NFL’s free agency period begins in earnest today with the opening of the “legal tampering” period. The idea of “legal tampering” is an oxymoron, but here’s the gist: teams and representatives for free agents can begin discussing contracts with all of the league’s teams. Contracts can’t be signed, but verbal agreements can be made as the market takes shape.
If you’ll recall, the Bears struck quickly here last year. Wide receiver Allen Robinson made his intent known that he was signing with the Bears. Tight end Trey Burton followed shortly thereafter (even with the rival Lions in hot pursuit). And the team landed Taylor Gabriel and re-signed cornerback Prince Amukamara, too. It was an aggressive start that set the tone for the 2018 season, even if their bet on Cody Parkey didn’t yield the expected returns.
It’s a new year with fresh rumors and all sorts of new free agency dreams. Onward!
- The Bears as a trend-setter? I can see it … especially after the way things went last season:
Last year, #Bears GM Ryan Pace quickly built around Mitch Trubisky. He was aggressive, signing Allen Robinson, Trey Burton and Taylor Gabriel. He then drafted James Daniels and Anthony Miller. All five worked. It will be interesting to watch other teams with young QBs this year.
— Adam Jahns (@adamjahns) March 11, 2019
- The Bears kicked things off by re-signing of tight end Ben Braunecker. It’s not a move that’s supposed to move the needle of the scale, but it solidifies depth by keeping a player the team clearly likes. Braunecker received more playing time with the Matt Nagy-led Bears than he did during the John Fox days. Clearly, there is something this brain-trust likes about the Harvard product moving forward.
- There are other needs that need to be filled, and Johnathan Wood summarizes them neatly in fewer than 280 characters:
As FA is basically starting this morning, something to keep in mind: Bears will be doing REALLY well to get even one day 1 contributor from the draft this year. Need to plug all the main holes in FA. That means need a RB, 3rd edge, nickelback, and S who can all start now.
— Johnathan Wood (@Johnathan_Wood1) March 11, 2019
- As we have discussed at every turn, the Bears’ salary cap space isn’t what it was last year. HOWEVER, that’s not that much of a concern because they don’t have major needs like they did at this time last year. Once the front office figures out which member(s) of the secondary will be prioritized, it will be time to move on to round out the roster.
- Adding to the running back rotation would be nice. To that end, the Bears have already been connected to running back Mark Ingram. The 2009 Heisman Trophy winner has been a do-it-all back for the Saints since entering the league. And even though he will turn 30 next season, he doesn’t have the kind of work-load that most 30-year-old backs have at this stage of his career. Tack on his pass-catching ability and there seems to be an ideal fit in Chicago. Naturally, there are 31 other teams who could say the same thing.
- The Bears-Packers arms race appears to be heating up:
The #Redskins want Adrian Peterson back, but he’s expected to test the market. Meanwhile, another ex-#Vikings star is expected to have a strong market … and don’t be surprised if Cordarrelle Patterson ends up back in the NFC North. @nflnetwork pic.twitter.com/DTYEilYcNJ
— Tom Pelissero (@TomPelissero) March 11, 2019
- NFL Network insider Tom Pelissero lists the Bears, Packers, and Ravens as teams who are interested in wide receiver/kick returner Cordarrelle Patterson. The versatile speedster cut his teeth in the league with the Vikings from 2013-16 and was a two-time first-team All-Pro returner. And you might recall the kick return touchdown he had against the Bears as a member of the Patriots last season. For what it’s worth, Patterson visited the Bears as a free agent in March 2017. But since the offense (and team) has evolved greatly since then, it would make sense for him to get (and give) a second look.
- The idea that the Bears were hot on safety Eric Weddle before signing isn’t all that far-fetched, but that opens things up to a bigger discussion regarding Adrian Amos’ future:
Great stuff on how Eric Weddle ended up signing with the Rams. @MMQB says the Bears "were chomping at the bit" to have him in Halas Hall first. His price tag was 5 million plus incentives. Sounds like Adrian Amos was not the Bears first choice.
— David Kaplan (@thekapman) March 11, 2019
- It seems quite obvious that unless the Bears can bring back Amos on a cap-friendly deal, they are OK with the alternative of allowing him to walk away in free agency, collect a compensatory draft pick down the line, and sign a replacement at a more affordable price. I’m not sure if I’m ready for the Bears to walk away from Amos. But if they do, it means they’ll have contingency plans lined up.
- At least this class of free agent safeties is loaded. Here is a list of players who are open to talk to any of the league’s teams: Landon Collins, Earl Thomas, Tyrann Mathieu, Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, Kenny Vaccaro, Adrian Phillips, Jason Verrett, Jahleel Addae, and Darian Stewart.
- Oh, and you can add someone who is familiar with the NFC North to that list:
Source: The #Vikings are not exercising the option on starting S Andrew Sendejo, making him a free agent. Another talented safety in the mix before free agency.
— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) March 11, 2019
- Thomas, Collins, and Clinton-Dix are going to be on the higher end of the spending spectrum. It’s possible that one or two big-ticket items could drive down the price for players on a lower tier … but signing that type of player will still have a high price-tag, to be sure.
- Take Tyrann Mathieu, for example:
The Texans offered S Tyrann Mathieu a long-term deal in excess of $9.5 million per year to stay in Houston, per sources.
Team wants to keep him. He'd like to stay. He'll test the market first.
— Albert Breer (@AlbertBreer) March 11, 2019
- Mathieu signed a one-year deal worth $7 million last year. It was a “prove it” deal that will turn out to be a gamble that was worth taking for the do-it-all defensive back. Then again, seeing that deal from Mathieu suggests that there are good players to be had for a bargain for teams who position themselves correctly.
- A situational pass-rusher who could bring the heat off the edge when Khalil Mack and Leonard Floyd need a breather. Just don’t bet on it being Justin Houston, who Jason La Canfora expects to get at least $15 million per year in his next deal.
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