By now, I imagine you’re familiar with the precarious situation the Chicago Bears find themselves in entering the 2020 NFL calendar year.
But if you aren’t, then here’s a quick rundown:
- By OverTheCap.com’s estimations, the Bears will have $23,930,111 in available salary cap space once Kyle Long’s deal is moved off the books. In short, this means cap space is limited, especially given their needs and competitive arc.
- Despite that, the Bears have starting spots to fill at right guard (Long), inside linebacker (Danny Trevathan/Nick Kwiatkoski), wide receiver (Taylor Gabriel), cornerback (Prince Amukamara), and safety (Ha Ha Clinton-Dix).
- The Bears could also stand to bolster their depth at tight end, linebacker, edge rusher, in the secondary, and along the offensive line.
- Oh, and the team is on the lookout for a veteran quarterback who can provide competition to push incumbent starter Mitch Trubisky.
With that as our table-setter for the offseason ahead, let’s kick it up a notch by reading the piece written by Dan Durkin and Kevin Fishbain at The Athletic. Durkin and Fishbain teamed up to explore the Bears’ free agent options in a unique way.
Check it out:
The #Bears’ offseason talent-acquisition plan will be set in motion next week.
— dan durkin (@djdurkin) March 11, 2020
For the exercise, the duo operates under the assumption that Trevathan will return at inside linebacker on a reasonable 2/$12M deal ($5.5M guaranteed) with Kevin Pierre-Louis as a reserve and that Leonard Floyd will be back with the team. With that as a base-line, let’s follow along with the Durkin-Fishbain plan for Pace that stresses quantity and value over quality at a high (and possibly prohibitive) cost.
QB: CASE KEENUM (1 yr/$5M, $3M guaranteed)
The Bears could do worse at QB2 than Keenum, a veteran with extensive starting experience who is equal parts competent enough to steward the Bears toward a competitive season and not quite good enough to beat Mitch Trubisky in a one-on-one camp battle. They could do better, but would do so at a cost that would limit options elsewhere. More on that momentarily.
TE: HAYDEN HURST (via trade with Ravens)
This 2018 first-round pick has tumbled down the Ravens’ depth chart, which makes him a buy-low option with notable upside. At the cost of a 2021 fourth-round pick, the juice could be worth the squeeze.
OL: HALAPOULIVAATI VAITAI (3 yr/$24M, $10M guaranteed)
An outside-of-the-box move! Vaitai has experience at guard and tackle, which means he could start as a plug-and-play right guard, while also providing a fall-back option in the future should the Bears decide to move on from Charles Leno Jr. or Bobby Massie later.
EDGE/OLB: MARKUS GOLDEN (1 yr/$6M, $4M guaranteed)
Golden collected 10 sacks, 27 (!) QB Hits, and 13 tackles-for-loss for the Giants last year, but had just 19 sacks, 42 QB Hits, and 26 tackles-for-loss in his previous four seasons. If teams aren’t sold on Golden repeating his 2019 season, I can imagine his price tag dropping to this level.
CB: KEVIN JOHNSON (2 yr/$7M, $3M guaranteed)
Pace did well in signing Prince Amukamara and Buster Skrine to affordable deals as starting corners, so there is precedent for this move. Johnson was PFF’s 23rd highest-graded cornerback last season, though grades in recent seasons (38.6 in 2017, 46.1 in 2018) aren’t as encouraging.
The path above represents one where the Bears fill their biggest needs in a cost-effective manner. It isn’t a splashy offseason, but one that better positions the team to compete in 2020. All things being equal, I could talk myself into being OK with this collection of moves. But I would be lying if I said I wasn’t intrigued by the splash attack.
Teddy Bridgewater as the new quarterback on a two-year deal? I’m intrigued. Austin Hooper as the upgraded tight end option? That would be fun. Joe Thuney bolstering the offensive line by stepping in at right guard? Neat.
Each of these options has one thing in common — it would open up a can of worms that would handcuff the Bears from making impact moves elsewhere. This isn’t to say these potential upgrades wouldn’t be applauded or appreciated, but there is value in having good depth. And that should be something to keep in mind as the Bears enter the team-building portion of the offseason.