Solid Draft Prediction. And Other Points of View.

“What’s the plan at center? Is Ryan Bates really the answer? Are they still going to target a Tier 2 free-agent center like Aaron Brewer or Coleman Shelton?— @jtr_1994

“As we sit here a week out from the opening of free agency, it sure looks like the plan is for the Bears to play Bates at center. It doesn’t make sense to me to sign a guy like Brewer or Shelton because they probably wouldn’t be far off from where the Bears see Bates. I wouldn’t discount the possibility of the Bears looking for a center in the draft whom they can develop, but they are a little short on picks right now with only five. Yes, that number could easily grow with a trade here or there, but the sweet spot for landing a center with starting traits is Round 2.

“The Bears have liked Bates for some time. They made an aggressive bid for him as a restricted free agent in 2022, when they signed him to a four-year, $17 million offer sheet (which the Bills matched). He’s a $4 million-a-year player for the next two seasons, and the Bears have to hope he’s a significant upgrade over what they got from Lucas Patrick, who earned $8 million over the previous two years.”

I’m going to be very curious to see how the acquisition works out.

Despite the fact that the Bills matched the Bears offer two years ago, last season they saw Bates as a back up. If he couldn’t earn a job with the Bills, why should the Bears be settling for him?

I’d like to think that Ryan Poles knows what he’s doing here. He’s done a reasonable job of selecting the offensive tackles on the roster. But he also signed Nate Davis, who had a pretty rough first season with the Bears. The acquisition that this most reminds me of is Patrick, who was also a depth piece with the Packers and who also didn’t work out.

I guess we’ll have to wait and see. But I think there’s good reason to doubt that Bates will be the answer at center this year until we see it.

“When did Ryan Poles decide to move on from Justin Fields? Was it when he got the No. 1 pick again? Did he always plan on it from the beginning? What was his plan at QB and did it change or did he always want to fix the defense first, then this draft to go offense and get a QB? — @thedude4442

“Interesting question. Nothing is finalized, but all signs point to the Bears moving on from Fields and using the No. 1 pick on USC quarterback Caleb Williams. In the event it isn’t Williams, I still expect the Bears to select a quarterback. As I have written in this space, it’s not a Fields decision anymore (in my opinion). It’s a matter of which quarterback they are choosing.

“I think some folks probably assumed Poles and the organization were putting way more faith in Fields after the 2022 season than they were. Poles elected to go with Fields as his starter in 2023 and trade the No. 1 pick, but it was far from a long-term vote of confidence. The passing offense was a total mess coming off that 2022 season and we could go on and on and on explaining the reasons. In short, Fields was one of the reasons and his play wasn’t dramatically different this past season. The Bears got off to a miserable start, and the passing offense remained a mess.

“The Bears got some good fortune as they recovered from a brutal start while the Carolina Panthers never gained their footing, putting them in a fortuitous situation with the first and ninth picks. This is a different conversation if the Bears held only the ninth pick. Maybe you’re looking at a future that includes Fields in that case. The reality is the Bears are in a unique position, and it has been clear for at least a couple of months now which direction this was headed.”

This is an academic question but I agree that it is pretty interesting. I’m sure that last year Poles’ decision to stick with Fields was with the long-term in mind but I agree with Biggs that it wasn’t a commitment by any means.

The decision to move on probably came on gradually as a couple of things developed during the season.

  1. The Bears were hoping that Fields would progress during the season. That leads me to believe that the Bears decided that Fields wasn’t the answer during the season when Poles felt the lack of progress when throwing from the pocket.

When the Bears played the Falcons in Week 17, they played about 95% man coverage and Fields looked like an all-pro. The problem is that he simply doesn’t read the field very well when defenses mix up their coverages and try to confuse him. And that, in turn, affects his accuracy.

Perhaps another coach at another team can bring out the best in Fields but I doubt very much that that’s going to get any better with the Bears. I’m sure Poles concluded the same thing, probably near the halfway point in the season when I did.

  1. If the Bears didn’t have the first overall pick and they weren’t within range in the draft to get one of the top quarterbacks, it’s hard to determine exactly what they would’ve done here. They might well have tried to stick with Fields and muddle through the best they could until a better opportunity came along.

But there’s no doubt that as Carolina continued to lose in a disastrous season and it became apparent that the Bears would be picking in the top 5, they probably knew what they were going to do. At that point, probably around week 14 or 15, they knew that they had a viable alternative which was going to fall into their laps.

I’m sure they had an idea during the season as they watched Fields that they might want to move on. But they probably knew they were going to move on once they realize that they were going to be high enough in the draft that they were going to have a choice of a pretty good rookie quarterback.

  • Mike Florio at reads my mind when it comes to evaluating Jaylon Johnson‘s new contract.

“Even with what we know, it’s a little alarming — and multiple league insiders are buzzing about it. The deal averages $19 million. Johnson could have made $19.8 million this year and, if tagged again in 2025, $23.76 million.

“That’s $43.56 million over two years. The convention when it comes to turning a franchise tag into a long-term deal is to ensure that the first two years of the tag are fully-guaranteed at signing.”

I totally agreed with Florio here. I was shocked that the deal didn’t average over $20 million per year. But, as Florio suggested in this article and later reported, there were extenuating circumstances:

“Per a source with knowledge of the terms, Johnson will receive $28 million in 2024 — more than the $19.8 million he was due to receive under the tag.

“He’s also due to make another $16 million in 2025; it’s fully-guaranteed. That ensures he’ll receive slightly more than the value of two franchise tags ($19.8 million plus $23.76 million, or $43.56 million).

“The tradeoff comes on the back end, where Johnson makes $16 million in 2026 and 2027. That’s what pushes the APY to $19 million.”

Yes, that makes a great deal more sense. The contract is heavily front-loaded with guarantees. That means that Johnson is getting his money early. If he handles it wisely, the money he will make over the next three years will bring the average of his deal well above what he would have gotten if he had simply taken a deal Which averaged evenly at $21 million per year spread over all four years. And at the end of the deal, he’ll still be on the right side of 30 years old with the possibility of earning another big contract.

All and all, this looks like a good deal for both sides. And kudos to Johnson and his agent for ignoring the superficial optics of the deal to get something creative done that keeps him with the Bears.

“The Denver Broncos’ decision to release star safety Justin Simmons could easily be written off as collateral damage and a regrettable but necessary step toward recalibrating their salary cap.

“But digging deeper, a trend seems to be forming at Simmons’ position, as a group of safeties have flooded the free-agent market with teams seemingly prioritizing other areas of the roster. Kevin Byard, Jordan Poyer, Jamal Adams, Eddie Jackson, Quandre Diggs, Rayshawn Jenkins and Marcus Maye were all cut (or designated a post-June 1 cut in Maye’s case) while Antoine Winfield Jr. was franchise tagged by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Kyle Dugger was transition tagged by the New England Patriots and Xavier McKinney wasn’t tagged in any capacity by the New York Giants.”

“The supply is in line to outweigh the demand, which could drive down the value of the position. It’s unlikely to be as dramatic as the running backs’ sinking market, but seven personnel executives and coaches around the NFL told The Athletic something has been developing, even if it only becomes a short-term trend.

“'(It’s part of a) larger financial trend,’ an executive said. ‘The market got too high for the position’s impact overall.'”

I don’t have any doubt that this is true. And I might add that, similar to the situation with running backs, there might be a feeling that good safeties can be had in the later rounds of the draft (though they might not be as capable of starting out of the gate as a running back might).

My first thought was that the Bears might have an opportunity to take advantage of the market to sign a safety rather than drafting one. But I’m not so sure. Howe points out that seven of the eight safeties that he mentioned above are on the wrong side of 30 years old.

Could the Bears target one of these safeties at the right price in free agency? Its not impossible. But they generally haven’t shown a willingness to sign older players at this point in their rebuilding program and safety, especially the free safety position that the Bears need to fill, requires a degree of athleticism that it might be hard to find as a player ages.

Why did Ryan Poles wait to trade Justin Fields? By doing so he backed himself into a corner and was forced to sell low, ridiculously low. Rookie error by a general manager entering his third season. I expect better.** — Antoine L., Chicago

I’m not sure why this misconception is circulating that the Bears sat on their hands and waited for quarterback slots to be filled around the league — first starting jobs and then QB2 slots — before acting. That couldn’t be further from the truth. The league knew since the end of last season the Bears likely would be moving on from Fields.

Personally, I don’t think that there’s much to interpret. I’m guessing that the media and the fans loved Fields a lot more than NFL personnel men did. A whole lot more.

  1. It’s fairly obvious that teams don’t want to pay a draft pick for a quarterback that they’re pretty sure is going to be released anyway.
  2. Fields is a project in the passing game that no one wants to entrust their QB1 job too. They might believe that they can coach him up but no one wants to bet too much on it.
  3. As Biggs rightfully pointed out, the contract was an issue. No one was going to pick up that fifth year option which meant whoever traded for him would only have him for a year. And the fact that no one was going to pick up that fifth yer option told you everything that you needed to know about Fields actual value.

I don’t think that the media members looking around the league and looking at the available quarterbacks thought that Fields would rate so low. National and local media members wildly overrated his value and that’s why fans ask questions like the one above. It also doesn’t help that instead of admitting that they were wrong, national writers like Judy Batista at have suggest that this was the Bears fault because they waited. Which, as Biggs points out, is nonsense.

He has a lot of athletic talent and I think there has always been a tendency among media and fans to overrate athletic quarterbacks. Even many of the ones who have turned out to be legitimate NFL starters have been overrated by the national media.

Its a passing league. And based upon his passing statistics and what could be seen on the field, the value wasn’t there.

  • Biggs ]addresses the Bears acquisition of wide receiver Keenan Allen](

I agree the Bears are paying Allen a lot this season. He earned a $5 million roster bonus Sunday and has an $18.1 million base salary in 2024. Knowing how the Bears have operated in the last year or so, this strikes me as a very calculated decision. I don’t think this move was made on a whim. Given the investment — and the Bears still have ample cap space — it leads me to believe Allen will be more than just a statistical producer.

More likely, it’s a situation in which GM Ryan Poles, his staff and the coaches (wide receivers coach Chris Beatty was with Allen the last three seasons with the Chargers) view Allen as a multiplier. I use that term because it’s what Poles called Montez Sweat after acquiring the defensive end from the Washington Commanders. The Bears felt Sweat would help them by being very productive _and_by raising the profile of the players around him.

I agree with all of this and the trade does make sense in that they will want to give the new rookie quarterback as much support as possible.

The big risk, though, has to do with Allen’s long injury history. He hasn’t finished a season since 2021 and, at age 32, that’s a red flag.

But the Bears have the cap space and they’ll get it back next year if Allen doesn’t pan out. And indications are that if he stays healthy he’ll probably be worth every penny.

Keenan Allen mentioned the possibility of a contract extension. Don’t the Bears have to make that move after trading a fourth-round pick for him? — Kevin D., Schaumburg

Let’s slow the roll on that one. I imagine the Bears would be open to exploring something with Allen in the future, but a lot of things have to happen between now and then. This isn’t a scenario like the Montez Sweat trade in which the team forked over a second-round pick and you knew a new contract was coming in short order. Their situations are different.

Yes, I agree. Allen will be 33 years old next year. The Bears can afford to wait to see how he performs. Almost no matter how well he plays, a guy that old isn’t going to set the market.

One Final Thought

Kevin Fishbain at The Athletic participates in a beat writer mock draft. Here’s what happened at number nine overall:

9. Chicago Bears: Dallas Turner**, Edge, Alabama**

With the three top receivers off the board, the Bears hoped to move back — but the Falcons succeeded in doing so one spot earlier, and apparently no one wanted to trade up for Michael Penix Jr. The consolation prize is the best defensive player in the draft, which would have to delight head coach (and defensive play caller) Matt Eberflus. Despite the addition of Montez Sweat, the Bears finished 32nd in the league last season in sacks per pass attempt. Enter Turner, the SEC’s 2023 sacks leader. An outstanding athlete, Turner would be a nice complement to Sweat.

This makes perfect sense.

The guess here is that with a 32 year old Allen on the roster as the # 2 wide receiver, the Bears might want to do some future planning by drafting at the position if they can. But the odds are that they won’t be able to do it.

I don’t think that those three wide receivers, Marvin Harrison from Ohio St., Malik Nabers from LSU, and Rome Odunze from Washington, are going to stick around long enough for the Bears to take them. Once those three are gone, I’d look for the Bears to try to trade back a few spots.

If there are no takers on a trade, I wouldn’t look for them to take an offensive tackle. A lot depends upon how the Bears rate Braxton Jones but if it were up to me, I’d leave him where he is. I watched Jones pretty closely last year and I think he’s pretty competent right where he is. And I still think that there might be upside there. I also think that Larry Borom is an underrated back up.

I think they Bers will eventually end up taking the best player available. That could well be the first defensive player on the board. It wouldn’t surprise anyone if that was Turner.

If I had to guess, I’d say that this is exactly how things will play out. And, yes, its way too early to say that. But I’m just a blogger out in the middle of the wilderness. Sue me.

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