Kyle Fuller’s well-timed breakout year put him in a position to reel in a major payday in the offseason, but according to a report from Jason La Canfora of CBS Sports, it won’t come from Chicago.
“Re-signing Kyle Fuller should be a priority but he’s going to find a lucrative market ahead and will not be returning to Chicago, according to a source with knowledge of the situation,” La Canfora wrote in a piece examining each NFL’s team most difficult offseason decisions.
Fuller was the Bears’ highest-graded cornerback by Pro Football Focus’ grading standards and was undoubtedly the most improved player on a top-10 defense. Two years after struggling to transition in Vic Fangio’s scheme, Fuller started in all 16 games and played on 96 percent of the team’s defensive snaps. He may have been one of the most picked-on corners in football, but Fuller came away with 22 passes defended and hauled in a pair of interceptions last season.
And, of course, this wasn’t how the season was supposed to go for Fuller, especially after he missed the entire 2016 season recovering from a knee injury. Last offseason, the Bears signed Prince Amukamara and Marcus Cooper to essentially replace Fuller in the starting lineup. And while Amukamara provided steady production in his one-year “prove-it” deal, Cooper struggled early and often before being benched and relegated to special teams duty.
The Bears drafted Fuller with the 14th pick in the 2014 NFL Draft, but received inconsistent play from the Virginia Tech product in his first two seasons. Those inconsistencies and his injury riddled 2016 were factors in the team not picking up his fifth-year option last summer. Now, the team is at risk of losing both of its top starting cornerbacks. Remember, Amukamara is a free agent, too.
Losing Fuller to free agency would be a bitter pill to swallow for a defense that appears to be on the brink of making big things happen. If it happens, it will also mark the second straight season in which a draft pick developed by the Bears will leave for greener pastures.
It’s important to note, however, that while La Canfora reports Fuller won’t return, Chicago could keep him by using the franchise tag, which would guarantee him a one-year salary of more than $14 million based on 2017’s franchise tag numbers.
Hope isn’t lost yet for a Fuller-Bears reunion. Stay tuned.