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.

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.

Bears Need to Think Hard Before Signing Malcomb Butler

Brad Biggs at the Chicago Tribune on the Bears free agent options at cornerback:

It would be surprising if there isn’t good interest in [Kyle] Fuller. Where his market heads and what he’s seeking money-wise remains to be seen. The good news is there is solid depth at the position in free agency. Depending on who you talk to, there are two tiers of top available corners. Most folks I spoke to placed Trumaine Johnson of the Rams, Fuller and Bashaud Breeland of the Redskins in the top three. One defensive backs coach I spoke to had Johnson, Fuller and Malcolm Butler of the Patriots. There hasn’t been a ton of chatter about Butler, and who knows what happened leading into Super Bowl LII when he was benched. I don’t know that anyone will ever get the real story on that.

“Who can say what happened with that deal? It was just weird,” said the defensive backs coach. “But he’s a good player. Limited because of his size, but he’s good. He makes plays. He’s got good movement. He’s got a little attitude out there. You say he struggled this season and I counter that they didn’t have any pass rush this season at all. You’ve got to consider that.

“That’s why when I was doing my report on Aaron Colvin (Jaguars cornerback), I had a hard time. Nice player, but it was hard to write a report on him because that defense was just avalanching quarterbacks the entire season. You watch the cornerbacks in Jacksonville and they were just sitting on routes, which I would have done, too, because of that pass rush. So how is Colvin going to fit in your system if you can’t get after the quarterback like that? That’s the challenge. Nice player, but I think he’s in the next tier.”

Points are all well taken on Butler. But I’ve become convinced that the Super Bowl benching was a football decision just as the Patriots say it was.

Butler was never used on the opponent’s best receiver playing for the Patriots. It was always a situation where they either double teamed that player or, after they acquired him, put Stephon Gilmore on him. They always put Butler on the other side. The reason is simple. At 5’11” he was too short to cover the larger outside receivers that often dominate in the NFL. Butler could only be trusted covering lesser receivers or quicker receivers on the shorter side of normal.

The “long and the short of it” is possibly just that Butler just wasn’t good enough and the Patriots thought they’d have better luck without using him in coverage.

Bottom line, the Patriots didn’t consider Butler to be a top of the line cornerback. The Bears are probably better off without over paying Butler and should only consider him if his price tag comes in lower than expected.

The Bears Will Miss Willie Young

Rich Campbell at the Chicago Tribune on the Bears sudden need for more pass rush:

In terminating the contracts of Pernell McPhee and Willie Young last week, the Bears cut from their roster a pair of veteran edge rushers who last season accounted for six sacks, 15 quarterback hits and a slew of injury-related concerns about availability and effectiveness.

The latter explained the moves and why there was minimal hand-wringing in Chicago about them. But jettisoning McPhee and Young, however justifiable, only magnifies the Bears’ need for push rushers.

I’m not surprised that the Bears let either of these men go and I think the decision on McPhee was fully justified. He’s simply been unable to stay healthy. But I’m not so sure about the decision on Young.

I understand why the Bears let Young go, too. He’s on the wrong side of 30, he’s being used as a rotational player and he doesn’t play special teams. But Young is one of those under-rated players that every team needs. He’s an underdog former 7th round pick who brings his lunch pail to work and gets after it. And he’s had a sneaky productive career with 32 career sacks including 10 in 2014. He (reluctantly) accepted a position change and made it work after the arrival of John Fox a year later.

The Bears obviously feel like they can replace his production and get younger at the same time but that’s considerably easier said than done. This year’s draft isn’t thought to be particularly good at the position and teams ordinarily don’t let decent pass rushers hit the free agent market. You wonder if this is a “grass is greener on the other side of the fence” syndrome where GM Ryan Pace is looking at what he doesn’t have more than what he has.

Young got fairly consistent pressure whenever he was in the game and that’s not easy to do. Even at 32 years old he still looked like he had a lot left in 2016 after missing most last season with a torn biceps muscle. Releasing Young isn’t quite the same as watching Alshon Jeffery walk out the door but one can only hope that they do a better job of replacing his production than they did last season when they tried to make up for the loss of Jeffery with a bunch of maybe’s that were destined to pan out only in GM Pace’s dreams.