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Data Entry: Bears’ Contract Options for Kyle Fuller

| February 1st, 2018

As we all know, Kyle Fuller had a breakout season in 2017 after missing all of 2016 with a knee injury. He led the NFL in passes broken up and ranked 17th among all cornerbacks in both completion percentage and passer rating allowed, per Pro Football Focus. Now general manager Ryan Pace has to decide what to do with Fuller, who is set to enter unrestricted free agency as one of the top cornerbacks on the market.

Let’s take a look at his options.

Franchise Tag

One weapon at Pace’s disposal is the franchise tag, which would guarantee Fuller the average of the top 5 cap hits at the cornerback position in 2018. Right now, that would look like a one year, $15.3 million contract that is fully guaranteed (per Spotrac). Pace can choose to apply this tag at any point between February 20 and March 6, and it seems likely to happen unless the Bears and Fuller can reach a long-term agreement first.

Long-Term deal

Now let’s take a look at comparable contracts signed in recent years, as those give us a general baseline for what range of contract Fuller should expect. It typically works out so that he and his agents will push for one of the bigger comparable contracts, the Bears point to the smaller ones, and the sides will negotiate from there.

Thankfully there are a number of big-name cornerbacks who have signed deals coming off of their rookie contracts in the past two years. Their contracts are shown in the table below.

This clearly sets up general parameters for a long-term Fuller deal. It would likely be 5 years long, for somewhere between $12 and $15 million a year, with somewhere between 30% and 50% of the money guaranteed.

Before we consider where Fuller should slot within this range, there are two factors to keep in mind:

  • The cap keeps going up. It’s projected to be just under $180 million in 2018, about 7% higher than 2017 and 15% higher than 2016. Expect top contracts to go up as well.
  • Leverage matters. Rhodes, Trufant, Peterson, and Slay all re-signed with their current teams with a year left on their contract. That helps keep the price a little bit lower than players who re-sign right before free agency, like Fuller would do (and Kirkpatrick did) or leave to another team in free agency (like Bouye, Gilmore, Ryan, and Jenkins). The Bears could tag Fuller and then look to negotiate a long-term deal, but having $15.3M fully guaranteed for one season doesn’t exactly hurt Fuller’s leverage, and might actually make agreeing on a long-term deal more difficult after the tag has been applied.

So then the question becomes this: how does Kyle Fuller view himself, and how do the Bears view Fuller?

It seems reasonable to think Fuller should be on the lower end of this contract range. He’s not as good as players like Peterson, Rhodes, Trufant, Norman, and Slay, and he only has one year of top-level production (and even that was not quite at the level of the players I just mentioned). Thus it would be entirely reasonable for the Bears to start with something along the lines of Dre Kirkpatrick’s deal, and negotiate up towards there.

But Fuller is also well within his rights to think he should slot in on the higher end of this range. It’s not uncommon for players to have a high opinion of themselves, and Fuller also has leverage as somebody who is about to hit unrestricted free agency, where contracts tend to be higher than when players re-sign with their own team a year before free agency.

Comparable Contracts

It’s also worth noting that contract structure matters just as much as-if not more than-the numbers presented above. Thus I’d like to look at the 2 contracts I think offer the best comparisons for Fuller and see what they actually look like year by year. Those are the deals signed last year by AJ Bouye and Stephon Gilmore. Both players are the most recent contracts and look at top free agents from a year ago. Let’s look at how they break down year by year. The column under the players’ names shows the total money they receive for their service if they are cut after that season, and the dead cap shows how much of that money would still be on the teams’ books for future years.

Here you see a clear difference in the structure: Gilmore is basically guaranteed three years and $42M, while Bouye is only guaranteed 2 years and $27M. Even though Bouye got the “bigger” overall deal, his contract is more team friendly.

What I would do

If I were Ryan Pace, I would start the negotiations by pointing to the deals Janoris Jenkins and Dre Kirpatrick signed. These are on the low end of the range, leaving you room to negotiate upwards, but still present a good faith offer. When Fuller and his agents invariably respond back with higher offers (likely pointing to the deals signed by Josh Norman, Patrick Peterson, and Xavier Rhodes), you can then meet somewhere in the middle, which is where AJ Bouye and Stephon Gilmore sit.

I would then try to settle on basically matching AJ Bouye’s deal, which I think is a real win for both sides. Let’s look at it from both perspectives:

  • Bears: get Fuller for 2 years and $27M instead of 1 year and $15M. If he can’t back 2017 up, it’s only one extra year. If he does back it up, you have him signed through his prime for a couple million dollars a year less than he would cost on the open market next year (or on a franchise tag next year, which would be $18.4M). Contracts are only going to keep going up as the cap rises and more good players sign a new wave of deals.
  • Fuller: He’s guaranteed $27M instead of $15M, which is pretty good off of just one breakout season. If he continues to play well, he’ll stick through most of the contract and make very good money. It’s a little less than he would likely make if he plays well under the tag in 2018 and hits free agency next year, but there is now zero risk from his play falling off or an injury derailing his career.

With that said, I think the most likely outcome is that Fuller plays 2018 on the franchise tag. The Bears can’t afford to lose him, but I don’t know that Pace is willing to commit long term after just one year, even if he can get a structure that limits the long term commitment. He’s proven extremely reluctant to sign big contracts that might harm the franchise down the road so far.

Now it’s your turn. What do you hope the Bears do with Fuller this offseason?

Tagged: , , ,

  • Fun story: I wrote this on a whim last night, told Jeff about it after finishing it this morning.

    Jeff said Bears and Fuller are actively negotiating a long term deal (which I had no clue on) and pushed it out right away.

  • CanadaBear

    I think they get it done with a 4-5 year deal. My only real issue with Fuller concerns him balling out in his walk year. I’ve never heard any reason why Fuller missed all of 2016 after a clean out procedure and that still is a concern. Oh well. He does have a couple of brothers that have played in the NFL so I assume he has that competitive desire. Hope they get it done sooner than later.

    • I’ve thought about that a lot with him missing a year, and came to this conclusion:

      Fuller never felt right on his knee, and didn’t trust team doctors when they said he was good to go. Honestly, that’s probably a good thing.

      Kyle Long and Pernell McPhee have trusted team doctors and played through it for meaningless late season games, and as a result have had future seasons impacted. Fuller’s 2017 probably doesn’t happen if he plays late in 2016.

      • CanadaBear

        Hard to say what happens if he played in 2016. I totally get not trusting the team doctors. You would think all of these guys would get 2nd and 3rd opinions from the best around.

        • Sactowns#1

          I’d have UC Davis and the Mayo Clinic on speed dial if I was in the NFL.

          • CanadaBear

            It’s not a secret who the best doctors/surgeons are in their respective fields. Why anyone at the pro level wouldn’t consult with them is beyond me.

      • SC Dave

        I cannot blame a player for not trusting the Bears’ doctors.

      • catfish44

        good point. quite possible. perhaps long will never be the player he was

  • The Dude

    I’d be happy if they replicate Bouye’s deal, but I can’t imagine Fuller would agree to that low. Gilmore is more realistic.

    And really I think they have to sign him to a longer term deal now, even for Gilmore money.

    • “Modestly” Huge Bears Penis

      …. Are you doing new math?? The difference between Bouye’s deal and Gilmore’s deal is 2.5 mill over 5 years, which is pretty minimal.

      • Bouye actually has the higher total money, but Gilmore more guaranteed.

        If I’m the Bears, I’d look more at Bouye as a structural reference. Slightly more money in exchange for less guaranteed. Basically works out to 2 years guaranteed instead of 3, so less of a commitment in case the one big year was a fluke.

        • The Dude

          I think people forget that Bouye was viewed as one year wonder at this time last year. Started 2016 as the 4th cornerback on the team.

          Fuller played well to start his rookie year and has a greater pedigree. That combined with the increased NFL money available is going to make his price a good bit higher.

          • Fuller’s a bit of a one year wonder too, at least at anywhere close to this level of play. Nobody even blinked when Bears refused the 5th year option last year that would have been $5M cheaper than the tag, and he was widely expected not to make the team last offseason.

            The Fuller/Bouye comparison works well in many ways, IMO.

      • The Dude

        Not new math, but the 3rd year is significant. Pace likes to keep the guaranteed years short.

  • leftcoastdave

    I’d try to sign him to five years with escalators and a $30m guarantee with the option of trading him whenever. Fuller’s “buy in” remains in doubt but having him under contract could prove to be valuable trade bait in the coming years.

  • BearDown100393
    • willbest

      What are the odds Rodgers refuses to negotiate?

      • Sactowns#1

        Very little. So much money is tied into endorsements and post career deals that people are far more risk averse.

        • willbest

          You think we are going to be seeing Manning on TV beyond the next 3 years? I don’t think athletes can achieve that “All-American” level of fame anymore.

          • Dis Guy Trublinsky (Johnnywad)

            I do. I think Manning sticks for a long time. He’s funny and people love him.

          • Sactowns#1

            And he’s white. NTTAWWT

          • SC Dave

            Your bald-faced racism is getting extremely tedious, Sac. Get THE FUCK out of Portland.

          • Sactowns#1

            Snowflake alert.

          • SC Dave

            lol. You have become the quintessential snowflake of the blog.

            Embrace The Donald, Your President!

          • SC Dave

            Okay, Trump is an idiot. As much an idiot as Obama is a narcissist.

          • Sactowns#1

            I have no idea what that has to do with the fact that most large endorsement deals go to white guys. But whatev.

          • SC Dave

            Perhaps because it sells?

          • Josh Burgess

            SC Dave doesn’t understand that calling someone a racial slur and saying “white people get deals because they sell better” are both still just racism. One’s personal, one’s systemic. Don’t matter to him though, so long as he’s the one getting the special treatment, he’ll keep acting like there isn’t a problem.

          • Sactowns#1

            Couldn’t have said it better.

    • BerwynBomber

      Good. Maybe he will leave the division.

    • catfish44

      you think spelling rodgers wrong is what, cute, clever??

  • CaponeBot 1.0

    I find it tough to weigh in on things that are starting to become unimportant to me. Fuller? We’re talking about Fuller? He finally plays like he was supposed to from day one and now we’re talking Stephone Gilmore money? i must be in the football twilight zone.

    Draft is 3 months away. that is a hell of a long time and i probably won’t make it. I really want to see the Eagles win this game. Not because i hate Brady or Belichek or whatever….it’s because i hate people from Boston. They fucking suck.

  • willbest

    Fuller did not earn Bouye or Gilmore money. If that is what he is looking for, tag him and make him earn it. And if the NFL can stop the bleeding on viewership advertisers aren’t going to pony up $400k+ for 30 seconds.

  • CanadaBear

    Check out the comments about last year’s O from Jordan Howard.

    http://www.rotoworld.com/player/NFL/11339

    • Sactowns#1

      Interesting. How much of this will be predicated on Gomer learning a new playbook?

      • CanadaBear

        Despite your name for him, he doesn’t strike me as a slow learner.

        • Sactowns#1

          Has nothing to do with cognitive abilities. It’s more about aesthetics. He looks like a young Jim Nabors.

          • SC Dave

            Pix? I don’t doubt it.

            I think he looks like Pace, which is why Ryan was so keen on him.

    • BearDown100393

      Howard will be the most productive RB in the division next season.

      • evantonio

        Not if he doesn’t start catching the balls that hit his hands.

        • SC Dave

          That shit will end when the QB throws it where JH doesn’t have to *run backwards waiting* for the ball to hit him in the hands.

          • CanadaBear

            You protest too much.

            https://youtu.be/dmGlsogbJTM?t=401

          • SC Dave

            I simply do not understand how people cannot recognize that on that VERY FUCKING PLAY, Howard has to turn around and run backwards while waiting for the ball.

            Come on, Canada… WATCH THE FUCKING PLAY.

            That ball thrown right away, over Howard’s right shoulder is an easy TD. Even if he catches the ball where thrown, his momentum is carrying him the wrong direction while the defender closes because the ball is a third of a second (at least) late.

          • CanadaBear

            FFS Dave it’s not a perfect throw but it’s not a difficult catch for a NFL RB.

          • SC Dave

            No, but there is NO WAY that is a touchdown without an extraordinary play by the RB. The play had maybe a 3% chance of scoring if he catches that ball. And 2 of those 3 are because it’s Howard.

            Sure, we’d have been *much* better off had he caught the ball and been knocked OOB. But that play, given the pass, had almost no chance to score.

          • CanadaBear

            Esp when you don’t catch it.

          • “Modestly” Huge Bears Penis

            He sure ain’t no Forte.

          • “Modestly” Huge Bears Penis

            or is it, too bad catching isn’t his Forte….

          • evantonio

            he did have to turn and wait. still hit him in the hands so you’d like to see your guy pull it in. still, there’s the one i shared a few comments up with a ball thrown pretty perfectly in stride.

          • evantonio
        • BearDown100393

          He will

  • CanadaBear

    When some of the posters were complaining about the run, run, pass scenario long past it being true, I think most of that was due to the fact that almost every DC in the league not only could accurately predict whether it was a run or pass but also the actual play in most cases. FFS if we as fans can predict the play more often than not just from the set up + down and distance, most DC’s had to be salivating.

    • willbest

      Which doesn’t make any sense. Because they weren’t predictable last year. So why this year? You could say Trub, but that predated him.

      • CanadaBear

        You didn’t think they were predictable in 2016?

        • willbest

          Considering you couldn’t even predict who our QB was going to be, I don’t know how you could predict the plays

      • leftcoastdave

        This year because Trub had enough on his plate initially taking a snap under center. Then it moved on to handing off, dropping back to reading the D pre-snap to going through his reads and all of it being done with a shuffling O line and a new receiver group.

        Fox did a good job developing Biscuit, Chicken Salad and that big arsed white boy for the NFL. That started with the basics for each of them. Shaheen with blocking real men, Cohen with running pass routes.

        Now they are ready for rocket science.

        • SC Dave

          Let’s hope so. Was a bit concerned that Shaheen didn’t play the last three games.

  • BearDown100393

    “Rodgers never hides his disdain for how the Packers operate.”

    Prediction: His bio rips the front office. But that bio does not publish until the last endorsement nickel is commissioned.

  • BearDown100393

    Kyle is a warrior:

    “My only regret is I’ve only one body to give to the Chicago Bears”

    http://www.chicagotribune.com/sports/football/bears/ct-spt-bears-kyle-long-surgery-20180131-story.html

    • willbest

      I presume that is Long rather than the Kyle that spent all of 2016 out with a bruised labia

      • BearDown100393

        KL

  • BerwynBomber

    Gronk is cleared from concussion protocol.
    #Shocking

    • Patricia

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  • Irish Sweetness

    Has anyone asked Fuller if he wants to be a Bear?

    First thing I’d think of when considering renewing a contract is if I like my boss or not. And he does not.

    • CanadaBear

      You’re wrong. I’ve read twice recently that he and Fangio get along just fine.

      • Irish Sweetness

        He said in print that he has no problem with his employer whilst he is trying to renegotiate a new contract? They must love each other then!

        • Dis Guy Trublinsky (Johnnywad)

          LOL. Irish. Why would he be owing sloppy wet kisses while trying to negotiate a deal at the same time?! Without the willingness to walk away, what leverage does he have? Liking Fangio and earning money need to be compatmentalized when negotiating a new deal. Unless he’s a bitch. You wouldn’t want your best corner to be a bitch would you?

  • BerwynBomber

    “DaBearsBlog @dabearsblog My top 5 Bears since free agency began. Four guarantees…@BUrlacher54 @peanuttillman@olin_kreutz @D_Hest23 … Debating my fifth…Mike Brown, Matt Forte…am I forgetting anyone?”

    Don’t know what “since free agency began” means, but if you are talking since the Jauron years I would go with the following of the guys you listed:

    1. Lach
    2. Hester
    3. Briggs
    4. Forte
    5. Peanut
    6. Kreutz
    7. Brown

  • catfish44

    sign him or franchise him.

  • ButtonShoes

    Franchise him.

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