Underdog Tactics, Hoping for a Year 2 Leap, 2023 Draft QBs, and Other Bears Bullets
The NBA Finals begin tonight and it reminds me of a hypothetical that was recently laid at my feet.
Would you rather attend the Super Bowl or a Game 7 of the World Series/NBA Finals/Stanley Cup Final in which your favorite team had a chance to win it all?
I … don’t have an answer for that one. Well, not yet at least.
• Years ago, June 1 used to be a date where NFL teams would dump veterans for cap space reasons. But because the NFL instituted two post-June 1 cut designations (allowing teams to make those types of cuts earlier in the offseason, giving players a chance to latch on with another team quickly), this date doesn’t have the same pizzazz it once did. Nevertheless, we’ve past June 1 on the calendar. It’s June 2. This means those post-June 1 cuts we were discussing in March can officially go in the books. More on that later. For now, you might want to brush up on more NFL calendar notes here.
• Matt Eberflus comes off as a coach-y coach. He doesn’t shy away from technical terms when speaking with the media, has acronyms that find a way to reach his players, and seems willing to shake things up on the depth chart. So when I saw this nugget from the Tribune’s Brad Biggs regarding the single-game odds for each Bears game this season, my eyebrows perked up:
Westgate SuperBook in Las Vegas has posted lines for all 18 weeks of the NFL season.#Bears are favorites for two games – both at Soldier Field.
Week 3) -3.5 vs. #Texans
Week 10) -2.5 vs. #Lions
— Brad Biggs (@BradBiggs) June 1, 2022
• If Eberflus is as much of a coach-y coach as I think he is (which is based on the limited sample of exposure since his hiring), then Biggs’ tweet could ultimately become a rallying cry. Because if there is one thing NFL players rally around without hesitation, it is the opportunity to play the underdog. I’d argue the only people who love it more are the coaches who can use it as a motivation tool. After all, who doesn’t love an underdog story?
• Josh Schrock (NBC Sports Chicago) dives into that Justin Fields rollout start we were chopping it up about the other day, going as far as to suggest that this stat could be a sign that a Year 2 leap from QB1 could be on the horizon. If it comes, then that underdog story will have one heckuva protagonist leading the charge with Fields running the show.
• Roquan Smith – member of NFL.com’s All-Paid Team of Tomorrow – is a key cog on the other side of the ball. Imagine the Bears establishing Fields as a franchise cornerstone on one side of the ball and Smith quarterbacking the defense. Those would seem to be two strong pillars to build from for first-year GM Ryan Poles. But we’ve got a ways to go before we reach that point. Even still … if Fields and Smith are stars, then here is a good chance the 2022 season will be successful.
• Tomorrow? Extending Smith is the one thing Maurice Moton (Bleacher Report) would like to see the Bears do sooner, rather than later. There are no other obvious extension candidates. And because there is no reason to spend money foolishly right now, the Bears shouldn’t be in a rush to do anything.
• Keep in mind that Smith is set to play the 2022 season on the fifth-year option of his rookie deal. Extending Smith would be ideal based on his on-field production. But I suppose the alternative is using the Franchise Tag as a bargaining chip. Last year’s tag paid linebackers $18.7 million, which is just about what you’d expect Smith’s value to be. In other words, it isn’t saving a ton of money by tagging him. But we don’t need to fall down that rabbit hole in June. However, after the Allen Robinson II extension experience, we should be cognizant of all future roads this thing can travel down.
• Mel Kiper is already talking big boards and the great QB race well ahead of the 2023 NFL Draft:
Why I have Bryce Young just ahead of C.J. Stroud in my new 2023 Big Board. pic.twitter.com/6NdpSzoaGi
— Mel Kiper Jr. (@MelKiperESPN) June 1, 2022
• Meanwhile, Jacob Infante (Windy City Gridiron) has a big board of his own. And here’s what’s notable
⇒ Just two quarterbacks (OSU’s C.J. Stroud, Alabama’s Bryce Young) in the top-20.
⇒ Eleven defensive players in the top-20, including two edge rushers, two defensive linemen, and five defensive backs. Matt Eberflus is likely rubbing his hands in anticipation, Birdman style.
⇒ Just three wide receivers in the top-20 and five within the top-32. Another class with ample talent, but there will be a drop-off at some point. Seeing Jaxon Smith-Njigba (Ohio State) as a top-5 prospect pleases me, especially since there’s already Bears connections via way-too-early mock draft circles.
⇒ Only three offensive tackles in that top-32 range bugs me. Surely, others will make their presence felt and move up the board. But I was really hoping there would be more to choose from at that position.
Again, it’s way too early to lock most (if any) off these players into spots. But it is never too early to have an idea of who we should be keeping tabs on this fall.
• Between the incoming cap space and first-round pick next year, I feel like this year is more about player development than won-loss record. Learn about what you have on the roster, see who can play their way into the long-term picture, then position yourself to attack free agency and the draft with vigor. For what it’s worth, my head says that might be the best course of action for this year. So, while I understand folks might not want to hear that right now, the reality of the Bears’ situation has us in that mindset until further notice. Keep in mind that this is a team that didn’t have a first-round pick in last April’s draft and was handcuffed by nearly $60 million in dead cap hits for players no longer on the team. So perhaps there was an inevitability in the Bears taking this path. It doesn’t make it any easier, but at least there is a path that doesn’t involve trying to run something back that clearly wasn’t working as well as any of us were hoping.
• Christopher Morel is well on your way to becoming your favorite Cub’s favorite Cub:
Christopher Morel Just Walked It Off in Extra Innings! – https://t.co/ira1qE7RtL pic.twitter.com/YxPZiR72rM
— Bleacher Nation (@BleacherNation) June 2, 2022
• The internal Bulls drama is probably thicker than a Snicker right now:
The Bulls Are Reportedly Split on Giving Zach LaVine the Maxhttps://t.co/4oAqKvyZgg pic.twitter.com/LtXWGOMVLW
— Bleacher Nation Bulls (@BN_Bulls) June 1, 2022
• Meanwhile, the United Center’s *OTHER* tenants could be looking for value pieces up front:
Where Could the Blackhawks Find Forward Value in Free Agency?https://t.co/s4YXDKxxCC pic.twitter.com/sOw2ctXz2Q
— Bleacher Nation Blackhawks (@BN_Blackhawks) June 1, 2022