Bears

Colts losing Josh McDaniels a replay of Bears ’99 saga with Dave McGinnis? Not exactly

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USA TODAY

Colts losing Josh McDaniels a replay of Bears ’99 saga with Dave McGinnis? Not exactly

The news that Josh McDaniels had stiffed the Indianapolis Colts on the head coaching job and opted to remain as offensive coordinator of the New England Patriots, even after the Colts had gone so far as to issue a press release for the formal announcement of McDaniels’ hiring, sparked a spectrum of observations, some involving the Bears and their own top field job.

Does anybody really feel sorry for the Colts, who slunk out of Baltimore under cover of darkness (and ahead of a move by Maryland to exercise eminent domain and make the team stay) and jilted that city for Indianapolis? John Elway had refused to play for the Colts in ’83 due in large part because of concerns about management; only McDaniels knows what part the overall Indianapolis situation played in his change of heart.

The Colts didn’t lose McDaniels because of a premature press release, one that was put out before they had a signed contract with McDaniels, and the Bears did not blow up their hiring of Dave McGinnis back in ’99 because of a premature press release, either, as is sometimes mistakenly reported.

Then-Chairman Michael McCaskey did have a release sent out before a deal had been reached (actually, before negotiations had even started), and McGinnis was highly upset. But he did come in to Halas Hall that day and the two sides reached agreement on a four-year deal. But McGinnis walked away from the Bears for good the next day because of being asked to conceal from potential assistant coaches (which would have included Leslie Frazier and Mike Martz as his coordinators) that there was two-year buyout language in McGinnis’ contract, potentially making the deal just a two-year gig, something McGinnis believed his staff deserved to know before they took jobs and moved families to Chicago.

McDaniels’ reported reasons have included concerns about again uprooting his family, as he’d done to take jobs in Denver for two years and St. Louis for one before returning to the Patriots.

The Patriots aggressively sought to keep McDaniels over the past couple of weeks with contract improvements. Could John Fox and the Bears have held onto Adam Gase as offensive coordinator in 2016 with a similar push?

Not likely. Gase had a chance to be a head coach for the first time in his career, which comes with more of a pay bump than coordinators command. But Gase had been five years in Detroit, six years in Denver, and with three young kids, the prospect of not moving his family might’ve been appealing.

Still, no contest, Miami vs. Chicago? Not so fast. Gase is from Ypsilanti, Mich., and coached in Detroit. He can function with cold.

At this point 25 percent of the Bears’ games in 2018 will be against teams with new head coaches: Detroit (two games) hired New England defensive coordinator Matt Patricia; Arizona hired Carolina DC Steve Wilks; and the Giants will play under former Minnesota offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur.

The Colts could be something of an unofficial tiebreaker, but maybe not. No clear NFL offensive-or-defensive trend unfolded in this year’s hires. Arizona, Detroit and Tennessee (Mike Vrabel) went for coaches from a defense base; the Giants, Raiders (John Gruden) and Bears (Matt Nagy) went offense. The Colts, tba. Maybe former Bears special teams coordinator Dave Toub.

With Josh Sitton on his way out, what’s next for the Bears’ offensive line?

With Josh Sitton on his way out, what’s next for the Bears’ offensive line?

The first major move of Ryan Pace’s 2018 offseason hit on Tuesday, as NFL Network reported the Bears will not exercise Josh Sitton’s $8 million option for 2018. 

The move accomplishes two things for the Bears: 1) It frees up about $8 million in cap space and 2) Removes a veteran from the offensive line and creates a hole to fill, presumably by a younger free agent or draft pick. 

The 31-year-old Sitton signed a three-year deal with the Bears after Green Bay cut him just before the 2016 season, and was a Pro Bowler his first year in Chicago. Sitton played 26 of 32 games in two years with the Bears, but him being on the wrong side of 30 was likely the biggest factor here. If the Bears saw his skills eroding, releasing him now and netting the cap savings while going younger at the position does make sense. 

“Going younger” doesn’t guarantee the Bears will draft Notre Dame brawler Quenton Nelson, though that did become a greater possibility with Tuesday’s move. Nelson might be one of the two or three best offensive players in this year’s draft, and offensive line coach Harry Hiestand knows him well from the four years they spent together at Notre Dame. 

There’s a natural fit there, of course, but a few reasons to slow the Nelson-to-Chicago hype train: Would he even make it to No. 8? Or if he’s there, is taking a guard that high worth it when the Bears have needs at wide receiver, outside linebacker and cornerback? Still, the thought of Nelson — who absolutely dominated at Notre Dame — pairing with Hiestand again is tantalizing, and Nelson very well could step into any team’s starting lineup and be an immediate Pro Bowler as a rookie. 

If the Bears go younger in free agency, Matt Nagy knows 26-year-old guard Zach Fulton (No. 25 in Bleacher Report’s guard rankings) well from their time in Kansas City. Fulton — a Homewood-Flossmoor alum — has the flexibility to play both guard positions and center, which could open the door for Cody Whitehair to be moved to left guard, the position he was initially drafted to play (though the Bears do value him highly as a center, and keeping him at one position would benefit him as opposed to moving him around the line again). There are some other guys out there — like Tennessee’s Josh Kline or New York’s Justin Pugh — that could wind up costing more than Fulton in free agency. 

Or the Bears could look draft an offensive lineman after the first round, perhaps like Ohio State’s Billy Price, Georgia’s Isaiah Wynn or UTEP’s Will Hernandez. How the Bears evaluate guards at the NFL Combine next week will play an important role in how they go about replacing Sitton. 

The trickle-down effect of releasing Sitton will impact more than the offensive line, too. Freeing up his $8 million in cap space -- which wasn't a guarantee, unlike cutting Jerrell Freeman and, at some point, Mike Glennon -- could go toward paying Kyle Fuller, or another top cornerback, or a top wide receiver, or some combination of players at those positions (as well as outside linebacker). The Bears were already in a healthy place cap-wise; that just got healthier on Tuesday. 

Bears cut ties with linebacker Jerrell Freeman

Bears cut ties with linebacker Jerrell Freeman

The Bears began their slew of offseason moves by releasing inside linebacker Jerrell Freeman, according to ESPN's Adam Schefter.

Freeman, 31, signed a three-year, $12 million deal with the Bears in 2016.

In his first year in Chicago he amassed 110 tackles in 12 games but was suspended four games for PED use. He played in just one game lsat season before suffering a pectoral injury that placed him on IR. He then tested positive again for a performance-enhancing drug, resulting in a 10-game suspension that bleeds over into 2018 for two more games, wherever he winds up.