would have cost $2.914 million. As I wrote in the Mailbag recently, it’s going to take a pretty good offer for Meredith to sign, in my opinion. If he bets on himself for this coming season, he could put himself in line for a much bigger pay day in free agency… The Bears could always match an offer sheet too but they’ve invested heavily in the position with Robinson ($14 million annual average) and Gabriel ($6.5 million annual average). If there is a team that believes Meredith will bounce back this season and they like his upside, things could get interesting quickly.”

My first instinct was to say that the Bears were doing the same thing with Meredith as they did with Kyle Fuller. That is, let the market determine his value, then pay him. And that still might be how it works out. The best thing that could happen if you are the Bears is someone negotiates a reasonable deal for you.  Having said that, I doubt it will happen but, as Biggs says, if someone decides to pay him like he was never injured, it could get interesting.

I don’t say this kind of thing often but I actually believe in Meredith as much as he probably believes in himself. If I’m the Bears, I just pay him whatever the market demands  and the amount invested in the position be damned. The way salaries are rising, in a couple years it will probably be considered a bargain no matter what they are playing the position. To me, Meredith has shown enough to prove he can play it. You don’t let your own walk when that’s the case.

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