It’s interesting to think about where the Chicago Bears were at this time last year and who was believed to be on their radar heading into the NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis. Credit GM Ryan Pace for throwing up one heck of a smoke screen in his pursuit of Mitch Trubisky.
Almost makes you wonder if their interest in this crop of draft prospects is somewhere we haven’t discussed as much as we probably should. I suppose we have time to unpack that as we get closer to the combine.
- While the combine will come into focus this week, NFL’s free agency period is still at the top of our minds. Over at Pro Football Focus, Cam Mellor reveals his list of the best unrestricted free agents on defense. As expected, Bears cornerback Kyle Fuller is featured prominently as the third-best cornerback in this group and the sixth best defender overall. Only Trumaine Johnson (Rams) and Malcolm Butler (Patriots) are held in higher standard. It wouldn’t be ideal to watch Fuller walk away as a free agent, but at least the Bears could fall into a high-impact free agent should they choose to move on.
- Even if the Bears were to bring back Fuller, I still find myself intrigued by the other top cornerback options. It doesn’t appear as if the Patriots will give Malcolm Butler the franchise tag, and despite his Super Bowl benching, he might be the best coverage corner on the market. He’s well-rounded, too, as PFF notes he has 70 defensive stops against the run or pass, which suggests he’s a very willing tackler.
- While Ezekiel Ansah gets a ton of attention as a possible addition at edge defender, I’m not convinced he’s a good fit for a Vic Fangio defense. The things 3-4 defensive ends are asked to do in Fangio’s scheme are different than what Ansah was responsible as a 4-3 defensive end in Teryl Austin’s defense. Sheldon Richardson, a 2013 first-round pick by the New York Jets in 2013, might be a better fit in a 3-4 front. At least he has some experience in that role from his time with the Jets that he can fall back on.
- No matter which direction the Bears decide to go in when free agency starts, Chris Emma of CBS Chicago explains how the team’s most recent subtractions have better positioned the team to have a better salary cap situation moving forward. Pace knows the importance of this offseason, especially after last year’s not-so-fruitful free agent shopping spree. The goals for this offseason should be clearer than they were at this time last year when the Bears had a ton of holes, uncertainty at quarterback, and John Fox entering a year in which he would be on the hot seat. If Pace can start the 2018 offseason by discarding much of last year’s disappointing class, it would make for a good start with the hope that better things are on the horizon.
- The perception surrounding the Bears would change for the Better if Pace could team a strong draft class and a productive free agent period. Of course, that’s easier said than done. Additionally, it might be difficult to create those good vibes if the Bears take Notre Dame guard Quenton Nelson with the eighth overall pick. Don’t get me wrong. Nelson is the best offensive line prospect in this draft and there is an argument to be made for him being among the best prospects available in Round 1. But as John Mullin of NBC Sports Chicago points out, choosing an interior lineman with a top-10 pick wont be easy to justify – no matter how talented he is and how decorated his college career was for the Fighting Irish. For what it’s worth, Mullin can see the Bears drafting Nelson, just not as the No. 8 pick.
- If the Bears can trade down, add picks, and draft Nelson, that’s a win-win scenario for a franchise in the talent acquisition phase of its rebuild.
- Speaking of the draft, have you ever wondered what the Bears would look like if Mel Kiper Jr. was the Bears’ GM? Bryan Perez of BearsWire makes it a reality, using the ESPN gurus mock drafts and pitting the against what the Bears have done in recent years. Personally, I find it difficult to come to a conclusion whether the Bears or Kiper have done a better job. Both sides have their hits and misses. I guess that goes to show the difficulty in putting together mock drafts, as well as the challenges in getting it right when your team is on the clock.
- Grumble. While the Bears will go another season without a compensatory draft pick, the Green Bay Packers received four such selections, bringing their draft capital to a whopping 12 picks in the upcoming 2018 NFL Draft. As if they needed more avenues to bring in young, cost-controlled talent. Whatever.
- I’ve been asked about Josh Gordon’s future a handful of times this offseason, and now I have an answer – albeit, one inquisitive Bears fans might not be happy with. Mary Kay Cabot of Cleveland.com reports the talented receiver will play for $790,000 as an exclusive rights free agent. Those types of free agents have accrued two seasons or fewer, and because Gordon has missed a ton of time due to suspensions, he falls right into this category for the Browns. Cleveland retains his rights through 2019, and if he plays in at least six games this season, he’ll be a restricted free agent at this time next year.
- Larry Mayer of ChicagoBears.com shares some sad news as former Bears tight end Ryan Wetnight is battling gastric cancer. Wetnight was diagnosed with Stage 3 cancer, which means it didn’t reach other vital organs – which is a relief in some respects. Here’s hoping for the best for Wetnight and his family. We’re rooting for you to pull through.