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ATM: Ten Best Fits for Defensive Coordinator

| January 19th, 2021


10. Ed Donatell

Vic Fangio’s defense is well-known because he mixes up coverages so well and Donatell is the guy who has long run his secondary. The Bears had the opportunity to hire him in 2019 but seemingly passed.

After losing out on the Bears’ job, Donatell went to become Fangio’s coordinator, but he doesn’t have full autonomy. If that’s what he wants, Fangio might allow him to leave.


9. Aaron Glenn

The former Pro Bowl cornerback has become a highly thought-of coach, even taking an interview to be the New York Jets head coach before they hired Robert Saleh.

Glenn coached defensive backs with Cleveland, where he helped both Tashaun Gipson and Buster Skrine have career years in 2014. He moved on to New Orleans, where he has been credited as a major reason the Saints have had one of the best defense in the league the last four years.


8. Mark DeLeone

DeLeone coached with Nagy in Kansas City and was one of Nagy’s first actual defensive hires, with most of the staff being coaches who previously worked with Fangio.

DeLeone’s work as inside linebackers coach has been impressive. In addition to the high level at which he has Roquan Smith playing, he helped get Nick Kwiatkoski paid and got Kevin Pierre-Louis a solid one-year deal.

(He could bring longtime defensive coordinator Bob Sutton with him in an advisory role, as Sutton helped bring DeLone into the NFL with the Jets and then brought him to KC.)


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Four Lessons From the Final Four, Volume I: Packers & Bills

| January 18th, 2021


Packers

“It’s All About the Quarterback”

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How good do you think Allen Lazard would be on other teams? Robert Tonyan? Marquez Valdes-Scantling? The answer is simple. They’d be irrelevant.

How many teams could lose their starting left tackle – a star at the position – and not miss a beat? The answer is simple. Not many.

Fans of teams that don’t have a quarterback whine about the offensive line. Fans of teams that don’t have a quarterback criticize the front office for a lack of playmakers on the outside.

Fans of teams with quarterbacks, great quarterbacks, don’t get the opportunity to complain about those issues because the quarterback covers them. The quarterback reads the defense, gets into the right protections, and gets the ball out fast when necessary. The quarterback makes the weapons outside better by getting them the football whenever a mismatch presents itself.

The Packers lucked into Aaron Rodgers, and they were in the position to let him sit on the bench for three seasons and develop. This year, in drafting Jordan Love, they risked not being improved in 2020 because they know it’s more important to have a great quarterback when Rodgers is done (if that ever happens) than another solid piece in the secondary for this coming season.

It’s all about the quarterback.


Bills

“Be Patient”

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Josh Allen was not only one of the least accurate passers in the league his first two seasons, he was one of the least accurate passers in the history of the league his first two seasons.

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Divisional Round Weekend Gambling Guide

| January 15th, 2021


Saturday 3:35 PM CT – Rams @ Packers

Aaron Rodgers to score a touchdown: +550

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There’s logic here.

The Packers are going to move the ball. They’re going to get the ball into the red zone. And then they’ll have two major issues when it comes to scoring: Aaron Donald disrupting the run game and Jalen Ramsey taking Davante Adams away. Rodgers’ improvisational skills will be on full display when he takes the ball over the goal line.


Saturday 7:15 PM CT – Ravens @ Bills

Total points even: +106

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Five of the the last eight Bills games have ended in even points. So if you’re getting plus odds on that bet, you have to take it. This game was looking like a low-scorer when the forecast called for a snow storm at kickoff but now that forecast has changed and it’s just going to be a typical, cold, blustery Buffalo evening.

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Roster, Cap, Future: An All-Encompassing Primer for the 2021 Off-Season

| January 14th, 2021

The 2020 season is behind us, and now it’s time to start thinking about what changes are coming in the offseason to prepare for next year. We will focus on the roster, examining the salary cap situation, looking at who’s still under contract vs. a free agent, and exploring potential options for freeing up money.


Salary Cap Situation

The 2021 salary cap is currently projected to be somewhere between $175 and $195 million. I’ll use $185 million, right in the middle of that, as our estimate for now. As you can see in the table below, the Bears are fairly tight up against the cap right now (bottom row). All numbers come from Over the Cap.

The Bears have very little cap room, and it’s worth noting this is with only 45 players under contract. The Bears will have to fill to 53 for a full roster, and the NFL minimum salary is $660k. Even if they fill out with minimum-salary players, that adds another $5.3 million, which puts them over the salary cap (or very close to it, depending on where exactly it ends up). That’s not to mention their draft picks, which will add a few million to that; the Bears pick 20th in round 1, and last years’ 20th overall pick had a $2.4M cap hit.

I’ll note these numbers are current as of about 10 PM Chicago time on Wednesday, January 13. They might have changed if the Bears sign more practice squad players to futures contracts (which basically adds in guys at that minimum $660k level).


Depth Chart

So the Bears are currently a little over the salary cap, though there are always options to free up more money (more on that later). Who do they have under contract making all that money? The table below shows the current depth chart for all 45 players currently signed for 2021 (again, might be a little out of date as the Bears sign their practice squad players in the upcoming days).

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Ryan Pace and Matt Nagy Will Return in 2021.

| January 13th, 2021


Both men will meet the media at 10:00 AM CT Wednesday (my birthday). Stay tuned to this space for a response to that press conference.

A few notes:

  • George McCaskey made clear what many of us have known: this ownership group loves Ryan Pace and trusts him to right the ship. (Do they love Nagy? I’m not sure but they trust Ryan on him.)
  • No contract extensions for either doesn’t automatically mean next season is “win or gone” but it will increase the pressure.
  • George: “We need better production from the quarterback position to be successful.” Bingo.
  • George suggested he’s more confident in Pace selecting the next franchise QB because Nagy will be involved in that process. It is very obvious ownership wants this group to succeed and is going to give them every chance to do that.
  • Weird moment when Ted wouldn’t answer how long the Nagy/Pace contracts are. Not sure I get why that would be privileged information but it does suggest these guys might not be expiring after 2021.
  • Pace made it very clear that this entire offseason is about the quarterback position.
  • Prodded about the 2017 draft by Dan Wiederer, Pace would not take the bait and kill Trubisky. Nagy was pressed as well, and passed. There’s no reason to do it.

One thing is very clear from today: Mitch Trubisky will not be on the Chicago Bears next season.

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ATM: First Look at the Quarterback Market

| January 12th, 2021

Regardless of who is making the decisions, the top priority for the Chicago Bears this offseason has to be finding a quarterback. The Bears can’t – and from the sounds of it, won’t – let the best stretch of Mitch Trubisky’s career change what they already knew: he is not and never will be good. Not finding an upgrade is no longer an option for the Bears.

While some have tried to paint the picture that the Bears won’t be able to find a better quarterback, the truth is they have no choice. And upgrading isn’t the monumental task some make it out to be. Here’s a quick look at some of the options:

The Extreme Long Shots

Russell Wilson

After finally letting Russ cook in 2020, the Seahawks seem determined not to do that again.

This is, more or less, throwing mud to see what sticks, but trading Wilson has been floated before and if Seattle wants to run into the middle of the line of scrimmage every other play, they might as well move him.

Seattle is operating in a different existence right now. Pete Carroll is determined to waste Wilson and the rest of the league can thank him for that. Don’t rule out Wilson requesting a trade since Carroll just signed a huge contract extension.

Deshaun Watson

Whatever the price for Watson might be, it isn’t too much. Like Wilson, it’s very unlikely that Watson will be traded, but players have power and Watson is ticked off.


Slightly More Likely

Derek Carr

We went down this road last year and not a lot has changed. He still plays for Jon Gruden and Jon Gruden doesn’t like anybody who currently plays quarterback for him.

The Raiders didn’t sign Marcus Mariota last year for insurance. They did it because Gruden always has a wandering eye. Carr likely wouldn’t cost that much in draft capital, but he may want a new contract to guarantee his future a little more.

With two straight seasons surpassing 4,000 yards and a passer rating of 100, Carr would solve the position for the foreseeable future. The difficult part is making sure they have enough talent around him.

Dak Prescott

If the Cowboys loved Prescott as much as they say they do, he wouldn’t be worried about a contract right now.

Prescott was on pace to throw for nearly 6,000 yards; completing 68% of his passes for an average of 8.4 per attempt. He has a career passer rating of 97.3 and he can run.

Bringing him back seems like a no-brainer for the Cowboys, but Jerry is Jerry.  It’ll cost draft picks and a lot of money, but Prescott is worth it.

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Short: Get a New Quarterback

| January 11th, 2021


The Bears were not good enough yesterday in New Orleans.

But no matter what organizational changes they are pondering – and those conversations are all fair – the club must concretely decide today not to bring Mitch Trubisky back to Chicago next season. No more running out of bounds instead of barreling ahead for the first down. No more absurd check downs with the game on the line. No more errant throws into traffic from the pocket.

The Bears need instincts at quarterback. (Look at how Lamar Jackson turned the Ravens game around with his legs.) They need guts. (Look at how Taylor Heinecke inspired Washington.)  They need a gamer. (Look at the way Josh Allen feels a game.) Trubisky has, and is, none of those things. And he never will.”

Mitch said he feels he has “unfinished business” here. He does not. His story is written in Chicago. Might Mitch find a career for himself in this league? Maybe. Blake Bortles had far more success in Jacksonville than Mitch has had in Chicago and Bortles can’t find a roster spot these days. The Mitch asset teams would find most valuable – his legs – are rendered useless by his refusal to use them productively.

The Gathering Horde: But what are your better options then for 2021, Jeff?

Jeff: Who cares?

Maybe the 20th pick starts at quarterback next season. Maybe it’s a second round pick. Maybe it’s Matthew Stafford or Matt Ryan seeing out their careers. It doesn’t really matter. Who the quarterback is for 2021 is important. Ending the Trubisky drama, the Trubisky debate, the Trubisky era, is just as important. And that should happen today.

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