Bears free agency rumor tracker: Monday

USA Today

Bears free agency rumor tracker: Monday

As of 11 a.m. CT on Monday, NFL teams are permitted to enter contract negotiations with representation of free agents. While no contracts can be finalized until 3 p.m. CT Wednesday, the next 48 hours are when plenty of big-time deals will be hammered out, so stick with us here on NBC Sports Chicago for a running tracker of updates on players the Bears are meeting with, or players the Bears could target who are meeting with other teams. 

8:30 p.m. update:

WR Albert Wilson

The report: The Dolphins are the front-runner to sign him

Wilson appeared to be an obvious and natural target for the Bears to sign, but this latest report may throw a wrench in that. The 5-foot-9, 200 pound Wilson caught 42 passes for 554 yards in Matt Nagy’s offense last year, and his toughness as a slot receiver was roundly praised by those in Kansas City. If Wilson were to sign with the Dolphins, he'd be replacing Jarvis Landry, who was dealt to the Cleveland Browns last week for a pair of draft picks. 

3:30 p.m. update:

WR Sammy Watkins

The report: Add the Jaguars to the list of teams interested in him

This is interesting, given the Jaguars have about $30 million in cap space but would have to use a sizable chunk of that on Watkins. If Allen Robinson indeed is moving on from Jacksonville, trying to keep Marqise Lee may make more sense than splashing some cash at Watkins. 

2:05 p.m. update:

TE Trey Burton

The report: He's drawing plenty of interest

With the Bears reportedly interested in Jimmy Graham and Austin Seferian-Jenkins (see previous updates below), it'd make sense they'd also be in on Burton, who caught five touchdowns for the Eagles last year and famously threw that "Philly Special" touchdown to Nick Foles in Super Bowl LII. Burton is 26 and is thought of as an ascending player, though he only was targed 31 times last year, catching 23 of those for 248 yards. 

1:50 p.m. update:

WR Allen Robinson

The report: The 49ers may not be in on him

This would bode well for the Bears if the cap-rich 49ers aren't part of Robinson's market. Not only do they have the cash to make a competitive offer, but they have their own franchise quarterback and young, offensive-minded coach to pitch to players. This doesn't mean the Bears' chances to land Robinson are significantly better, but potentially not having to compete with the 49ers for him wouldn't hurt, either. 

WR Sammy Watkins

The report: The Bears, Packers and Chiefs are among the teams interested in him

Watkins and the Rams didn't agree to a deal before he was opened up to negotiations with other teams this morning, and while he still could return to Los Angeles, there will be a strong market for his services. The Bears, naturally, are one of the reported teams in on the 24-year-old who caught 39 passes for 593 yards with eight touchdowns in 2017. There was a previous rumbling (see below) that the Packers could be in the market for Robinson, but that may not be the only top-tier wideout that's drawing the interest of first-year general manager Brian Gutekunst. If these wind up playing out, maybe we'll see a fascinating arms race between the Bears and Packers to land weapons for their respective quarterbacks. 

12:50 p.m. update:

TE Jimmy Graham

The report: The Bears could have interest

Ian Rapoport mentioned this possibility on NFL Network Monday afternoon. Ryan Pace was in New Orleans when the Saints picked Graham in the third round of the 2010 draft. While the 31-year-old's best years appear to be behind him, he remained an excellent red zone weapon for the Seattle Seahawks in 2017 with 10 touchdowns. If the Bears sign him -- or another receiving-first tight end -- expect Dion Sims to be released and Adam Shaheen to take over his role full-time in 2018. 

The Bears aren't the only team rumored to be interested in Graham, though:

WR Allen Robinson

The report: The Green Bay Packers could be among the teams interested in him

This would come as quite a surprise given the Packers locked up Davante Adams last fall and still have Jordy Nelson and Randall Cobb on their books. But first-year general manager Brian Gutekunst could be in a decent position to make a high-risk, high-reward play for Robinson -- which would only add to a competitive market in which the Bears are expected to be for the Jacksonville Jaguars wideout. 

CB Bryce Callahan

The report: He'll receive an original-round tender

Like Cameron Meredith and Josh Bellamy, the Bears will have the right to match any offer sheet given to Callahan but would not receive a draft pick if they decline to match. Callahan picked off two passes, forced a fumble and scored a punt return touchdown in 2017 but missed four games. Retaining him would likely take the Bears out of any market that develops for Jaguars nickel corner Aaron Colvin, if they were going to be in it in the first place. 

11:50 a.m. update:

OL Zach Fulton

The report: The Houston Texans are the front-runners to sign him

Fulton could make sense for the Bears, as the Homewood-Flossmoor alum played for Harry Hiestand in college and was a versatile piece of Matt Nagy's offensive lines in Kansas City. He's able to play either center or guard and played in 63 of 64 games since being picked by the Chiefs in the sixth round of the 2014 draft. If Fulton indeed winds up with the Texans, the Bears will have to look elsewhere -- if they weren't already -- to replace Josh Sitton. 

WR Cameron Meredith

The report: He'll receive an original-round tender

By placing the original round tender on Meredith, a restricted free agent, the Bears could match any offer a team makes to him, but would not receive compensation if they decline to match it because he was not drafted. Expect Meredith to be back with the Bears as he works his way back from a torn ACL suffered last August. 

"With Cam, it's just closely evaluating where he's at, listening to our doctors and trainers and just following his progress and where he's going to be," general manager Ryan Pace said at the NFL Combine last month. "The receivers position, as we've talked about a lot today, is a need position for us. Unfortunately, we have a lot of injuries there, so we're kind of assessing where each one of those guys are in their rehab and then also looking to see what our options are as we go into the draft and free agency."

WR Josh Bellamy

The report: He'll receive an original-round tender

Bellamy has put in plenty of work on special teams since joining the Bears in 2014 while catching a little over 50 percent of his targets as part of the offense. The 28-year-old turned in the most productive season of his career in 2017, catching 24 of 46 targets for 376 yards with one touchdown (a deep ball score against the Green Bay Packers). 

11 a.m. update:

OL Bradley Sowell

The news: Signed a two-year deal with the Bears

The 28-year-old Sowell will stick around as a reserve offensive lineman with the ability to play both guard and tackle. Most importantly, Sowell was healthy in 2017, playing in all 16 games. 

CB Patrick Robinson

The report: He may re-sign with the Philadelphia Eagles

Robinson is coming off a career year for the Super Bowl champion Eagles and could've been someone the Bears would look at as a slot corner, if they were to move on from restricted free agent Bryce Callahan. It doesn't appear they'll get that opportunity. 

SportsTalk Live Podcast: Will Cam Meredith return to the Bears?


SportsTalk Live Podcast: Will Cam Meredith return to the Bears?

Hub Arkush (Pro Football Weekly/670 The Score), Mark Grote (670 The Score) and Mark Carman (WGN Radio) join Luke Stuckmeyer on the panel. Quenton Nelson works out at Notre Dame’s pro day. If he’s still on the board at 8, should the Bears take him? Plus the panel talks about the Cubs outfield heading into 2018 and if it’s time to shut down both Jonathan Toews and Lauri Markkanen.

Could Quenton Nelson increase his value by playing tackle?

USA Today

Could Quenton Nelson increase his value by playing tackle?

SOUTH BEND, Ind. — Quenton Nelson hasn’t met with the Bears yet during this pre-draft process, and doesn’t have a local visit scheduled with them. But maybe that’s not too surprising.

Harry Hiestand has better intel on him than anyone else after coaching him for the past four years at Notre Dame, after all. 

“Coach Hiestand, he’s known me since I was an immature freshman that wasn’t good at football, until now being a lot more mature and responsible and doing the right thing and a good football player,” Nelson said. “He knows everything about me.”

Could part of that intel provided by Hiestand be that Nelson has the ability to eventually play tackle?

Nelson might be the closest to a “sure thing” prospect in this year’s draft, with his reams of dominant film and off-the-charts work ethic projecting him as an All-Pro for years to come. But that he plays guard is a stumbling block, given interior positions generally don’t hold as much value as tackles in the NFL.

So here’s a potential scenario for the Bears: They draft Nelson at No. 8 — which is still "high" for a guard — and plug him at left guard in 2018. They then, under the careful watch of Hiestand, slide him to tackle in 2019. 

“I’m pretty convinced that Q could do whatever he sets his mind to,” Mike McGlinchey, a first-round tackle in his own right who's Nelson’s ex-Irish teammate and workout buddy, said. “If that’s what teams want him to play, I’m sure he’ll take that head on and perform to the best of his ability.” 

Nelson, to his credit, is confident he could make the switch to tackle (he was recruited by Hiestand as a tackle, and began his college career backing up Zack Martin at tackle). He said the only team that’s asked him about it so far is the Cincinnati Bengals, though it’s unlikely he’ll still be on the board when they pick at No. 21. 

But maybe the thought of guards being significantly less valuable than tackles is slowly becoming antiquated in today’s NFL. Four of the top 10 highest paid offensive linemen, by total contract value, are interior linemen. Three of the top 10 offensive linemen with the most guaranteed money are guards, led by Andrew Norwell, who inked a five-year, $66.5 million deal with the Jacksonville Jaguars earlier this month with $30 million guaranteed at signing. Only one offensive lineman — Nate Solder, who just signed with the New York Giants — is guaranteed more money. 

Following the money, if teams are willing to splash down loads of cash for the best guards in the league, a team may be willing to spend a top-10 pick on a guard who could immediately be among the best at his position in the NFL. Or the calculation for whatever team drafts him may be this: Would you rather have him as a perennial All-Pro guard or "merely" a solid-to-good tackle? 

Regardless of where he ends up playing, though, Nelson is one of those supremely-talented players who takes the right approach to his craft — in other words, one of those guys you just want to get in your building. And while Nelson said he’d love to play for his hometown New York Giants — who could be interested in him with the No. 2 pick — he said getting to link back up with Hiestand would be an incredible opportunity, too. 

“That would be amazing to play for him,” Nelson said. “He’s the one that made me into the player I am today. I wouldn’t be here without him or be in any conversations in the draft without him, so it would mean a lot to play for him again.”