Good morning Twitter.
Bears want that fourth pick. pic.twitter.com/bkSWy6W3Bo
— DaBearsBlog (@dabearsblog) April 9, 2021
Andy Dalton is a middle of the road quarterback.
Ryan Pace knows Dalton is a middle of the road quarterback.
Matt Nagy knows Dalton is a middle of the road quarterback.
George McCaskey and Ted Phillips know Dalton is a middle of the road quarterback.
And that is why none of these men can possibly believe Dalton is a pathway out of the mediocrity of the last two seasons. None of these men can possibly think Dalton – even replacing the ineptitude of “the former guy” – is the missing piece in a Super Bowl puzzle. And in the cases of Pace, Nagy and perhaps even Phillips, they can’t possibly imagine Dalton is worth risking their tenures within the organization.
To believe any of that nonsense would show that everyone in a position of authority at Halas Hall has lost their collective minds. And if that’s case, what hope do any of us have?
So we must believe Pace, Nagy, Phillips and McCaskey have not lost their minds. We must believe they understand the Bears must still solve the most important position in team sports. We must believe they know there are only two ways to inspire this fanbase for the coming season: Russell Wilson or a first-round (or very early second-round) quarterback.
Bears fans have grown impatient, and with every right. But until we know if either Wilson or a top prospect are achieved, there is no reason to be decisive about this Bears off-season. That time, however, is rapidly approaching.
The San Francisco 49ers trading up to the third pick didn’t just hurt the Bears because it meant three quarterbacks would go in the first three picks. It also hurt because the trade illustrates what the cost will be for Chicago to get into position to select either of the other two premier quarterback prospects.
The 49ers traded three first round picks — including the 12th pick in 2021 — to move up nine spots. Even if the 49ers win the Super Bowl the next two seasons, the value of the picks they surrendered far outweighs the value of the pick they got. More likely, they’ll pick somewhere between 16th and 25th, which really blows the value charts out of the water.
What that means for the Bears is that even if two of the quarterbacks get out of the top 10 — possible, though not likely — the cost to move up to say 12 with Philadelphia is going to be astronomical. And doing so would firmly take the Bears out of the Russell Wilson sweepstakes because, even if the Bears have a quarterback the Seahawks would want, they wouldn’t have the draft capital to make the trade work.
It has to be asked, what is more likely:
(1) That the Bears trade three first round picks and solve their decades-long quarterback crisis with Mac Jones, Trey Lance or Justin Fields.
(2) That they use those picks to trade for Russell Wilson, who then solves the quarterback crisis himself.
The answer is pretty clear.
This is one of the more bizarre off-seasons in Bears history.
It began with a year-end presser that sent Chicago sports radio into a tizzy and made the word “collaboration” a punchline. (The reaction to this presser was quintessential Chicago media. I’ve never heard so much unwarranted weeping into handkerchiefs.)
It then became about two star quarterbacks on the market: Deshaun Watson and Russell Willson. The excitement around the former has been muted by his evil organization’s reluctance to answer their landlines and the lawsuits now developing around the quarterback. (If you don’t think Watson’s legal troubles originate inside the Texans, you’re not paying attention. These are bad people.)
The excitement around the latter came to a crashing halt on Tuesday, with the Seahawks balking at a deal that had been negotiated for weeks and Andy Dalton signing in Chicago.
But is the Wilson deal dead? Adam Schefter sure doesn’t think so and any conversation about how the Bears need to approach quarterback between now and opening day starts with that question.
“I don’t think it’s done, no. I don’t think I’m ready to say Russell Wilson is a Seahawk, will be a Seahawk.”pic.twitter.com/cI3r6vUCK3
— Dov Kleiman (@NFL_DovKleiman) March 17, 2021
Until the Seahawks and Wilson make a public commitment to each other and the 2021 season, such a commitment does not exist. What we know:
The Bears should keep calling, and keep increasing their offer, until that commitment is made or until the weekend of the draft. At the same time, the team should not lose sight of Watson.
Our ears perked up and our minds began to wonder: Who is the quarterback the Chicago Bears are trying to get that we don’t know about?
The secret: The player doesn’t exist.
Both Matt Nagy and Ryan Pace made obvious reference to there possibly being something in the works that has not been reported in the media. The fan base and media reacted exactly as the Bears intended. The hope is that other teams – namely Seattle – would too.
The popular name circulated has been Matt Ryan, but Atlanta would have to eat $44 million in dead cap if they traded Ryan and the return certainly wouldn’t be significant enough to justify that. Once they put themselves in position to pull off that trade, the price would likely be comparable to what the Eagles got for Carson Wentz; maybe less considering Ryan’s age. They’re in an obvious position to try and win now, while building for the future. They have pieces to make Arthur Smith’s first season a success and then focus on the future. Trading Ryan for not much while eating a ton of cap space doesn’t make sense.
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).
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).
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:
One thing is very clear from today: Mitch Trubisky will not be on the Chicago Bears next season.
Recently, The Athletic‘s Mike Sando published a list of NFL GMs, along with their winning percentages. Of the 18 GMs who have been in the league at least five years, Ryan Pace ranked 14th in terms of winning percentage. Two of the guys behind him have been fired. One owns the Bengals, where winning isn’t that big of a deal. The fourth? Well, how does Jason Licht still have a job?
The truth about what needs to happen with Pace was painfully obvious on Sunday. He was hired largely because of two lopsided losses to the Green Bay Packers in 2014, wherein the Packers outscored the Bears 93-31. He has closed the gap a little, but in 2020 the Packers still outscored the Bears by a combined 35 points that would’ve been more if not for a couple of garbage time scores in October. Pace has had six off-seasons to eliminate the gap between these two rivals. He has failed to do so.
Yes. Pace inherited a tough job, but was it more difficult than what Les Snead was thrown into with the Rams or Steve Keim with the Cardinals? Doubtful. Heck, Jon Robinson inherited a team that just used the second pick on Marcus Mariota and has still managed to turn the Titans into a winner.
The tricky part about Pace is that he clearly has an eye for talent.
I think the Bears are gonna win Sunday.
And I think it’s gonna be because of their offense.
And I think folks aren’t gonna know what to do with that.
— DaBearsBlog (@dabearsblog) December 18, 2020
The Bears scored 30 points again.
The Bears gained 400 yards again.
The quarterback, with the exception of a couple throws, pitched another stellar rating and looked a different player.
There has been a tectonic shift at the crust of the Chicago Bears organization. Matt Nagy, Bill Lazor and Mitch Trubisky have figured it out. Don’t ask me how, but they have. Suddenly the offensive line is a cohesive, powerful unit. David Montgomery is one of the best running backs in the league. Allen Robinson is a bona fide number one. Cole Kmet and Darnell Mooney are two of the more exciting rookie skill guys in the sport. This scattered collection of puzzle pieces has been put together and the picture is a thing of beauty.
Perhaps most importantly, the Bears are playing an exciting, entertaining brand of football. They are a threat to score every single time they get possession. They are a joy to watch.
And guess what? I was wrong.
Yep, someone in sports “media” is saying it.
I was wrong.
I always like the Chicago Bears…
…and after a few weeks in the darkness of Quitsville, I’m back!
The Bears are 6-7. And this might be the most important game ever played by a 6-7 team.
If the Bears win Sunday, they’ll be 7-7, with Jacksonville on deck. (8-7) That’ll bring the Packers to town, with Tim Boyle likely starting, and a playoff spot likely on the line. If the Bears win Sunday they will be playing meaningful football for 17 weeks at a minimum. That’s how the late Giants owner Wellington Mara defined a successful season. And knew a bit about football.
But winning, especially with another superior offensive effort, would also continue to change the narrative around the head coach. Nobody is firing a head coach who is eight games over (minimum) in his first three years. And if the quarterback pitches another triple-digit quarterback rating? How could the narrative around him not alter slightly as well? Wouldn’t the Bears have to start considering a 2021 prove it deal?
Now if the Bears lose Sunday, their season ends. If they lose Sunday and deliver another lackluster offensive effort against the Vikings, Matt Nagy and Mitch Trubisky go back under the bright interrogative lamps of media and fans. (Hard to imagine Ted Phillips and Ryan Pace won’t be there regardless of these final games.) A loss flips the fourteen-day hourglass and the sand shuffles through on January 4th. That’s when we’ll find out who among the leadership is coming back in 2021.
It’s all at stake Sunday.