Bears fans are in unfamiliar territory.
For the first time in a long time, they are in position to lose more than they gain in free agency. And it’ll be that way the next few years. This is a good thing, as it means the Bears have finally been drafting well and now have enough talent that they can’t afford to keep everybody.
With that in mind, it’s time to pay attention to compensatory draft picks, a confusing program the NFL runs to reward teams like the Bears that lose talented players in free agency. The general idea here is teams who lose more valuable free agents than they bring in get additional draft picks in the following draft. So the Bears could be looking at compensatory picks in 2020 based on what happens this month with Adrian Amos, Bryce Callahan, and Aaron Lynch.
The Bears haven’t had a compensatory pick since 2009 so it’s understandable if many Bears fans aren’t super familiar with how they work. The exact NFL formula for them is a secret, but some people have done really good work tracking them over the years and figuring the general process out. If you’re really interested, here’s the best detailed breakdown I could find, but for now I’m going to give a primer and go over the basics.
For the very basics, let’s start with where compensatory picks fall in the draft. Nobody is getting an extra 1st round pick based on losing a valuable free agent, so don’t hold your breath there.
As NFL teams leave the Combine in Indianapolis, the NFL offseason is about to ramp up. A brief timeline of what’s happening in the next two months:
Since we are just a few weeks away from the six-week period that features the main roster improvement time of the offseason, it’s a good time to take stock of where the Bears are at.
Let’s start by looking at players they already have under contract. A rough depth chart for that is shown below; players who have not played meaningfully in the NFL are not included. I should also note that I included the Bears’ 4 exclusive rights free agents, because those players are all but under contract unless the Bears decide not to sign them (equivalent to cutting a player currently under contract).
Now let’s take a closer look at that roster to see what areas need to be cleaned up, ranked roughly from most-to-least pressing.
The Bears have three starters – Bryce Callahan, Bobby Massie, and Adrian Amos – and a key role player – Aaron Lynch – who are all free agents this offseason. They’re tight up against the cap, so keeping all of them will be hard.
In order to prioritize which ones might be most important and attainable to hang onto, we need to understand how expensive their contracts are likely to be. Let’s look at each player one by one and look at the types of contracts signed by comparable players in recent years to get an idea for what to expect. All data is from Spotrac.
Callahan’s contract is a difficult one to project because it is complicated by health. Callahan has been one of the best nickel backs in the NFL when healthy, but he’s only played 45 out of a possible 65 games (including playoffs) in 4 years, which should keep his price down a little bit. It’s also a bit difficult to parse out nickel back contracts from the other cornerbacks, as they’re listed generically together even though NFL teams clearly pay them differently. Nevertheless, here are four recent nickel back contracts that can help give us an idea of what Callahan’s market should be.
Harris’ deal sets the standard for nickels, but I don’t think it will have much bearing on Callahan. I’m sure his agents will point to it as what they’d like to get, but I don’t think teams view Callahan on Harris’ level, both because of health and big plays. Harris missed 1 game in 4 years before signing this deal and had 10 interceptions to Callahan’s 4.
The Bears have made some major free agency moves. So it’s time to take the fan temperature. This is going to be the second of four polls put up in this space prior to kicking off the 2018 campaign.
The top three results before free agency (and the combine) were: 8-8 (33.8%), 9-7 (33.1%), 6-7 wins (19.48%). The poles did po’. (Yep, I did it.)
Per RapSheet it is 3 years, $42 million with $25 million guaranteed.
Full disclosure: I rarely visit ChicagoBears.com. It used to be a vital site for post-game pressers and game highlights but there are literally dozens of better locations for both of those things now, especially the former, which now go directly from the cell phones of media members to the fans in a matter of seconds.
But in January, the site’s lead writer Larry Mayer posted a collection of pertinent off-season dates and that is something I’m constantly searching for this time of year. Here they are:
February 20: First day for clubs to designate Franchise or Transition Players.
February 27-March 5: NFL Scouting Combine, Lucas Oil Stadium, Indianapolis, Indiana.
March 6: Prior to 3 p.m. (CT), deadline for clubs to designate Franchise or Transition Players.
March 12-14: Beginning at 11 a.m. (CT) on March 7, clubs are permitted to contact, and enter into contract negotiations with the certified agents of players who will become Unrestricted Free Agents upon the expiration of their 2017 player contracts. However, a contract cannot be executed with a new club until 3 p.m. (CT), on March 14.
March 14: Prior to 3 p.m. (CT), clubs must exercise options for 2018 on all players who have option clauses in their 2017 contracts.
March 14: Prior to 3 p.m. (CT), clubs must submit qualifying offers to their Restricted Free Agents with expiring contracts to retain a Right of First Refusal/Compensation.
March 14: Prior to 3 p.m. (CT), clubs must submit a minimum salary tender to retain exclusive negotiating rights to their players with expiring 2017 contracts who have fewer than three accrued seasons of free agency credit.
March 14: Top 51 begins. All clubs must be under the 2018 salary cap prior to 3 p.m. (CT).
March 14: All 2017 player contracts will expire at 3 p.m. (CT)
March 14: The 2018 league year and free agency period begin at 3 p.m. (CT).
See the rest of the year’s dates after the jump…