There is officially less than a month until NFL free agency opens up shop.
If you’re curious about other important upcoming dates, I hope you’ll find this to be a handy guide.
Let’s dive into today’s Bullets.
- If you find yourself squinting as you read between the lines this offseason, you are not alone. But when Bears president/CEO Ted Phillips speaks, everything will be analyzed closely. For example, in his letter to season ticket holders announcing a price hike, Phillips acknowledged the Bears financial flexibility. “We are positioned for an exciting offseason with the third overall pick in the draft and one of the best salary cap situations in the NFL heading into free agency. We will take advantage of these assets to bring in more talent to strengthen the foundation we have in place.”
- It’s a subtle hint, but on the surface, it sounds like the Bears are positioning themselves for significant improvements across the board this offseason. They will need them after having won just three games in 2016.
- The staff over at ESPN broke down every reasonable scenario in which Tony Romo joins a new team this offseason. And among the teams ESPN considers plausible, you’ll find the Chicago Bears. It is a foregone conclusion that Jay Cutler won’t be on the Bears in 2017, and adding Romo without paying the kind of premium needed in a trade for Jimmy Garoppolo could be more appealing for Chicago. But while Romo would give the Bears instant credibility, this team isn’t a quarterback away from contention, and it wouldn’t be logical for Romo to spend his final years in Chicago when he could be helping a true Super Bowl contender. Still, ESPN labels a Romo-to-Chicago scenario as a “realistic chance.”
- Rich Cimini of ESPN says that while the New York Jets hired a coach with ties to Cutler, it doesn’t necessarily mean the team is interested in adding the Bears quarterback to their mix. In fact, Cimini goes on to write Tyrod Taylor (if he is cut by the Bills) and Mike Glennon are both higher on the priority list than Cutler. Do not be surprised if this is quickly becomes a refrain for several other teams searching for quarterbacks this offseason. But at the end of this game of quarterbacking musical chairs (Michael: I would have gone with “thrones,” but whateves), will there be a multiple QBs fighting over one empty space or will there be enough vacancies to satisfy all the game’s participants?
- Zach Miller expects to be ready in April, which is a positive sign that the rehab process is going well for the oft-injured tight end. Miller has had an injury plagued career, which is unfortunate considering his production when healthy would put him as a productive tight end. He earned an 81.7 grade in limited action in 2016, which followed up an 81.0 rating in 2015 when he had his breakout while healthy. The Bears are remarkably thin at tight end. While banking on Miller’s health isn’t ideal, the Bears could do worse at the position. But if he’s healthy, it might be hard to find better – especially considering the team’s other needs.
- While the Bears have many needs across the gridiron, running back isn’t one of them. Over at Scout.com, Zack Pearson tries to measure how potent the Bears running game can be in 2017, and the outlook is strong. Howard earned his role as a starter last year, but backups Jeremy Langford and Ka’Deem Carey could play pivotal roles moving forward as well. An offseason of rest and improved health could allow Langford to ease into a role as a change-of-pace back. After all, he rushed for 537 yards as a rookie and scored six touchdowns. Plus, his nose for the end zone and pass blocking skills make him a useful piece. Ka’Deem Carey is a hard runner and a special teams standout, which isn’t likely the role he envisioned coming out of the University of Arizona, but they are roles he excels in. The Bears could add a depth piece here, but it won’t likely be one that eats up significant payroll or costs a high draft pick.
- Howard also made an appearance on NFL.com’s All-Rookie team. Analyst Gil Brandt writes that Howard stood out as a rookie, in part, because he didn’t make his first career start until after Langford went down with an injury and “played for a team that didn’t really get much production out of the quarterback spot.” That’s putting it rather mildly with regard to the analysis of Bears quarterback play in 2016, but congrats to Howard on his recognition.
- The 49ers have added to their front office, hiring ex-Lions GM Martin Mayhew as a Senior Personnel Executive. Mayhew, who was a teammate of GM John Lynch with the Buccaneers from 1993-96, was fired by the Lions in 2015 after the team started 1-7. Mayhew drafted some talented players in his time with the Lions – headlined by Matthew Stafford and Ndumukong Suh – but apparently it wasn’t enough.
- Our first relatively significant transaction of the offseason is on the books. As Blair Walsh – a familiar face to the Bears and the rest of the NFC North, because of his time with the Vikings – is moving out west after signing with the Seattle Seahawks on Thursday. Walsh is mostly well known for missing a chip-shot field goal (against the Seahawks of all teams) that would have won Minnesota a playoff game. On his way out is Steven Hauschka, who has missed 11 PATs in the last two years, which coincides with the NFL moving back the spot of the attempt.
- You can cross the Arizona Cardinals off the list of teams looking for an immediate upgrade at quarterback: Carson Palmer put aside retirement talks to return for another season. Palmer’s career has been rejuvenated since joining the Cardinals, posting a 92.0 rating with three 4,000-yard passing seasons in his four years with Arizona. It’s a stark contrast to the two-year stint in Oakland where he owned an 83.5 record and his Raiders were 8-16 in games he started.
- The Raiders say financing for their Las Vegas stadium is back on track after momentarily being somewhat of a concern. President Marc Badain says the team is in discussions with “multiple financial institutions” as the team prepares to move out of Oakland again. This comes shortly after lead investor Sheldon Adelson pulled out $650 million investment from the $1.9 billion deal.