Tevin Jenkins May Fit Well With the Bears

Adam Jahns at The Athletic on new Bears offensive tackle Tevin Jenkins:

In a Zoom call with Chicago media, Oklahoma State coach Mike Gundy continuously stressed that challenging Jenkins would be crucial to his development and success at the NFL level.

“He’s just started to really get into football over the last 18 months,” Gundy said. “Now I know that sounds funny, but when you’re as gifted and talented as he is, you can get by being a good college football player without having that grit and toughness like he’s just developed over the last 18 months. So he really brought that to our program just recently.”

The Bears will want it as soon as he settles into his locker at Halas Hall. Gundy’s comments did have a “red flag” vibe to it. Dan Pompei, a national writer for The Athletic, wrote on Monday that some teams had questions about his commitment level before his final season at Oklahoma State. Scouts surveyed by Bob McGinn before the draft raised concerns, too.

“This year, he played mean,” a scout told McGinn. “In 2019, there were times you scratched your head and said, ‘What the hell are you doing, man? Get after it.’ He’s got kind of a soft personality, but if you watch the 2020 film, he’s not soft. Talent-wise, it’s there.”

Gundy indicated that a change in Jenkins on and off the field occurred.

“You look at him and you say it took that long for (him) to realize that (he was) a special talent and it really did with him, because he had such a laid-back personality and I don’t think he ever saw himself being that good of a football player,” Gundy said. “That’s why I’m saying, ‘Within the next couple years, the NFL is going to be really shocked at what you have.’ Because when we asked him and challenged him to be as good as he can be and dominate a player, we had a lot of success with him on those days.”

These comments do, indeed, have a “red flag vibe”. But I’m going to say that the Bears were thinking about Jenkins fit with them specifically when they drafted him and that may have made this a good pick.

The hunch here is that the Bears had offensive line coach Juan Castillo in mind when considering Jenkins. Unlike his predecessor, Harry Heistand, who was reputedly more of a technician, Castillo is a motivator. Two minutes of listening to him talk tells you that.

I do have concerns about Jenkins. Most evaluators saw him as strictly a right tackle and the indications are that the Bears would like to see him start on the left side. Along with the selection of huge fifth rounder Larry Borom,it seems that the Bears are going size, strength and aggressiveness over mobility on the outside and that makes me wonder about what speed rushers will do to them.

And, personally, I haven’t been overly impressed by Castillo and I don’t think he got the most out of the Bears offensive linemen last year. But I think there’s a good chance that he can get the most of out Jenkins and that could make the difference.

Why Is Jimmy Graham Still a Chicago Bear?

Brad Biggs at the Chicago Tribune answers your questions:

Is Jimmy Graham due any roster bonuses and is there a date the Bears will have to make a decision on him? There was lots of speculation of him being cut, so pretty surprised Graham is still on the roster. Hopefully it’s not because of the Russell Wilson dreams. — @luckyneckbeards

Graham has a straightforward contract for the final year of his deal. He has a base salary of $6.9 million for this season and will earn $100,000 in a workout bonus for total compensation of $7 million. Other than a no-trade clause in the deal, that’s about it. His roster status has been somewhat of a question, but at this point I expect Graham to be on the team. If the Bears were going to part with Graham, they would have done so by now. They have a high level of respect for him and wouldn’t wait to part with a veteran of his stature, something that would make it more challenging for him to land elsewhere. So it’s a fair bet that he is in the team’s plans for this season. I wondered if the Bears potentially got a slight pay cut from Graham, but as best as I know, that has not happened. Graham led the team with eight touchdown receptions last season and had another in the playoff loss in New Orleans. With the Bears banking on improvement at quarterback, I would bet they similarly are counting on greater production from Graham. He has been considered a fantastic teammate everywhere he has been and has certainly been a positive influence on Cole Kmet. Yes, $7 million seems like a lot to pay for those intangibles, but that’s the value the Bears have placed on Graham and it looks like he will get that from them this year. As far as Wilson goes, I would bet Graham has put in a good word about the Bears to his former Seahawks teammate, but it’s hard to imagine his presence could facilitate a deal.

Actually, I don’t think Graham is still on the roster just for his intangibles.

The Bears had a lot of trouble scoring in the red zone in 2018 and 2019 without the use of gadget plays. If you gave head coach Matt Nagy a shot of truth serum, he’d probably tell you it was because he didn’t have the mismatches on the roster that he needed to get the ball into the end zone with a short field. Having a good, playmaking tight end is a key to solving that issue.

Graham doesn’t have the wheels to help you a great deal in the open field anymore but he was a reliable red zone target in 2020 with 8 touchdowns. Given his value in that area, the Bears probably don’t think they are over paying him even if the rest of the league does.

Why Are Bears Fans Angry? It Has Little to Do with Russell Wilson.

Dan Pompei at The Athletic gives his view point on the Bears quarterback situation and why the reaction from fans has been so negative:

Andy Dalton is what happens when you draft Mitch Trubisky instead of Deshaun Watson or Patrick Mahomes, get rejected by Tom Brady, and your trade offer for Russell Wilson isn’t enough to entice the Seahawks.”

“The story had been told that quarterback-needy teams like the Bears had many options going into this week.

“The story was a fairy tale.

Dan Patrick reported the Seahawks rejected the Bears’ offer for Wilson of three first-round picks, a third, and two starters, saving the Bears from themselves. So Wilson was not available for an attainable price. And If Wilson were a realistic option for anyone, why did three of the teams on his shortlist sign other quarterbacks, and the fourth verbally recommit to the one it already had? The answer is he wasn’t an option.

“As for Watson, the Bears couldn’t match the resources of other likely suitors, and they knew it. Besides, he may not have accepted a trade to the Bears. So he wasn’t an option either.”

“The public disappointment about Dalton is understandable because the myth perpetuated by the uninformed and the gullible was the Bears could acquire a quarterback who could rise above their sad history at the position.

Long time readers of this blog will know that I love Pompei. But he’s way off base if he thinks Bears fans were hanging their hopes on acquiring the likes of Wilson while the Seahawks ate a $39 million cap hit. Like many of those associated with the NFL, Pompei is under-estimating the average non-casual football fan, probably because he’s been listening to too many meat heads calling into sports talk radio.

In any case, most Bears fans are angry for reasons based closer to reality. Starting with how the Bears got into this situation in the first place.

Pompei mentions that the Bears missed on Trubisky. Fair enough. But we all understand that those things happen. He forgot to mention that the Bears signed a quarterback in Nick Foles last year who flat out can’t stand in the pocket in the face of a pass rush anymore. But along the same lines, we all know that talent evaluation in the NFL isn’t an exact science. We, or at least I, can forgive that too.

But here’s what I can’t forgive. The Bears offered three first-round picks, a third, and two starters for Wilson because that’s what franchise quarterbacks in the NFL are worth. If that’s the case, how do you only draft one quarterback in six years? And that one was drafted more or less out of a desperate and immediate need.

Sure the chances of hitting on one are low. But if you do hit on one, you hit the jackpot. And you can’t win if you don’t play.

Bears moves leading up to free agency and since it started indicate one thing. That there has been no plan for the future beyond the current year at any time.

Pace has spent two years squeezing out every dollar of cap space and pushing off hits into the future to win now. He has traded away future picks to move up to draft the likes of Anthony Miller and Trevis Gipson. But the thought of reaching just a little to draft a player that couldn’t help in the current year was repugnant.

And now the bill has come due.

Pompei contends that there were no realistic options that better than Dalton. I disagree. Strongly.

Dalton is 33 years old and we know who he is. The odds that he’ll be better with the Bears than he was last year with a more talented Cowboys offense are miniscule.

For argument’s sake, let’s take the possibility of a trade off the table because it takes two teams to make one and we don’t know what the situation is with other teams.

On the same day that the Bears signed Dalton, a 28 year old Jacoby Brissett signed as a back up for the Dolphins. Is Brissett better than Dalton? No. But there’s at least the possibility that with a change of scenery and a new coach, the light could come on.

Similarly, Ryan Fitzpatrick signed with the Washington Football Team. Fitzpatrick is 39 years old but has been far better than Dalton the last two years as he essentially carried a terrible Dolphins offense.

Each of these players offered something that Dalton doesn’t. The possibility, however remote, that the Bears could have been better in 2021.

As it is, the Bears are a team that wasn’t close to being able to compete with good teams for a championship is 2020. They have Dalton, an older and, at least statistically, less capable replacement for Trubisky. And there is the distinct possibility that the team, with a history of drafting for the moment and with a front office and coaching staff under pressure to win in 2021, won’t draft a quarterback.

The fans of the 31 NFL teams that don’t win the Super Bowl live on hope. Now I ask you. If you are a Bears fan under these circumstances, what hope is there?

I’ll hang up and listen for your answer.

Desai Hiring a Notable Change of Attitude for Bears Management

Patrick Finley at the Chicago Sun-Times addresses the changes in the 2021 Bears coaching staff:

When [head coach Matt] Nagy had to hire Fangio’s replacement, he took two days.

When he hired [Chuck] Pagano’s replacement, he took 10.

With a more deliberate tack — and leaning on experience from two years ago — Nagy interviewed nine candidates.

“That was different than the first time,” he said. “And then there were a lot of great ones.”

Nagy picked [defensive coordinator Sean] Desai because he admired his conviction and confidence. Desai is the rare NFL coach who didn’t play college football, but players still have an “unbelievable connection” with him, Nagy said.

A couple thoughts here.

First, the fact that Nagy felt that he had to interview 9 candidates is not exactly a vote of confidence in Desai. You certainly want to do due diligence but 9?

Nagy is, for all practical purposes, a lame duck head coach. You have to wonder how many of those candidates turned him down before he settled for Desai.

In fact, one of the first things I thought when Nagy hired Mike Pettine as a senior defensive assistant was that he might well have made him defensive coordinator had he been available to him at the time he filled the position.

The second thought I had was more positive.

Finley already pointed out that Nagy basically had decided to hire Pagano the minute Fangio left.

Four years ago, general manager Ryan Pace fell in love with Mitch Trubisky and decided to draft him almost to the point where he basically excluded all other possibilities out of hand. He notoriously didn’t even meet with Deshaun Watson. It turned out to be the wrong move.

In both cases I’m sure Bears management thought that they were moving with “conviction” a term both Nagy and Pace love to use. Most notably in the case of Trubisky, people have wondered with some justification if Pace made up his mind too quickly and didn’t do the thorough evaluation of the other prospects that he should have.

The methodical approach to interviewing defensive coordinator candidates, though it may have been a excessive, could be an indication that Bears management have learned their lesson and don’t plan to make any hasty moves without considering all of the possibilities in the future.

Tough Cap Decisions Will Tell Us A Lot about Where the Bears Think They Stand

Brad Biggs at the Chicago Tribune talks about how the Bears might create space under the reduced salary cap in 2021:

Free safety Eddie Jackson is a prime candidate for a restructure to lower his cap hit of $11.45 million. Maybe the Bears will take a similar approach with outside linebacker Robert Quinn, who has a $14.7 million cap hit but has a fully guaranteed base salary of $11.5 million. The Bears could attack the problem by moving cap commitments into future years when the overall cap number is expected to rise, especially after the NFL finalizes new television contracts and the pandemic is in the past.

The problem with extending contracts is that, obviously, it connects you at the hip to players for the future. The same goes, to a lesser extent, with converting salary to bonuses, which spreads the cap hit out over future years but which also makes it harder to part from a player in those future years.

Jackson is, indeed, a prime candidate for this and I consider it to be almost a certainty that the Bears will do something here if they can. Kyle Fuller is another player who is in line for an extension. Both are still in the prime of their careers and, though it was a bit of a down year for both as play makers, I think pretty much everyone still considers them to be cornerstone pieces for the defense. As Biggs points out, this might be easier said than done, however. Agents will know that the Bears are desperate to create space and this will give him leverage.

The problems come after that. Quinn is a great example of a player who is a real quandary. He didn’t live up to his massive contract last year. To top it off, the contract was back loaded which means that the Bears are paying the price for it this year in terms of the cap hit. When they put the contract together, I’m certain it was with the idea that they would do a restructure this year. But now you have to wonder if that’s still the plan.

Quinn carries $23.9 million dollars in dead cap if the Bears cut him this year as the contract stands. That obviously makes doing so prohibitive. However, that falls to $9.3 million if they cut him is 2022 and the cap savings would be $6.7 million.

So the Bears have a decision to make with Quinn. Do they want to restructure his contract and move money into future years, making it more difficult to cut him later? Doing so would be betting that he recovers to be a better player and earn the money in his contract. But that’s a bet I think it would be difficult to make based upon what we saw this year. You have to wonder if they would be better off leaving the contract as it is, which would leave them to option of separating from him later if necessary.

The Bears are in a similar situation with Akiem Hicks, who is entering the last year of his contract. Hicks is 31 years old and has been injured a bit more often than anyone would like the last couple years. On the other hand, the defense isn’t anywhere near as good without him. Extending Hicks would essentially be betting that he maintains a high level of play for at least a few more years, something the Bears should be hesitating to do with a declining player on the wrong side of 30.

Other options for creating space include cutting Bobby Massie and Jimmy Graham. Each older player has his flaws. Each has his strengths. Cutting each creates another hole in the lineup that has to be filled with someone else.

Connecting yourself to the younger players above like Fuller and Jackson for future years is a no brainer. But its what the Bears do with the other players that will tell us a lot about where they are at.

Disconnecting from these players would be what the Bears would want to do if they think that the current team needs a major overhaul. But it they continue to connect themselves with older players that they could replace, especially those like Massie and Graham, that tells the world that they continue to think that the current team is good enough to contend. That’s something that many, including myself, might question considering the Bears performance against some of the better teams in 2021.

One way or the other, the Bears have to create space under the cap in order to make the moves at quarterback, wide receiver and other positions where holes exist in the current lineup. But its going to involve some tough decisions that are going to tell us a lot about where the Bears think they are at and that will have implications far into the future.

Nagy Says Team Has Lost Its “Edge”. Fixing It Will Be a Challenge.

Dan Wiederer quotes Bears head coach Matt Nagy in an interview with the Chicago Tribune:

“What I’ve learned the most from the past two years — and I put this on me — is I think we lost a little bit of that (edge) with those standards,” Nagy said. “You just think they’re going to happen naturally from the culture that you built. And when I say that, I’m talking about practice habits. It’s starting with me making sure that every single play, we are going 100 mph. And if you’re tired? Get your tail out. That’s going to be a mindset and an attitude that then goes onto the playing field on Sundays.

“I feel like when some things didn’t happen (for us), it was more us just saying, ‘OK, when is it going to happen?’ Instead of making it happen. I have to be better as a head coach on the front end on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday in practice of making sure that we are the best practice team in the NFL. … I feel like the last two years, that slipped a little bit.”

First of all, kudos to Nagy for this incredibly honest response. In it, Nagy confirms something I think most of us suspect about the natural order of things in the NFL.

For most new head coaches, the first year is relatively easy. Everyone on the team is on edge and concentrates just a little bit more because they aren’t familiar with the coaching staff and they’re on uncertain ground. Relationships with the previous coaching staff are now gone and suddenly you are wondering how safe your job is. IN 2018 when Nagy and his staff were new, this is the position the Bears players found themselves in. As often happens that first year, they got very good results.

The problem is that rarely lasts. Players establish new relationships with coaches. Coaches get to know and trust the players. Everyone eases up a bit. That’s the position the team is in now.

Nagy has a real problem here, one that might be more serious than he thinks. Its hard for any coaching staff to maintain that edge that natural circumstances created in that first year. Almost no one manages to do it. But once you ease up, its mighty tough to go back to the way things were. Players resent it and it can create a bit of a toxic atmosphere.

I’m not saying Nagy can’t do it and I’m certainly not saying that he shouldn’t try. But it will be interesting to see if he can be one of those rare types of managers who can pull it off.

No Matter the Plan, It Has to Include Drafting a Quarterback in 2021.

Brad Biggs at The Chicago Tribune answers your questions:

While I am maybe the 10,000th person to note this, none of the current top-five quarterbacks in the NFL (Aaron Rodgers, Tom Brady, Patrick Mahomes, Lamar Jackson, Deshaun Watson — pick any order) was a top-five pick. Corresponding, almost every top-five QB pick this decade has been a disappointment. Why does every pundit every year say you must trade into the top five to get a franchise QB? Data shows this is completely false. Would the Bears be better off drafting a QB at No. 20, moving up or down slightly if needed, then packaging 2021 second- and third-round picks (and a 2022 Day 2 pick if needed) for a late first/early second pick and take a second QB? Data says that franchise QBs can be had, but you need a lot of at-bats. Thoughts? — Marc B., Avondale

I agree with you that teams often need a lot of swings at a quarterback to get an extra-base hit, and if the Bears are guilty of anything over the last several decades, it’s the failure to take enough cracks at the position. Your point is that quarterbacks can be overdrafted, and that’s definitely a fact. Here’s the issue I have with your scenario: If the Bears wait until No. 20 to draft a quarterback, or consider only a slight trade up to get one, the chances of selecting a passer who can come in and start as a rookie are minimal. What you see in the second half of Round 1 is that many times quarterbacks are overdrafted. Sure, you can point to Rodgers and Jackson and find others who were selected later in the first round, but they are the exceptions. Count up all of the quarterbacks taken in the back half of Round 1 and in Round 2 who have been failures. It’s a long list. Considering the other needs the Bears have, I don’t believe they can draft two quarterbacks this year, but it isn’t a bad idea in some years if you see multiple prospects you like..

Marc probably isn’t the “10.000th” person to note this but I did say something similar just the other day.

As I sad then, it isn’t just a question of taking a quarterback. Its a question of being smart about it and taking the right guy, no matter where he’s drafted.

I really doubt that the Bears are going to be able to draft a quarterback who is gong to be starting this season. I think we’re probably looking at a scenario where a veteran bridge quarterback starts.

But I will say this. If you ask who the Bears are developing to start in the future in May and the answer isn’t obvious, it will be a fireable offense for every decision maker involved.

I don’t throw terms around like “fireable” lightly, even just as a blogger. And I’m very serious about it here.

I don’t care where they do it. But they’d better draft somebody. It’s been a franchise-level failure that they haven’t drafted more players at the position to this point. If they don’t do it this year, is malpractice pure and simple.

Why Aren’t the Bears Talking to Allen Robinson? A Few Possible Reasons.

Brad Biggs at The Chicago Tribune answers your questions:

Re-signing Allen Robinson seems like a no-brainer. Why aren’t the Bears talking to him? The whole thing feels needlessly disrespectful. Are they just that far apart contract-wise that the Bears don’t even want to bother? — @adam407

There’s no question the team and Robinson were far apart when it came to parameters of a contract extension last summer. My opinion has been that the Bears will use the franchise tag on Robinson, and the deadline for that is Tuesday. The Bears need to be competitive in 2021, he has been their best offensive player for three seasons and as much as they talk up the ability of the other wide receivers on the depth chart, they would be in a miserable place without Robinson. Darnell Mooney had an encouraging rookie season, but in a really good offense, he’s a No. 3 receiver next season. Anthony Miller hasn’t progressed since his rookie season. Riley Ridley can’t get a uniform on game days. Javon Wims hasn’t really stepped forward with his opportunities. They have to keep Robinson. Maybe the Bears take a swing at a long-term extension before Tuesday, but it’s not like that’s a deadline as they would create more time for negotiating by using the tag. You can call it disrespectful, but at the end of the day, it’s business. Robinson is seeking what’s best for him and using comparable contracts to justify his position. He took a risk playing out his last contract and performed well. The Bears haven’t valued him in the same range, and that’s how we’ve arrived at this point. It’s not ideal. It might not seem fair for Robinson. But it happens.

I think there may be a few reasons why the Bears aren’t talking to Robinson. The first may be that there simply isn’t anything to talk about. There’s little advantage to the agent, Brandon Parker to negotiating with the Bears before they actually apply the tag. Once that’s done and Robinson is actually occupying the cap space, the pressure on the Bears begins to increase as their freedom to sign other free agents decreases.

I’d say it also possible that the Bears are trying to send a message here. When negotiations started earlier in the year, Robinson (read \”his agent\”) decided to make a public display which supposedly demonstrated his unhappiness by dropping the Bears from his social media accounts and, briefly, letting it known that he wanted to be traded. This was, of course, all posturing but the Bears are notoriously adamant about insisting that negotiations not be public. It’s possible that the Bears are telling Parker, “If this is the way you are gong to choose to handle your business, you are going to get the rough end of the pineapple from us.”

Finally, and I tend to like this explanation best, its entirely possible that the Bears have decided to franchise Robinson and see how the market gets set in free agency.

With the drop in the salary cap, this offseason is pretty much unprecedented and its entirely possible that neither the Bears nor Parker actually know what Robinson’s market value is. Will the prices for high end free agents go down due to lack of cap space? Or will the high end free agents continue to be signed at high salaries while the middle class gets further squeezed? For that matter, no one knows what the salary cap will even be at this point.

So its entirely possible that nothing is happening because everyone is being patient for all kinds of reasons.

Smart Teams Find a Way to Acquire Good Quarterbacks with the Resources Available. And Other Points of View.

Bears

  • Brad Biggs at the Chicago Tribune answers your questions:
  • Why is everyone obsessed with Ted Phillips’ role in the organizational structure? For every team, the top football person is evaluated by a non-football person (often the owner). What would be the purpose of exchanging Phillips for a football person other than adding bureaucracy? — @patrick53762437

    Anytime the Bears hit a rough patch — and they’ve certainly been in deeper holes than coming off consecutive 8-8 seasons — the fan base clamors for change. The push-button topics for fans are to call for the McCaskeys to sell the team or replace Phillips. The public wants to see someone pay with his job for the team’s struggles. They’re out for blood, and in the age of social media, that is only amplified. Phillips might not be the longest-tenured employee at Halas Hall, but he has been around for an awfully long time and has been in a prominent role for most of that run, serving as president and CEO since 1999. As you know, the Bears have had consecutive winning seasons only once during that span (2005 and 2006), and there are those who place the blame on Phillips’ doorstep for the ongoing struggles. I agree with you that eventually decisions are made at a level that doesn’t involve “football people.” The argument for a football person in the upper hierarchy is it would add an extra set of eyes to the operation, but ultimately, when a hire is made for a general manager, ownership has to sign off. Phillips doesn’t have a role in football decisions, but he is involved at the level of hiring a general manager. I can see both sides, but ultimately George McCaskey is the man who makes the call on the organization’s top decisions, and that would be the case whether Phillips is empowered or someone with a football background is hired to replace him.

    I recognize the argument that both this fan and Biggs are making. What’s the difference if McCaskey is making the final decision on the hire anyway? Why add an extra layer to the top?

    I’ll give one potential answer in defense of the fans and media who are calling for this hire.

    Potential GMs come from a pool of personnel men who are usually buried a couple layers down in the hierarchy. They are pro player scouts or draft scouts or assistant GMs. I really doubt that either Phillips or McCaskey really knows who these people are. Indeed, they have shown repeatedly that they don’t by doing things like hiring firms to identify candidates.

    But team presidents are different. They come from a different pool. They are, for example, former GMs. Often people who were successful GMs or other types of front office people but who, perhaps, are retired or who no longer wanted to put in the time to do the job day-to-day. These are people who McCaskey will have known. People who he probably has met or interacted with over the course of their career becasue they were at the top of their former organizations.

    Because of this, you could argue that McCaskey is better placed to hire an effective team president than he is to hire a GM who he possibly has never met in his life before his job interview.

  • Biggs answers another question:
  • Do you see Danny Trevathan being one of the starting linebackers for the upcoming season? — @richrbreez

    That’s a great question. Trevathan looked a lot slower this season, and it’s difficult to imagine at 31 and entering his 10th season that he will regain the range he played with earlier in his career. Trevathan is due to earn $7.125 million in 2021, and his base salary of $2.5 million is fully guaranteed. He also has an option bonus of $3.625 million, and if the Bears decline that, his base salary escalates to a fully guaranteed $6.625 million. So there isn’t a cheap out for the Bears after signing Trevathan before free agency began last year. They placed a high value on his leadership when they brought him back on his third NFL contract, and while he played a little better as the season went along, I would imagine they can find a cheaper alternative with greater range. The question is how much do they continue to value the intangibles he brings and what would the replacement cost be?

    I have to believe that with limited cap space that the Bears keep Trevathan on for at least another year and hope things get better. True, he’s on the wrong side of thirty and there’s good reason to doubt that he will. But he’s not exactly ancient and he was at least adequate this year. With limited cap space, it probably costs more to replace him when the cost of the replacement is considered.

  • Alex Shapiro at NBC 5 Chicago dreams of the Bears signing J.J. Watt:
  • [Watt’s wife] Kealia Ohai Watt joined the Red Stars in 2020 and moved to Chicago to begin training last March. She enjoyed instant success with the team, scoring two goals and two assists in only four regular season games. Kealia is under contract with the team for the 2021 season as well.

    You may be thinking the Bears don’t have a shot to land Watt, since they won’t be able to offer him the best contract on the open market. According to spotrac.com, the Bears rank 22nd in the league in current cap space. But while a few extra million bucks from the Jacksonville Jaguars is cool, not needing to be in a long distance relationship with your wife is priceless.

    I think it far more likely that Watt sees Green Bay as being plenty close enough to Chicago to satisfy both his heart and his desire to win a Super Bowl. He was born in Wisconsin and went to college at U.W.

    I think its so likely that Watt will sign a team friendly with Green Bay that I consider it to be almost a foregone conclusion.

  • Biggs answers another question:
  • Would it be such a massive reach to take Mac Jones at No. 20? Or should the Bears stick to the best player available or trade back? — @sprucebandit

    I don’t know that Jones is a quarterback who can come in and have success right away, and there is a chance he is off the board before No. 20. It would be a risk for GM Ryan Pace and coach Matt Nagy to stake their future and the idea of progress on a rookie quarterback. Jones has gotten plenty of publicity in the last week since performing well at the Senior Bowl. He was far and away the best quarterback in Mobile, Ala., though it’s not like he had a ton of competition. One of the points scouts make when you ask about Jones is that he was surrounded by such an embarrassment of riches at Alabama — the Crimson Tide’s wide receivers were better than the position groups for a handful of NFL teams — he often was throwing into wide-open windows. He could wind up being very good, but it probably will take some developmental time. There’s a good chance the Bears could get an offensive tackle at No. 20, and it’s also a strong draft for wide receivers. I tend to think the likelihood of them taking a quarterback in Round 1 is low.

    I tend to agree with Biggs that, at least right now, it doesn’t appear that taking Jones at #20 overall would be a reach.

    I would further say that if the Bears like him, they should do it without reference to their futures with the team. In fact, if anything, I’d think it would be an advantage for them to do it.

    Yes, your chances of winning a championship go down when you are starting a rookie QB. But Bears chairman George McCaskey has made it pretty clear that he’s looking for progress more than anything else in 2021, If the Bears look like they’re on the rise at the end of the next season, I’d be surprised if McCaskey fired either Nagy or Pace. Admittedly, making the case that the team improved in 2021 without making the playoffs would be difficult. But the continued development of a rookie quarterback who is showing potential would probably do it.

  • Kevin Fishbain at The Athletic examines playing time over the course of the season for the members of the Bears roster. In the process, he notes the gradually increasing playing time for tight end Cole Kmet:
  • During the December win streak, Nagy used Kmet as an example of why it took the offense some time to get going.

    “So Cole Kmet, when we drafted Cole Kmet, we knew when we drafted him what type of player that this kid is going to be in his career,” he said. “He’s going to be really, really good at the tight end position. But sometimes what’s hard for people to understand is it’s like Nintendo and you think you can just put these kids in for the first game they ever play or the first three games they ever play and they’re going to have these numbers or they can play every snap.”

    Fair enough. But I can’t get past the feeling that this was more than that.

    Nagy didn’t start playing Kmet more until the press started to push him on it. It certainly correlated with the amount of public pressure that was put on him and I tend to believe he was giving into it.

    I might add that any reservations about playing Kmet before that might have been well-founded. Kmet tends to be a bit loose with the ball and, though his numbers for 2020 weren’t bad for a rookie, they weren’t anything to brag about either. He’ll still have to take a big step forward in 2021 to impress me.

Elsewhere

  • Mark Potash at the Chicago Sun-Times quotes former Bears and current Chiefs special teams coordinator Dave Toub on why special teams coaches make good head coaches.
  • “The fact that we talk to the entire team every day — offense, defense, specialists — we understand the game from the offensive and defensive perspectives,” Toub said. “Roster management — who knows the roster better than us?

    “Game management, in-game decisions, the rules of the game — how important is that? And just being a leader of men — that’s what we do. We’re managers. We’ve got to motivate guys. That’s really what coaching is all about.”

    I couldn’t agree more with this.

    That might sound funny coming from a guy who has always advocated for finding offensive head coaches. And I still stand by that. If you find the right one, you need to keep him and if he’s not the head coach, he’ll be hired away to another organization who needs one. It’s a lot easier for find good defensive coordinators than offensive coodinators.

    The problem is, as the bears are finding out, that you have to hire the right offensive head coach. If you don’t, then its going to do you no good regardless.

    Dave Toub would be an outstanding head coach. Few people in the league would be better at getting the most out of his players. He does it with a constantly changing group made up of the bottom of the roster every year wherever he’s at.

One Final Thought

Biggs answers another question:

I don’t think the Bears have the capital to get Deshaun Watson, but let’s say three first-rounders and Roquan Smith gets it done. I think Ryan Pace would exhibit a lot of humility and courage in that instance because it would be highlighting forever his biggest mistake. It would be like Pace at a news conference, standing in front of a whiteboard pointing to those first-round picks, plus a fourth first-round pick (Smith), plus the second-, third- and fourth-round picks to move up for Mitch Trubisky on one side, and then, on the other side, the first-round 2017 pick where he could have had Watson for, comparatively, free. It would so clearly define the cost of his being the Bears GM. Wouldn’t you also admire his willingness to endure that for the sake of the organization? — Damian W., Missoula, Mont.

If Pace can swing a deal for Watson, at what would almost certainly be an exorbitant cost, the Bears would be set at quarterback for years to come. The price would be dramatic when you consider that, yes, Pace could have remained in place with the third pick back in 2017 and selected Watson (or Patrick Mahomes). Pace made a mistake, the Bears have paid the price and they will continue paying the price until they come up with a solution at the position. The reality is if the Bears can’t get a franchise quarterback this offseason — at a steep, steep cost — they will have to pay dearly in the future to get one, unless they absolutely bottom out and one falls into their lap at the top of a future draft (no sure thing) or they get exceedingly lucky and find one lower in the draft, something that has eluded them for 70 years and counting.

Biggs goes on to say that he doesn’t think Pace cares whether the general public sound view a move as being with “humility courage” or not. He just cares about winning and saving his job. That’s a sentiment that I agree with.

But I’m tired of hearing people moan over the Bears situation and talk about how they need to be “extremely lucky” to find a quarterback this offseason with limited resources.

Yes, Pace has put the team in a bind with his poor judgment and with the way he has wasted those resources and he has made his task more difficult this offseason. But this is not an insurmountable task by any means.

Great quarterbacks are typically found near the top of the first round. We all know that. But the league is also full of exceptions. The Super Bowl was just won by perhaps the greatest of them, Tom Brady, a sixth round pick in 2000. The Cowboys have found not one, but two exceptions to the rule in recent years, one in Tony Romo (undrafted free agent, 2003) followed by Dak Prescott (fourth round, 2016). Russell Wilson was a third rounder in 2010. Derek Carr was a second round pick in 2014. Kirk Cousins was a fourth round pick in 2012 who eventually beat out first round pick Robert Griffin III.

Still think the Bears need to take one in the first round and that drafting #20 overall is too low? 2020 MVP Aaron Rodgers was taken #22 overall in 2005 (and Brett Favre was a second rounder in 1991). 2019 MVP Lamar Jackson was taken #32 overall in 2018. 2018 MVP Patrick Mahomes taken by the Kansas City Chiefs after they traded up from #27 overall in 2017. That’s the last 3 MVPs taken by teams drafting lower than the Bears will be in 2021.

And I needn’t remind anyone that the Texans drafted Watson in 2017 by trading up from #25 overall.

Do I need to go on?

What the Bears need to do this season is to be smart. They need to find the guy that no one else sees and develop him. Easier said than done? Yes. And the fact that they haven’t done that in more than 30 years isn’t encouraging. But it is far from mission impossible.

Finding a quarterback in the NFL draft is no different that doing anything else that’s difficult in life. If you need “luck” to do it, its because you have to be smart enough to make your own. Expecting anything else is just an excuse.

With Stafford Trade, Rams Actually Make Ryan Pace Look Fiscally Conservative.

Mike Florio at Pro Football Talk comments on the inclusion of Jared Goff in the Rams trade for Matthew Stafford. The Rams also sent a 2021 third round draft pick along with first rounders in 2022 and 2023 to the Lions:

Initial reactions are emerging regarding the trade that will, as of March 17, send quarterback Matthew Stafford from the Lions to the Rams for quarterback Jared Goff, a pair of first-round picks, and a third-round pick. As one executive with a team not connected to the trade opined late Saturday night, the move “reeks of desperation” by the Rams.

The Lions didn’t get two ones and a three for Stafford. They got two ones and a three for Stafford plus taking on Goff’s contract. Basically, the Lions got extra for Stafford by taking Goff, who has $43.25 million in fully-guaranteed payments over the next two years, much of which has no offset attached to it. The Lions, despite any other offers they may have received for Stafford, got two ones and a three only because they took a terrible contract off the Rams’ books.

From the Rams’ perspective, it’s not a gamble as much as it is an effort to make chicken salad out of chicken crap. They paid Goff when they shouldn’t have paid him. And so, to unload a player in whom they invested two first-round picks, two second-round picks, and a third-round pick in a 2016 trade with the Titans for the right to draft Goff, the Rams gave up another two first-round picks and a third-round pick, and they acquired Stafford.

I read that last paragraph and my jaw dropped for the truth of it. The Rams basically gave up four first round picks and a host of other picks for a 33 year old Matt Stafford.

All told between this trade, the Goff trade and trades for Jalen Ramsey and Brandin Cooks, the Rams will have been without first round picks since 2016 and will be without them until 2024. That’s seven years without a first round pick.

And you thought the Bears wasted draft capital. The Rams trade away picks like they’re going out of style.

Everyone who follows football knows that players acquired in the NFL draft are the life blood of every franchise. The only way to keep up with the salary cap is to keep bringing in younger, cheaper talent. If you are constantly trading for or signing veteran players like the Bears do, you eventually find yourself up against it with some tough choices in terms of extending older players that you’d rather not extend to push money off into future years to create room. Eventually, with no younger players in the pipeline, you simply have to let the older, big contracts go and eat the cap space.

Looked at in isolation, the price that the Rams paid for Stafford seemed a bit steep but considering that the first round picks are both in future years, I didn’t think it was totally out of line. But seen in the big picture, this is just one piece of a puzzle that, when put together, gives us a picture of total franchise mismanagement.

It is possible that the Lions are simply going to use those picks to trade up to get a quarterback this year. But if they keep them, this trade tells a different story.

By taking more picks in future years, you could argue that the Lions may be thinking that the Rams are a franchise on the brink of a collapse. The more they lose in 2021 and 2022, the better those first round picks are. The Rams play the NFC North and the AFC South next year which doesn’t seem to add up to an overly difficult schedule and they have talent, especially on defense. But the NFC West is a competitive division and most of that talent will be a year older with one less year on their contracts. You never know.

It might not happen in 2021 but eventually this may very well all fall apart on Rams GM Les Snead. Surely the bill for all of these veteran players he’s accumulating for draft picks comes due. At that point, the Rams may find themselves so far over the cap that they have to dismantle the franchise to get under it. And when it does, with picks where they are essentially betting against the Rams future, the Lions may be the primary beneficiaries.