The toughest days of the fantasy baseball season are the first few when you’re doing everything in your power not to trade everything you built just because a few guys went 0-for-4 with a pair of strikeouts. Must. Stay. Strong.
- Losing popular home-grown players such as Adrian Amos and Bryce Callahan stings, but optimism still reigns supreme around here:
Who is primed to be the best defense in the league in 2019?
Cowboys? Bears? Jags?
— NFL Network (@nflnetwork) March 30, 2019
- This isn’t a knock against the executives who used the first waves of free agency to improve their team’s respective defenses just to get into the conversation, but no team in the NFL returns with as much firepower on that side of the ball than the Bears. We’re talking about a unit with four Pro Bowlers (Khalil Mack, Eddie Jackson, Kyle Fuller, Akiem Hicks), three Pro Bowl alternates (Roquan Smith, Danny Trevathan, Leonard Floyd), and two other players who landed among Pro Football Focus’ 101 best (Eddie Goldman, Prince Amuakamara). Can you say loaded?
- There is an argument that the biggest loss might have been losing Vic Fangio to the Denver Broncos, but the Bears hired Chuck Pagano to take over the defensive coordinator duties and he is no slouch. The last time Pagano was a full-time defensive coordinator was in 2011 with the Baltimore Ravens. That group was so good, it helped launch him toward his first head-coaching opportunity. Here is how that Ravens defense ranked in 2011:
- Total defense: 3rd
- Scoring defense: 3rd
- Rushing yards: 2nd
- Rushing touchdowns: 6th
- Passing yards: 4th
- Passing touchdowns: 1st
- Takeaways: 13th
- Interceptions: 17th
- I see a whole bunch of top-5 and top-10 finishes for that Ravens D, which is certainly encouraging. That defense was loaded with talent as pass-rushing outside linebacker Terrell Suggs and run-stuffing nose tackle Haloti Ngata earned first-team All-Pro honors. Elsewhere on the defense, middle linebacker Ray Lewis (in his age 36 season) and safety Ed Reed (age 33) earned Pro Bowl trips despite playing in the twilight years of their respective Hall of Fame careers. If Pagano and his scheme can squeeze that out from that group, then there are reasons to be optimistic that he can get the best out of Mack, Hicks, Fuller, Jackson, and the rest of the bunch. Breathe in all of those good vibes, my friends!
- Hey! And it’s not like the Bears replaced Amos and Callahan with no-name players off the street. HaHa Clinton-Dix was a Pro Bowl safety as recently as 2016 and Buster Skrine is a seasoned professional at the slot corner position. It’s more likely that putting those guys in a loaded defense will lift their levels of play than it is for their additions to sink Chicago’s defense.
- The Bears could have taken a dive into the deeper end of free agency to bolster their defense, but decided to have some restraint. As Brad Biggs of the Chicago Tribune explains, the front office’s change of direction from free-wheeling free agent spenders to thrifty shoppers is a sensible one. When the Bears were lacking play-makers, they threw gobs of money simply to raise the talent level on the team. But now that this group is in a better place, the wild spending that we had grown accustomed to in recent years wasn’t necessary in 2019. That Chicago didn’t need to go out and try to fix several problems with millions upon millions of dollars can be viewed as a good thing because it means they have drafted well enough and signed quality players at positions that don’t need help. Success is good!
- Despite things being tighter than they were at this time last year, the Bears still have ample salary cap space to do some things to help the short-term vision and long-term goals of the franchise. Chicago is well-positioned to sign center Cody Whitehair to an extension at some point this spring or summer before his rookie deal expires at the end of the 2019 season. Once that deal gets locked in, the Bears’ next priority will be re-signing safety Eddie Jackson. I understand why there was buzz to spend big on certain positions this offseason, but a league with a salary cap has restrictions and priorities must be lined up before investing significant wads of cash.
- It’s possible that the $2 million that became free with the Jordan Howard trade could be helpful, too. Chris Emma (670 The Score), Adam Hoge (WGN Radio), and JJ Stankevitz (NBC Sports Chicago) dig into why the Howard deal made sense, even if it’s one that has been unpopular among the most vocal Bears fans.
- In the end, this is a deal that both teams can walk away thinking they got what they wanted. The Eagles get one season of a motivated running back on the final year of his rookie deal. And if we’ve learned anything the last two years, it’s that no team thrives off the underdog card like Philadelphia. Best-case scenario is that Howard re-captures his 2016 form. And if Howard walks away as a free agent, the Eagles could be in line to receive a compensatory pick in 2021. But if Howard reaches certain mile-markers in 2019, it would actually benefit the Bears and push their sixth-round pick in 2020 to the fifth round. Winning!
- Speaking of compensatory picks:
This is so wrong, and I’ve seen it so many times already. Jordan Howard will have to land a contract with an APY of $6.25 million or more based on 2020 comp picks to award the Eagles a 5th round comp pick in 2021
That is not going to happen https://t.co/cbs1s8GUQa
— Brad_OTC (@BradOTC) March 29, 2019
- Alright, so things have to go *REALLY* well for the Eagles to receive the compensatory pick they desire in 2021. Meanwhile, the Bears could be in line to receive a similar pick to what they would have landed had they kept Howard and let him walk away in free agency … but a year sooner.
- No knock on Howard, but here is the list of running backs who received $6.25 million AAV on their free agent contracts this offseason: Le’Veon Bell. Maybe Howard can squeeze a deal like the one Chris Ivory received that netted him a $6.4M AAV in 2016, but consecutive years of declining returns as far as yards per carry is going to be a red flag if that trend continues for a third straight season.
- Well, this is certainly disheartening:
Nashville plans to cut down more than 20 mature cherry trees to make way for its enormous NFL draft stage on lower Broadway https://t.co/vwrbH17NEM
— Tennessean (@Tennessean) March 30, 2019
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