The Chicago Bears’ 2020 season was essentially four seasons wrapped into one. Early season highs, mid-season lows, a Mitchell Trubisky tour, and a humbling ending put things into perspective.
Looking ahead, the 2021 offseason could very well dictate the long-term future of the franchise. GM Ryan Pace enters the final year of his contract. He needs to prove he can find a quarterback and unearth offensive skill players. And Head Coach Matt Nagy has two seasons remaining on his deal. But he might not make it to next year if he can’t show that his offense can work. But before we cross those bridges, let’s take a position-by-position look at the team heading into a pivotal offseason for the Bears franchise.
Today: Pass rusher
WHO’S UNDER CONTRACT?
Khalil Mack has 30 sacks, 45 quarterback hits, 29 tackles-for-loss, 14 forced fumbles, 5 fumble recoveries, 2 interceptions, a safety, and one pick-six in 46 games over three years. The Mack trade will be discussed until the end of time. But three years in, the returns have been solid.
Unfortunately, the same can’t be said about the early returns for Robert Quinn. Despite having desperate needs across the board on offense last offseason, the Bears signed Quinn to be Mack’s top running-mate. And while Quinn picked up a sack and forced fumble on his first play with the Bears, he didn’t do much after that. Injuries might have played a role in Quinn’s struggles. Because we’re only one year removed from Quinn being an impact pass-rusher, I’m willing to give him a clean slate going into 2021.
Trevis Gipson played just 71 defensive snaps last year, but nearly 82 percent of those came in the final five weeks of the season. To me, that’s a sign that the Bears liked what they saw in practice. Mind you, Gipson was inactive in seven games before that and in nine of the first 11 games of the year. Ultimately, I sure hope the Bears like what they’ve got in the 2020 fifth-round pick.
James Vaughters saw action on 22.69 percent of the Bears’ defensive snaps. That’s significant when you think of how he didn’t play a single regular-season snap for the 2019 team. Vaughters figures to be in a competition with Gipson for the third edge defender slot behind Mack and Quinn.
EXITING FREE AGENTS
In addition to a name that’s awesome to say and type, Barkevious Mingo stood out as a solid defender in a pinch and top-flight special teams contributor.
WHO COULD BE CUT BEFORE THE LEAGUE NEW YEAR BEGINS?
After a lackluster year, I’m often asked about how the Bears can move Robert Quinn off the roster. However, that’s simply not feasible. Releasing Quinn would cause Chicago to *LOSE* $9.2 million in cap space — and take a $23.9 million dead-money hit in the process. Yuck.
I suppose the team could make Quinn a post-June 1 cut. In that scenario, cutting Quinn would create $100,000 in cap space. That’s simply not enough to make that type of move. In other words, the Bears have to bite hard on Quinn in 2021 and hope for a rebound. If not, Chicago could release Quinn next offseason in a move that would create an estimated $6.7 million in cap space. That is a far more realistic option than cutting him now.
Cap numbers via OverTheCap.com
MIC’D UP KHALIL MACK IS A WHOLE LOTTA FUN
THE FREE AGENT MARKET INCLUDES…
⇒ Shaquil Barrett
⇒ Yannick Ngakoue
⇒ Melvin Ingram
⇒ Leonard Floyd
⇒ Trey Hendrickson
⇒ Takkarist McKinley
⇒ Justin Houston
SEVEN DRAFT-ELIGIBLE PROSPECTS
⇒ Chris Rumph II, Duke
⇒ Gregory Rousseau, Miami (Fla.)
⇒ Patrick Jones II, Pittsburgh
⇒ Hamilcar Rashed Jr., Oregon
⇒ Kwity Paye, Michigan
⇒ Jean Phillips, Miami (Fla.)
⇒ Joe Tryon, Washington
HOW CAN THE BEARS ADDRESS/UPGRADE THE POSITION?
Positive regression from Robert Quinn would help greatly. However, the Bears can’t bank on that next season. So with that in mind, they should keep eyes on additions who could possibly improve their depth.
If Chicago can’t re-sign Barkevious Mingo, it should find a similar type of player in free agency. It’s not a high priority, but finding someone who can play multiple roles as a reserve defender and chip in as a core special teams contributor is important. I believe there’s no such thing as having too many pass-rushers. Therefore, it would be neat if the Bears added another body via the Draft. Especially if they’re looking at a future that doesn’t involve Quinn in 2022.