Bears

View from the Moon: No news is good news for CBA

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View from the Moon: No news is good news for CBA

Monday, Feb. 21, 2011Posted: 11:15 PM

By John Mullin
CSNChicago.com

The presence of a mediator in the middle between the NFL and the players association is ostensibly a cause for some optimism. Anytime neither side is walking away from a negotiation and both are showing up to talk, it is something worth noting. The 20 hours of talks over the weekend are scheduled to be followed by another seven hours Tuesday after more conversations on Monday.

If the situation isnt necessarily moving up, at least the rate of descent arguably has slowed a little. The lack of public comments from either side might be a sign that at last theyve all finally agreed on something. Were still not seeing white smoke from the conclave but were not hearing shots of invective. Ill take that as a win for now.

But players contacted by CSNChicago.com still believe that the owners want to follow through with the lockout as of Mar. 4, so any real optimism is premature at this point, mediator or no.

The players are clear that they would be happy staying with the current deal. The owners were clear that they werent when they exercised their opt-out in 2008. The players indicate that they will look at a different owner idea but would also like a look, whether through independent verifier or whatever device, at the books that owners maintain are in need of concessions. Not something the owners side has shown any willingness to grant.

The owners arent building cred when they proceed with contract extensions to head coaches (like the one coming for Lovie Smith) while furloughing employees (not the Bears, but other teams) and flirting with a collusion charge by doing little beyond exercising a few franchise tags to take care of players futures.

Lovie dealin

Nothing is ever done until its done but whispers are growing a little louder that Lovie Smiths new contract may well be in place within the next two weeks, CSNChicago.com was told Monday.

The extension, forecast here for some time dating back into last season, is expected to add two years and give Smith a modest pay bump from the approximately 4.8 million he made in 2010 and stay in the range of his estimated 5.5 million for 2011.

It will leave him short of the 6 million-plus that Bill Belichick in New England, Mike Shanahan in Washington and Pete Carroll in Seattle collect. But they have him securely in the top 10 range along with New Orleans Sean Payton and Arizonas Ken Whisenhunt and ahead of first-timer Jim Harbaughs 5 million per season.

The market has been settling with the three-year extension worth 12 million given to John Harbaugh by the Baltimore Ravens and the 15 million for three additional years accorded Mike McCarthy by the Green Bay Packers in the wake of their Super Bowl victory.

Smith has guided his teams into two of the last five NFC Championship games and the playoffs in three of the last six seasons, with three different starting quarterbacks. Not someone this organization can afford to lose.

And it is looking progressively more likely that they wont, at least not after 2011.

Jay-birding

The fallout from Jay Cutlers knee injury probably goes on until he and the Bears play through to a Super Bowl. But Im not sure some of the Bears will ever get fully past the backstabbing that they saw Cutler take from so-called members of the fraternity, the Twitter-trashing and second-guessing that fellow and former players heaped on Cutler afterwards, particularly ones knowing nothing about his actual condition.

Sitting with Israel Idonije at the March of Dimes Comcast SportsNet awards event recently, that abuse was still a very, very sore point with at least one Cutler teammate and clearly with others. And Cutlers coach hasnt lost any of the edginess either when Cutlers toughness, leadership and whatever else are questioned.

ProFootballTalk.coms Michael David Smith covers Lovie Smiths answers to fans questions on the team website and Smith hasnt moved a millimeter from his Jay is our quarterback position.

Dont take that lightly. One of the things that players like and respect about Smith is that he has his players backs in public. Idonije mentioned that about him, and Izzy also laughed and said Cutler is different, just like wide receivers and kickers, but in the locker room he is one of the guys.

Whatever Cutlers public persona is, the one that matters most is with Smith and teammates and if theres any second-guessing there, Im not finding it.

John "Moon" Mullin is CSNChicago.com's Bears Insider, and appears regularly on Bears Postgame Live and Chicago Tribune Live. Follow Moon on Twitter for up-to-the-minute Bears information.

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.

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.