While meeting with the media at the NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis, Chicago Bears GM Ryan Pace told reporters that contract negotiations with Fuller are “constantly ongoing” and described their discussions as “pretty aggressive” according to Adam Jahns of the Chicago Sun-Times.
Fuller will be free to talk to the NFL’s other 31 teams on March 12 when the “legal tampering period” opens up and can sign elsewhere on March 14 when free agency starts and the new league year begins.
Of course, that could change should the Bears decide to place the franchise tag on Fuller before 3 p.m. on March 6. Pace told reporters the tag was still “on the table” as the front office continues to evaluate the situation, according to Rich Campbell of the Chicago Tribune. If the Bears opt to use the franchise tag, they would have until July 16 to agree to a long-term deal. And if the two sides can’t come together on a new contract, Fuller will play under the franchise tag that will pay him an estimated $14.877 million in 2018.
The Bears declined to pick up the fifth-year option on Fuller after a knee injury kept him out of action for the entire 2016 season. Fuller responded by having a career year, picking up two interceptions, coming away with 22 passes defended, and making 68 tackles en route to earning an 84.3 grade from Pro Football Focus that rated him as the 21st best corner in football and the best among the Bears’ secondary.
Save for the interception numbers, which could have been higher, it was the kind of all-around solid season the Bears have been waiting for Fuller to produce since being selected with the 14th overall pick in the 2014 NFL Draft. Fuller had a career year in 2017, but at age 26, better days could still be ahead.