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Fox Era begins for Bears with preseason win over Dolphins

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Fox Era begins for Bears with preseason win over Dolphins

It's the first preseason game, so everything is taken with a grain of salt.

But the Bears' first teams struggled to open up the preseason slate, forcing the second- and third-string units to come back for a 27-10 win over the Miami Dolphins at Soldier Field in the first game under new head coach John Fox.

The No. 1 defense was gashed on the opening drive of the game, allowing a 14-play, 85-yard drive that resulted in a two-yard touchdown pass from Ryan Tannehill to Jarvis Landry on fourth down.

Pernell McPhee - the biggest offseason addition to the Bears defense - helped set up the Dolphins' score with an offside penalty on third down.

Jay Cutler and the first-team offense managed to overcome a three-and-out on the first possession to put up points the second time out, but they finished with more penalties (four) than points (three).

Matt Forte didn't see any time with the first-team offense, as Jacquizz Rodgers rushed seven times for 33 yards (4.7 average). Cutler went 4-for-7 with 42 yards during his time on the field.

[NBC SHOP: Gear up for the season, Bears fans!]

Offensive coordinator Adam Gase was true to his word when he said the Bears were going to commit to the run this year as he called a perfect 50/50 split on run and pass plays (11 each) in the first half before the final drive of the half when backup quarterback Jimmy Clausen led the Bears down the field on seven straight passes. On that possession, Clausen and the Bears ultimately ran out of time even though they were inside the red zone.

Even though the first teams looked shaky for the Bears, the second and third teams turned it on in the second half, overcoming a 10-3 deficit at the break.

The defense forced turnovers on three straight Dolphins drives in the third and fourth quarters (a Sherrick McManis fumble and recovery, a John Timu interception and a Sam Acho interception) that led to 14 points for the Bears as Robbie Gould converted two field goals and Ka'Deem Carey rushed the ball in from one-yard out (with a subsequent two-point conversion).

Clausen got the lion's share of playing time at quarterback, taking over for Cutler on the third series and playing all the way into the final few minutes. He was 17-for-27 passing for 151 yards and no touchdowns or interceptions.

Senorise Perry closed out the scoring for the Bears with a 54-yard touchdown run with less than four minutes remaining in the game.

Robbie Gould was a perfect 4-for-4 on the evening.

Local products Cameron Meredith (Illinois State) and Rashad Lawrence (Northwestern) were the Bears' top two receivers, as Meredith caught four passes on six targets for 47 yards and Lawrence hauled in three passes on seven targets for 25 yards.

Bears ’18 offseason dramatically different from ’17 but with difficult money-management issues looming

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USA TODAY

Bears ’18 offseason dramatically different from ’17 but with difficult money-management issues looming

About this time a year ago the Bears were setting up for the annual NFL beauty pageant in Indianapolis, sitting with the No. 3 pick in the 2017 draft and with myriad roster decisions to address with both that draft and free agency. Because of the Bears’ lofty draft position, even more scrutiny and attention swirled around the college prospects (Deshaun Watson, Jamal Adams, Solomon Thomas, not enough on Mitch Trubisky as it turned out, a testimonial to GM Ryan Pace’s ability to keep a secret).

But what was developing in free agency was arguably of even greater significance in what was then the short term, at least for John Fox, as it turned out. And the changed landscape this year bodes considerably better for Pace and the Bears. At least in one important respect.

First, a perspective from last year’s pre-Combine period...

Because of the unsettled quarterback situation – the Bears were working toward Mike Glennon and cutting Jay Cutler two weeks later – and concerns about a possible lame-duck situation for Fox, free agents and their agents were willing to look at the Bears but only if the Bears would pony up excessive guaranteed dollars. The worry any time a coach is heading into a tipping-point year is that if things go badly, the coach and staff are gone, and the resulting changes will alter the job situation of that particular veteran player.

So the likes of cornerbacks A.J. Bouye or Stephon Gilmore opted for less total money from Jacksonville and New England, respectively, because the Bears weren’t offering higher guarantees to compensate for the uncertainty.

(One of the reasons then-President/CEO Michael McCaskey stated to this reporter for firing Mike Ditka after the 1992 season was a concern over the negative pall Ditka cast over playing for the Bears as the NFL prepared for the 1993 start of free agency. A quarter-century later, Pace didn’t fire Fox because of free agents’ aversion to Fox, but the overall wasn’t making Pace’s job any easier.)

Would Alshon Jeffery have stayed if...

On a slightly different tack: Would Alshon Jeffery have given the Bears a more receptive look had the quarterback position been addressed sooner in the Fox/Pace tenure? Jeffery took less from the Eagles in a one-year prove-it deal, not because Philadelphia was so much warmer than Chicago, but in large part because of where the offensive arrow was pointing in Chicago with Fox, Dowell Loggains and an unsettled quarterback situation.

Not insignificantly in the Jeffery case: Jeffery had four choices – Bears, Indianapolis, Minnesota, Philadelphia. The Colts weren’t sure about Andrew Luck, coming off shoulder surgery and ultimately missing all of ’17. The Vikings were resting then on brittle Sam Bradford, whose knee broke down early, and Case Keenum wasn’t CASE KEENUM at that point. The Bears with Loggains and Glennon? Jeffery didn’t go with Philadelphia, Doug Pederson and Carson Wentz only for the money, which did come anyway.

The Bears have “fixed” all of those issues in the year that’s played out since Jeffery signed with the Eagles almost concurrent with the Bears moving on from Cutler. None of that matters now in the least with Jeffery, Bouye, Gilmore or any other options that demanded too much guaranteed money or spurned the Bears back then, but it does matter going into the run-up to free agency over the next couple weeks.

Why this in fact matters more than the draft is that, while sound organizations are grounded in quality drafting, the reality is that in virtually every offseason, more starters for that season are acquired via free agency than the draft. Last year’s draft centerpiece was Trubisky, though he wasn’t supposed to start last season. But free agents Glennon, Prince Amukamara, Marcus Cooper, Quintin Demps and Markus Wheaton and Kendall Wright were.

The money pit

Longtime Bears and NFL personnel chief Bill Tobin once remarked back in the beginning of free agency, “Just because you pay a guy $2 million doesn’t make him a $2-million player.” That still applies, adjusted for inflation. And that could make this free agency dicey for the Bears.

Because price isn’t always determined solely on quality; it’s a matter of supply and demand. And while the Bears are among those with the greatest estimated space under the projected cap of $178 million, the others way up on the list include Cleveland, Indianapolis, the Jets, Houston and Tampa Bay – all teams with five or fewer wins in ’17 and expected to be the most aggressive in using free agency to fix gaping holes. The Bears have a lot of money to spend, but so do a whole lot of others.

Meaning: A lot of dollars will be chasing a select few players, which will make some of them overpaid, not unlike Glennon was last offseason (how many apparently better options were there?) or a couple of others, who will be paid like $2 million players even if they aren’t, adjusted for inflation.

The result is another offseason of brinksmanship for Pace, this time in need of better results than his first three free agencies if the outcome for his second head coach is to be better than it was for his first.

Report: Bears could be a potential landing spot for Dolphins WR Jarvis Landry

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USA TODAY

Report: Bears could be a potential landing spot for Dolphins WR Jarvis Landry

The Bears are looking for an upgrade at wide receiver this offseason, and there may be one available.

The Dolphins used the franchise tag on wide receiver Jarvis Landry on Tuesday, in a move that many believe signals the team's desire to deal him instead of losing him in free agency for nothing.

Landry put up excellent numbers last season, catching 112 passes for 987 yards and nine touchdowns. He led the league in catches and was fourth in touchdown receptions but was just 17th in yards. His yards per reception ranked 108th of 139 qualifying players.

Still, it's no secret he'd be an upgrade for the Bears at wide receiver. Though they'll get Cam Meredith and Kevin White back from injury, the corps largely struggled and didn't give rookie quarterback Mitch Trubisky much help.

Luckily, they may be interested in Landry, per NFL.com's Ian Rapoport.

"There are a couple teams that we should keep an eye on as far as a potential Jarvis Landry landing spot......the Chicago Bears are looking for receviers," he said.

Rapoport also mentioned the Titans, Panthers and Saints as options for Landry. The franchise tag will pay Landry about $16 million before he becomes a free agent in 2019 (or has the franchise tag used on him again).