Welcome Back to the Locker Rooms and Other Points of View

  • Kevin Fishbain at The Athletic takes a look at the Bears salary cap situation.
  • Here’s a look at the Bears’ 18 biggest cap hits and where those cap hits rank at their respective positions heading into the 2022 offseason, which officially began Monday. All contract figures from Over The Cap and Spotrac unless otherwise listed


    Khalil Mack $30.15M 2nd
    Robert Quinn $17.137M 17th
    Eddie Jackson $15.090M 4th
    Cody Whitehair $12.3M 7th
    Eddie Goldman $11.810M 13th
    Nick Foles $10.666M 21st
    Roquan Smith $9.735M 12th
    Tarik Cohen $5.75M 13th
    Danny Trevathan $5.719M 18th
    Justin Fields $4.289M 32nd
    Mario Edwards Jr. $4.224M 32nd
    Cairo Santos $3.175M 15th
    Jeremiah Attaochu $3.1M 81st
    Angelo Blackson $3.1M 48th
    David Montgomery $2.801M 24th
    Cole Kmet $2.066M 32nd
    Teven Jenkins $1.906M 63rd
    Jaylon Johnson $1.764M 64th

    Many Ryan Pace defenders have pointed out that the Bears are in the top third of the league in available space this year. But they failed to point out how many players the Bears will need to sign in order to fill out the roster. Its nice to be able to rebuild much of the roster in that respect. But the new players will quickly eat up the available space. It’s not a disastrous situation. But it’s also not good.

    When I look at the table above I see two players that are way over paid. The first is Khalil Mack who, though an excellent pass rusher, it’s not the second best in the league. His cap hit has been largely inflated due to the fact that he has restructured his contract in order to allow paste create more space in previous years. Eddie Jackson’s contract is outrageous relative to his production.

    These are problems created by Pace that the Bears are not going to be able to easily solve.

  • Adam Jahns at The Athletic quotes former Colts head coach Tony Dungy on why his system of grading players with “loafs” spread throughout the league.
  • “That’s how you win in the NFL,” Dungy said. “People will look at schemes and the offense and motions, and there’s a lot of things that come and go in the league. But you still win by not beating yourself. You win with energy and effort — and especially on defense. If you don’t hustle, if you don’t execute your technique and you don’t play all-out hard, you better have tremendous players if you’re going to win.”
    This is a lesson that I think is a universal truth. I wouldn’t say that the Xs and Os aren’t important but they are nothing if your team doesn’t execute. People like to talk about the failure of Matt Nagy’s offense. But it wasn’t the offense that failed. It was the players who failed to execute it.

    I get worried when I hear new head coach Matt Eberflus and new offensive coordinator Luke Getsy speak. I hear a lot about HITS and such. But no one has talked about how they are going to get players to concentrate, execute and do their jobs, especially on offense where it’s more than just not “loafing”.

  • Brad Biggs at the Chicago Tribune answers your questions.
  • There seems to be a view that an offensive player is the inevitable pick in the second round, but would you be shocked if the Bears took a defensive player with their first pick given the change of scheme and holes at CB, LB, safety and DT? — @davidpbmaddox

    I’m not sure who has that view. It’s really hard to predict what a team is going to do in Round 1 this far out — although last year at this time, it was apparent that if the Bears didn’t make a move for a big-time veteran quarterback, they would move mountains to try to draft one. It’s even more difficult to predict what position a team will target in Round 2. What if Poles makes his most significant moves in free agency on offense? Would folks saying an offensive pick is inevitable pivot at that point? I’ve always said it’s best to see what happens through the first two weeks of free agency to get a better idea of the true roster needs a team has. We can talk at length about positions of need, but it’s impossible to say who the top-graded players will be when the Bears are on the clock. My best advice is to wait and see what shakes out with the roster. Which players will be signed? Which players will be released? What areas of need will look more settled by early April? Take a step back and see what clues the team leaves.

    Many GMs seem to take the approach that you fill your holes in free agency and take the best player available in the draft. Certainly that’s how former Bears GM Jerry Angelo felt.

    And the questioner points out, there are a lot of holes for the Bears to fill and even with the cap space that they have, they may struggle to fill them in free agency. So it could turn out to be a situation where you have the opposite happening. That is, there are so many holes that you take the best available player because you have holes at almost every position.

    I’ll be interested to see where the Bears end up here.

  • Jahns addresses the cornerback position.
  • Jahns: When it comes to cornerbacks, teams can be aggressive on the open market, which leads to major deals around the league. It happens every year. I just can’t see Poles being a part of it this offseason, especially if he means what he says about staying out of the first wave of free agency. Serious money is going to be spent.

    Yes. Not by the Bears.

    A lot depends upon what kind of defense Eberflus wants to run. I think it’s safe to say that there will be a fair bit of zone coverage which, perhaps, means that the Bears could opt for cheaper players.

    Interestingly, not that he can’t play zone, but Johnson really excels in man coverage. It will be interesting to see how they use him.

  • Fishbain discusses combine talk behind the scenes.
  • Some agents and team executives questioned the Bears’ decision to fire Pace after allowing him to trade up for [QB Justin] Fields last year. There was some surprise because of the investment made in Fields — a first-round pick for the 2022 draft. To one executive, it was an example of the organization’s lack of planning and direction under chairman George McCaskey.

    I don’t think it was lack of planning. I think it was lack of insight. Most of us knew the Bears had the wrong people in place in January last year. But McCaskey decided they needed one more chance. The new front office and staff are now stuck once again with a quarterback that they didn’t draft who basically wasted a year under a coaching staff that couldn’t get the best out of him.

    Many will give Pace credit for drafting Fields. But any GM could have pulled off that trade if they wanted him. And, even if you disagree with that, it was yet another desperate move by a front office that couldn’t get the position right. He needed to go last year.

    One Final Thought

    Biggs had ten thoughts from the combine.

    The culture of candor where the staff devours tape as a large group and discusses players one-by-one is something [GM Ryan} Poles was initially exposed to by former Chiefs GM John Dorsey. I asked a veteran scout who has been in meetings like that about the process and pros or cons as a GM learns about an inherited staff he inherits. The scout had some interesting thoughts.

    “It’s either a rigid process or a complete free for all, depending on how you want to do it,” the scout said. “(Poles) likes the method of everyone watching tape together. I can see it both ways. If you are all watching tape together, you cannot be as thorough or as focused if you watched it on your own, and then the whole groupthink thing can come into play occasionally.

    “Loud voices in the room and just the people that talk a lot or talk loud and talk with conviction, they dominate the discussion. It doesn’t always mean they know more and oftentimes it means they know less. All of this is more challenging in a group you don’t know. You have no idea who to listen to. When (Poles) is walking into a room of scouts he’s never worked with, that’s hard.”

    As the scout described — and he’s been through pretty much the same situation before — there are multiple motivating factors in play.

    “What can happen in those rooms, and it’s happened every time I’ve (been through this kind of change), you’re auditioning for a job,” the scout said. “It’s easier to have these wide open, group discussions when you have a clear, trusting relationship that has been established with people. In order to have candor, there needs to be trust. That’s psychology 101, right? It’s hard to speak with candor when you’re effectively trying to keep your job.”

    Most office workers, including myself, know exactly what this scout is talking about. In most meetings, the loudest person, the “type A personalities”, are the ones who are heard. This is not always a good thing.

    Like Poles, my impression is that the Bears have a reasonably good scouting staff. Its where the GM decides what to do with the information that they gather that things go awry.

    But if Poles wants to hear from everyone, he’s probably going to have to collect the thoughts from people who are not as apt to be as forward in these meetings in another way. You have to build relationships with different people in different ways depending upon who they are and how they think. As the scouts says, it will probably all be easier once an atmosphere of trust has been established.

    On a related note, though Biggs has done a good job of keeping the 10 thoughts columns interesting during COVID, these articles are always better when the reporters have access to the players in the locker room. Biggs, in particular, has a talent for sneaking away with players into a corner and getting their thoughts on in-depth issues that only someone who plays a position can give you. Its those insights that make this column a must read every week.

    The comment from this scout is a great example of what I’m talking about. Yes, Biggs could have called him. But the whole process is better and more personal when you meet with someone in person. Insight was gained that you maybe don’t get on the phone when you are interrupting someone’s day. I, personally, really want that back and I’m sure he does, too.

    Supposedly the NFL is planning to allow reporters access to the locker room again this year. However, according to Hub Arkush at shawlocal.com the NFLPA has requested that the league not allow this. I believe that this is shortsighted. I know that as a fan, newspaper reporters are still the best way for me to get information. And when you limit their access to that information you are limiting our access to that information. And that makes it much tougher to learn about the game.

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