Bears

NFL Tracker: Where the top 2016 free agents are going

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NFL Tracker: Where the top 2016 free agents are going

The new League year is almost upon us. CSNChicago.com is tracking all the major signings as NFL free agency begins Wednesday at 3 p.m.

For a complete list of 2016 NFL free agents go to Rotoworld.com.

Quarterbacks

Kirk Cousins signs franchise tag with Redskins.

Sam Bradford signs two-year, $36 million deal with Eagles.

Brock Osweiler signs four-year, $72 million deal with Texans.

Chase Daniel agrees to three-year, $21 million deal with Eagles.

Chad Henne signs two-year, $8 million deal with Jaguars.

Matt Schaub agrees to deal with Falcons.

Colt McCoy signs three-year deal with Redskins.

Drew Stanton returns to Cardinals with two-year, $6.5 million deal.

Dan Orlovsky signs undisclosed deal with Lions.

Luke McCown signs two-year, $3 million deal with Saints

Matt Cassel signs one-year deal with Titans

Kellen Clemens signs one-year, $1.065 million deal with Chargers.

Running Back

Matt Forte agrees to three-year, $12 million deal with Jets.

Doug Martin re-signs with the Buccaneers on a five-year, $35.75 million deal.

Lamar Miller signs a four-year, $26 million deal with the Texans.

C.J. Anderson signs four-year, $18 million offer sheet with Dolphins.

Chris Ivory agrees to five-year deal with Jaguars.

Khiry Robinson signs one-year, $1.75 million deal with Jets.

Bilal Powell signs three-year, $11.25 million deal with Jets

Shaun Draughn signs one-year deal with 49ers.

Jacquizz Rodgers re-signs one-year deal with Bears.

[MORE FREE AGENCY: Bears bolster defense, agree to terms with linebacker Jerrell Freeman]

Fullback

Mike Tolbert re-signs with Panthers for two-years and $4 million.

Wide Receiver

Alshon Jeffery signs franchise tag ($14.599 million) with Bears.

Travis Benjamin agrees to four-year, $24 million with Chargers.

Marvin Jones agrees to five-year, $40 million deal with Lions.

Mohamed Sanu signs five-year, $32.5 million deal with Falcons.

Rishard Matthews signs three-year, $15 million deal with Titans.

Brian Quick signs one-year, $1.75 million deal with Rams.

Jermaine Kearse signs three-year, $13.5 million deal with Seahawks.

Darrius Heyward-Bey signs three-year, $3.8 million deal with Steelers.

Chris Hogan signs offer sheet with Patriots.

Rod Streater signs undisclosed deal with Chiefs. 

Keshawn Martin signs two-year, $3 million with Patriots.

Brandon Tate signs one-year deal with Bengals.

Marc Mariani re-signs one-year deal with Bears.

Tight End

Antonio Gates re-signs with the Chargers on two-year, $12 million deal.

Ladarius Green agrees to multi-year deal with Steelers.

Dwayne Allen returns to Colts on four-year, $29.4 million deal.

Coby Fleener signs five-year, $36 million with Saints.

Ben Watson agrees to two-year, $7 million deal with Titans.

Marcedes Lewis signs three-year, $12 million deal with Jaguars.

Craig Stevens signs one-year, $2 million deal with Titans.

Garrett Celek signs four-year, $14 million deal with 49ers.

Michael Hoomanawanui signs three-year deal with Saints.

Offensive Tackle

Cordy Glenn signs franchise tag ($13.07 million) with Bills

Mitchell Schwartz signs five-year, $33 million deal with Chiefs.

Bobby Massie signs three-year, $18 million deal with Bears.

Joseph Barksdale signs four-year, $22.2 million deal with Chargers

Chris Clark signs two-year, $6 million deal with Texans.

Donald Stephenson agrees to deal with Broncos.

Jermon Bushrod signs one-year deal with Dolphins.

Sam Young signs one-year, $760K deal with Dolphins.

Guard/Center

Alex Mack agrees to five-year, $47.5 million deal with Falcons.

Kelechi Osemele agrees to five-year, $58.5 million deal with Raiders.

Brandon Brooks signs five-year, $40 million deal with Eagles.

Alex Boone agrees to multi-year deal with Vikings.

Jeff Allen signs four-year, $28 million deal with Texans.

Richie Incognito re-signs three-year, $15.75 deal with Bills.

Ramon Foster re-signs three-year deal with Steelers.

Ben Jones agrees to four-year, $17.5 million deal with Titans.

Mike Harris re-signs with Vikings for one-year, $3 million deal.

J.R. Sweezy signs five-year, $32.5 million deal with Buccaneers.

Chris Scott re-signs one-year deal with Panthers.

[MORE FREE AGENCY: Bears add to 'violent' quotient with Danny Trevathan, Bobby Massie]

Defensive Line

Muhammad Wilkerson signs franchise tag with Jets.

Malik Jackson agrees to six-year, $85.5 million with Jaguars.

Derek Wolfe re-signs four-year, $36.7 million deal with Broncos.

Jaye Howard signs two-year, $12 million deal with Chiefs.

Damon Harrison signs five-year, $46.25 million deal with Giants.

Haloti Ngata agrees to two-year deal with Lions.

Ian Williams returns to 49ers on five-year, $27.5 million deal.

Charles Johnson re-signs one-year, $3 million deal with Panthers.

Vinny Curry re-signs five-year, $47.25 million deal with Eagles.

Cedric Thornton signs four-year, $18 million deal with Cowboys.

Brandon Mebane signs three-year, $13.5 million deal with Chargers. 

Adrian Clayborn signs two-year, $9 million deal with Falcons.

Tyrunn Walker re-signs with Lions for one-year, $1.6 million.

Letroy Guion re-signs three-year, $11.25 million deal with Packers.

Kendall Reyes signs one-year deal with Redskins.

Ahtyba Rubin signs three-year, $12 million deal with Seahawks.

Kedric Golston re-signs one-year, $1 million deal with the Redskins.

Kenrick Ellis re-signs one-year deal with Vikings.

Mitch Unrein re-signs two-year deal with Bears.

Defensive End/Linebacker

Von Miller signs franchise tag with Broncos.

Jason Pierre-Paul re-signs one-year, 10 million deal with Giants.

Olivier Vernon signs five-year, $85 million deal with Giants.

Mario Williams agrees to two-year, $17 million deal with Dolphins.

Tamba Hali signs three-year, $22 million deal with Chiefs.

Bruce Irvin agrees to four-year, $37 million deal with Raiders.

Nick Perry signs one-year, $5 million deal with Packers.

William Hayes re-signs with Rams on a three-year, $21 million deal.

Albert McClellan signs three-year deal with Ravens.

Derrick Shelby signs four-year, $18 million deal with Dolphins

Linebacker

Danny Trevathan signs four-year, $24.5 million deal with Bears.

Jerrell Freeman signs three-year, $12 million deal with Bears.

Derrick Johnson signs three-year, $21 million deal with Chiefs.

Mark Barron signs five-year, $45 million with Rams.

Rolando McClain re-signs one-year, $4 million deal with Cowboys.

Mason Foster re-signs two-year deal with Redskins.

Tahir Whitehead signs two-year, $8 million deal with Lions.

Vincent Rey signs three-year, $11.5 million deal with Bengals.

Emmanuel Lamur agrees to deal with Vikings.

Nigel Bradham signs two-year deal with Eagles.

Sean Weatherspoon signs one-year deal with Falcons.

Keenan Robinson signs one-year, $3.5 million deal with Giants.

Audie Cole re-signs one-year deal with Vikings.

Travis Lewis signs undisclosed deal with Vikings.

Tank Carder re-signs with Browns on a two-year, $2.5 million deal.

[SHOP: Gear up, Bears fans!]

Cornerback

Josh Norman signs franchise tag with Panthers.

Janoris Jenkins agrees to five-year, $62.5 million deal with Giants.

Trumaine Johnson signs franchise tag ($13.952 million) with Rams.

Prince Amukamara signs one-year deal with Jaguars.

Sean Smith signs four-year, $40 million deal with Chiefs.

Pacman Jones signs three-year deal to return to Bengals.

Tracy Porter three-year, $12 million deal with Bears.

Brent Grimes signs two-year, $16.5 deal with Buccaneers.

Leodis McKelvin signs two-year, $6.2 million deal with Eagles.

Jeremy Lane signs four-year, $23 million deal with Seahawks.

William Gay returns to Steelers on three-year deal.

Brice McCain signs two-year, $4 million deal with Titans.

Morris Claiborne signs one-year, $3 million deal with Cowboys.

Shareece Wright signs three-year, $16 million deal with Ravens.

Kyle Wilson re-signs one-year deal with Saints.

Sherrick McManis signs two-year, $2.85 million deal with Bears.

Marcus Sherels signs two-year deal with Vikings.

Safety

Eric Berry signs franchise tag with Chiefs

George Iloka signs five-year, $30 million deal with Bengals.

Tashaun Gipson agrees to five-year, $35.5 million deal with Jaguars.

Rodney McLeod agrees to five-year, $37 million deal with Eagles.

Tyvon Branch signs two-year, $10 million deal with Cardinals.

Michael Griffin signs one-year, $3 million deal with Vikings.

Andrew Sendejo re-signs four-year, $16 million deal with Vikings.

Isa Abdul-Quddus signs three-year, $12.75 million deal with Dolphins.

Dwight Lowery signs three-year, $7.2 million deal with Chargers.

Rafael Bush signs one-year, $2.4 million deal with Lions.

Chris Clemons signs one-year deal with Cardinals.

Keith Tandy re-signs with Buccaneers on a two-year, $1.85 million deal.

Nate Allen signs one-year, $3 million deal with Raiders.

Robert Golden re-signs three-year, $5 million deal with Steelers.

Kicker

Justin Tucker signs franchise tag with Ravens.

Mason Crosby signs four-year, $16.1 million deal with Packers.

Adam Vinatieri signs two-year, $6 million deal with Colts.

Nick Novak signs one-year, $965K deal with Texans.

Kai Forbath signs deal with Saints.

Punter

Marquette King re-signs five-year, $16.5 million deal with Raiders.

Shane Lechler signs one-year deal with Texans.

Brad Nortman agrees to four-year deal with Jaguars.

2017 Bears position grades: Outside Linebacker

2017 Bears position grades: Outside Linebacker

OUTSIDE LINEBACKER

2017 grade: C-

Level of need: High

Decisions to be made on: Willie Young (contract), Pernell McPhee (contract), Sam Acho (free agent), Lamarr Houston (free agent)

Possible free agent targets: DeMarcus Lawrence, Ezekiel Ansah, Adrian Clayborn, Connor Barwin, Kony Ealy

 

Would you believe that no true outside linebacker in this year’s free agent class had more sacks than Lamarr Houston did last year? Houston and the Rams’ Connor Barwin each had five, underscoring how rare it is for an elite edge rusher to make it to free agency.

 

There are a few that, for now, are due to hit the open market. DeMarcus Lawrence racked up 14 ½ sacks with the Dallas Cowboys last year, but played as a defensive end in a 4-3 scheme. The same goes for the Detroit Lions’ Ezekiel Ansah, who had a dozen sacks in 2017. But if either reaches free agency, it’d be a surprise -- again, pass-rushers with that kind of production rarely escape the franchise tag.

 

If Lawrence or Ansah do become available, the Bears would likely be a part of the feeding frenzy to sign either player. Whether they could convince either player that 1) Chicago is a desirable destination and 2) that they’d be just as, if not more, productive in a 3-4 base instead of a 4-3 is a different question.

 

The same goes for Atlanta’s Adrian Clayborn, who had 9 ½ sacks last year (including a ridiculous six-sack game) but played in a 4-3 and may not be looking to leave Atlanta. The Falcons, though, could be in a tricky salary cap situation with defensive lineman Dontari Poe and longtime kicker Matt Bryant both due to hit free agency.

 

Fangio’s scheme is malleable, though, and any of these players would be a fit in it one way or another. Spotrac estimates Lawrence would command an average annual salary of $14 million per year, while Ansah would be slightly lower at $13.2 million. Either way, either of those guys could command the biggest contract Pace has given a defensive player (although the Bears were prepared to give cornerback A.J. Bouye more than the $13.5 million average annual salary that he’s receiving with the Jacksonville Jaguars.

 

Both Willie Young and Pernell McPhee could be released this off-season, too, to free up cap room. Cutting Young would net $4.5 million in cap savings, while a release of McPhee would free up a little over $7 million, according to Spotrac. Of the two, Young may be the more likely guy to stick around, despite coming off a season-ending triceps injury. While he’ll be 33 next September, Young has 9 ½ sacks in the last two year while McPhee has eight (while playing in more games than Young). This may not be an either-or situation, though -- the Bears could very well cut both.

 

Houston is an interesting option to retain after he racked up four sacks in five games after returning to the Bears last December. He’s struggled to stay healthy in his career, though, and the Bears probably wouldn’t re-sign him and count on the 30-year-old to be a starter in 2018, especially considering the uncertain recovery status of Leonard Floyd. Sam Acho could be brought back as a solid depth option, too.

 

The success of this unit, though, will hinge more on Floyd than whatever the Bears are able to do in free agency or the draft. The Bears need their 2016 first-round pick to A) stay healthy and B) improve as an edge rusher after injuries have limited him to 22 games and 11 ½ sacks in his first two seasons. If every team needs three reliable pass-rushers, the Bears will need to pencil in Floyd next to Akiem Hicks (who, for what it’s worth, is more of a run-stuffer, but did total 8 ½ sacks in 2017) and then either a free agent or a draft pick.

 

The most likely route to land that third pass rusher, though, is probably through the draft unless a top talent like Lawrence, Ansah or Clayborn hits free agency -- and then matches with the Bears.

The Bears have options but no easy decisions on tagging Kyle Fuller

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USA Today

The Bears have options but no easy decisions on tagging Kyle Fuller

The Bears need long-term solutions at cornerback, and have one of the NFL’s most reliable players at that position in 2017 about to hit free agency. But that doesn’t mean Ryan Pace has an easy decision on his hands when it comes to applying the franchise tag on Kyle Fuller. 

Fuller was one of four players with at least 20 passes defended (breakups plus interceptions) in 2017, and also played well in run support. For a guy who not only had his fifth-year option declined last April, but had to play his way onto the Bears’ 53-man roster in training camp, it was an impressive year that should set Fuller up for a sizable payday. 

“(I’m) very proud of Kyle Fuller,” Pace said last month. “He went through some adversity the last couple of years and how he responded this year, his ball production was outstanding. A lot of PBUs. His preparation was outstanding. I think you can tell when a corner is prepared to play. And he can anticipate routes and things of that nature. Just a very professional approach. Very even-keeled approach. I think it started really with the way he attacked the offseason. And he had a good season because of that.”

That adversity Pace alluded to is another factor in the Fuller decision — was he a one-year wonder in 2017, and will the injuries and inconsistencies that plagued him from 2014-2016 return? 

The injuries are harder to predict, though it’s worth noting Fuller re-gained the trust of defensive coordinator Vic Fangio in 2017 after sitting out the entire 2016 season due to a knee issue. The inconsistencies, logically, shouldn’t return as long as Fuller remains as dedicated to film study and preparation in 2018 and beyond.

“(It was) definitely a different kind of season,” Fuller said on locker cleanout day in January. “Definitely feel good about what I was able to do. You always feel like you could do better.”

Fangio, importantly, consistently praised Fuller's play last season — and Fangio rarely entertains empty platitudes in his media sessions. 

"I think he’s come back with purpose," Fangio said in December. "He’s been very mature the whole year with his work ethic and habits and I think he had a mindset to go out and play better than he had in ’15 because you can’t compare it to ’16 and I think he’s achieved that. I just think he’s in a better frame of mind, more competitive. He knows what he wants and he’s got it narrowed down.”

If Fuller’s ceiling is higher than what he did in 2017 — he dropped a handful of interceptions, which stands as an easily-identifiable area of improvement - then perhaps he’d be a bargain with whatever contract he gets. 

But for now, we’re going to focus on the franchise tag. The Bears have the following options:

Place the non-exclusive franchise tag on Fuller. This would allow other teams to sign an offer sheet with another team, but the Bears would have the ability match the offer. If they didn’t, they’d be entitled to receiving two first-round draft picks from the team that signed Fuller. 

Place the exclusive franchise tag on Fuller. This would prohibit Fuller’s representation from seeking offers from other teams, and lock Fuller in to playing for the Bears in 2018 unless the tag were rescinded for some unexpected reason. 

Place the transition tag on Fuller. This would allow the Bears to match any offer sheet signed by Fuller, but they wouldn’t be entitled to compensation if they don’t match it. 

Decline to tag Fuller. This would mean he’d hit the open market once the league’s legal tampering period begins March 12 and free agency officially opens March 14. 

Let’s evaluate these options:

Non-exclusive franchise tag

The dance here would be if Fuller would quickly sign the one-year tag and begin negotiating a long-term deal — the two parties would have until July 16 to do so — or if he’d wait things out until the spring or summer to sign it. The Bears are in a healthy position salary cap-wise, so Fuller wouldn’t necessarily gain leverage by signing the one-year tender to guarantee him somewhere around $15 million (the NFL hasn’t released its official franchise tag figures yet, and won’t do so until sometime in early-to-mid-March. The Bears could afford to pay Fuller that one-year salary and still seek another top-level free agent, as well as other signings. 

It’s unlikely any team would be willing to part with a pair of first-round picks for Fuller, so effectively, this would be an exclusive tag. 

The calculation for Pace is this: Is Fuller really worth somewhere in the range of $15 million? That salary would make him the highest-paid player on the Bears, on an annual average salary basis, ahead of Akiem Hicks ($12 million annually), Kyle Long ($10 million), Charles Leno ($9.25 million), Pernell McPhee ($7.75 million, though he could be cut) and Mitchell Trubisky ($7.258 million — and this doesn’t include Mike Glennon, who all but certainly will be cut). 

In a multi-year deal, Fuller wouldn’t get an average annual value of $15 million — not when A.J. Bouye ($13.5 million) and Stephon Gilmore ($13 million) got less in free agency last year. Spotrac provided the following “market value” estimates for fellow 2018 free agent cornerbacks: $13 million annually for Malcolm Butler, $11 million for Trumaine Johnson, $9.3 million for E.J. Gaines and $6.9 million for Bashaud Breeland. How accurate those numbers are depends on your evaluation of each player — but for what it’s worth, Bleacher Report’s NFL1000 rankings have Fuller (No. 10 corner) as the highest-rated player of that bunch. 

If the Bears couldn’t work out a long-term deal with Fuller, he’d play out 2018 on the franchise tag, leading to Pace facing the same decision — albeit at a higher salary — at this time in 2019. 

Exclusive franchise tag

Fuller may be a good player, but he’s not *so* good that the Bears would want to place the exclusive tag on him. Some team may be willing to give up two first-round picks to sign Le’Veon Bell, but almost certainly not Fuller. 

Transition tag

If the Bears were to place this on Fuller, it would cost them less money in 2018 (it pays the average of the top 10 salaries at a position, instead of top five for the franchise tag) but wouldn’t entitle the Bears to compensation if they declined to match an offer sheet for Fuller. It seems unlikely the Bears would use this, given the defensive coaching staff and front office remain in place and have a strong and thorough evaluation of Fuller. Essentially: The Bears should know by March 6 at the latest if they're in or out on Fuller. If the Bears are going to risk losing Fuller to get him at a lower price, they’ll more likely…

Decline to place the tag

This would mean Fuller would be risked losing to the open market. Butler, Johnson, Gaines and Breeland comprise a solid crop of free agent corners, but that may not prevent Fuller from landing one of the three biggest contracts at his position. If the Bears went this route, they’d likely still try to re-sign Fuller while also putting forth competitive offers (as they did last year for Bouye and Gilmore) for Butler and/or Johnson. 

Letting Fuller hit unfettered free agency could mean the Bears are confident in their ability to sign at least one top cornerback, though that’s a dangerous game to play after Bouye turned down more money from them to sign with the Jacksonville Jaguars a year ago. But perhaps Pace feels more confident this year in his team’s ability to lure top free agents, thanks to consistency in a well-respected defensive staff, a young and energetic head coach, a hopeful franchise quarterback in place and significant improvements to Halas Hall in the works. 

Pace has two weeks to make his call; expect him to use up most of that time to calculate the decision on Fuller. The Bears could opt to go a route that keeps Fuller in Chicago, then re-sign Prince Amukamara (who’s an unrestricted free agent) and Bryce Callahan (who’s a restricted free agent) and keep the top of their cornerback depth chart steady, and then draft a cornerback — either a top one, like Ohio State’s Denzel Ward, or a more developmental one in the middle rounds. Or the Bears could blow up the depth chart, letting Fuller and Amukamara walk and looking to sign and draft players to fill out the position. 

But the decision on Fuller is the first step. What it is will start to bring the Bears’ offseason into focus.