Adrian Amos

Bears expected to make major strikes early at multiple positions when free agency opens next week


Bears expected to make major strikes early at multiple positions when free agency opens next week

This is the time of NFL year when every rumor is true, and every rumor is absurd BS, with the “truth” only becoming set when signings or draft selections are announced.

Still, beginning with Kansas City general manager Brett Veach reminding listeners at the NFL Scouting Combine that new Bears coach and former KC offensive coordinator Matt Nagy had a working knowledge of Chiefs wide receiver Albert Wilson, connections have been made. Those will continue, if only because general managers like Ryan Pace do their due diligence and evaluations of multiple options on the market. The Bears may ultimately be all-in on perhaps two wide receivers, for instance, but they will have made inquiries and explored numbers on quite a few more than two.

With that in mind, and with the beginning next Monday of the period for negotiating contracts with other teams’ pending free agents, a number of Bears scenarios are in play. And Pace’s history points to the Bears striking early and very, very hard sooner in free agency rather than later.


Applying the transition tag to Kyle Fuller is only one part of the Bears’ efforts to (again) shore up a tipping-point position in their defense. The Bears were expected to be in the mix for Richard Sherman, but he agreed to terms with the San Francisco 49ers quickly after the Seahawks released him, so Ryan Pace will have to look elsewhere to enhance a secondary also featuring young safeties Adrian Amos and Eddie Jackson.

The Bears have been exploring a contract extension for Amos, who like Fuller delivered a breakout season in 2017.

Wide receiver

The given is that the Bears will make a preemptive strike at wideout. The questions are how many (one or two?) and exactly for whom?

Wilson is considered to be bordering on a fait accompli. Wilson was a central figure in the offense that Nagy directed in Kansas City and was a likely Bears suspect even before Veach’s Combine comments.

Assuming Wilson has been targeted by Pace in response to what Nagy and offensive assistant Brad Childress, also from Kansas City, are insisting upon, the “other shoe” becomes intriguing. Wilson at 5-foot-9 was effective both in the slot and on the outside. The Bears are desperate for production at wide receiver irrespective of who lines up where, which has them linked them to Jacksonville’s Allen Robinson, the latter coming off a torn ACL. Injuries at wide receiver may be a deal-killer after the injury issues that came in with Markus Wheaton from Pittsburgh last offseason, and which the Bears already have in place with Cameron Meredith and Kevin White.

Signing guys is easy, though. Signing “right” guys is a whole ‘nother matter altogether.

Pace appeared to have given his roster both depth and talent last offseason, only to see it devolve into one of the NFL’s worst. Consider that before last training camp, Pace signed Victor Cruz, Reuben Randle, Deonte Thompson, Markus Wheaton and Kendall Wright. And that’s with Meredith and White in place.

Wright proved to be worth the effort, but decisions were to stay with Wheaton over Thompson, who was released by the Bears on Oct. 11, after which he went to the Buffalo Bills and caught 27 passes for an average of nearly 16 yards per reception — more catches than any Bears wideout other than Wright and for an average gain greater than any Bear other than Wheaton and Tre McBride, total non-factors in the season.

The 2018 offseason needs to be exponentially more productive for the Bears. It’s not so simple.

Keeping their own

Just about every NFL team genuflects in the direction of building through the draft, with some pretty noteworthy exceptions — maybe the 1970s George Allen Washington Redskins, or the 2006 Bears, with most of the offense coming via free agency: Ruben Brown, Dez Clark, Roberto Garcia, Thomas Jones, Muhsin Muhammad, Fred Miller, John Tait. But those teams lost in their Super Bowls, so ... 

Still, even with the usual spate of aftershocks from the Scouting Combine, the true focus of the NFL is on the real-life game of fantasy football playing out now and over the next couple weeks. The draft simply cannot fill more than a small handful of needs; indeed, a draft that produces more than three starters was an anomaly before the Ryan Pace tenure, which has produced Amos and Eddie Goldman in 2015; Leonard Floyd, Cody Whitehair, Jonathan Bullard, Nick Kwiatkowski and Jordan Howard in 2016; and Mitch Trubisky, Eddie Jackson and Tarik Cohen last year.

Too infrequently the Bears have had no real reason to fashion a second contract for one of their own. Matt Forte and Kyle Long stand out as draft-hit exceptions worth new paper; Akiem Hicks and Willie Young were re-upped but were somebody else’s draft choices.

Information continues to bubble to the surface that the Bears are close on a multi-year extension for Goldman, who has emerged as one of the NFL’s best young defensive tackles.

The Bears' pitch to prospective coaches will be enticing, but not perfect


The Bears' pitch to prospective coaches will be enticing, but not perfect

MINNEAPOLIS — The John Fox Era came to a close Monday morning, less than 24 hours after the 2017 season ended with a 23-10 loss to the Minnesota Vikings. 

As the Bears begin the search for their third head coach since firing Lovie Smith after the 2012 season, keep this in mind: It won’t be as simple as the Bears identifying their guy and hiring him. With plenty of franchises expected to also have head-coaching vacancies — including sides with established quarterbacks like the Indianapolis Colts and Detroit Lions — the Bears will have to pitch themselves, too.

New Year’s Eve wasn’t exactly a great pitch for the Bears, with Michael Burton the team’s leading rusher at halftime with one carry for zero yards (Jordan Howard carried five times for minus-one yard). Mitchell Trubisky made a rookie mistake when he flipped the ball to no one in the end zone for an intentional grounding-caused safety, and the offense didn’t cross midfield until early in the first quarter. The Bears committed 10 penalties; they finish the 2017 season having committed at least eight penalties in nine games.

But looking at the larger scope of the Bears, there are three clear ways Ryan Pace, Ted Phillips and George McCaskey can sell the Bears to prospective coaching candidates:

1. Mitchell Trubisky

While Trubisky’s final 2017 numbers might not look too impressive (seven touchdowns, seven interceptions), those are in line with what plenty of rookie quarterbacks have done in recent history. The No. 2 overall pick has shown flashes of brilliance this year and has the athleticism and intangibles to be molded into a much better player. His leadership qualities shined even as the Bears again slipped to the bottom of the NFC North: The best anecdotal evidence of that is multiple veteran offensive linemen saying Trubisky would tell them to “shut the f*** up” if they were goofing off in the huddle.

There’s no better way for a head coach to obtain job security than by developing and tying himself to a franchise quarterback. Trubisky’s already worked through a lot of the growing pains of being a rookie, and the Bears should be able to entice some of the league’s best coaching candidates with an improving, highly touted quarterback.

2. The rest of the core

In addition to Trubisky, a good number of the Bears’ best players are in Years 1 or 2 of their NFL careers: Jordan Howard, Tarik Cohen, Cody Whitehair, Leonard Floyd, Nick Kwiatkoski and Eddie Jackson fit that bill. Eddie Goldman and Adrian Amos just finished their respective third years in the league. Adam Shaheen flashed his potential a few times between when the coaching staff played him more (following Zach Miller’s injury) and a chest injury that wound up ending his season (after the Cincinnati game). Akiem Hicks was a home run free-agent signing, Danny Trevathan a rock-solid anchor of the defense and a healthy Kyle Long is a key building block.

There’s still a lot of building that has to happen to fill out this roster, with wide receiver, edge rusher and cornerback red-line needs. The Bears could look to upgrade at tackle, too. The free agency whiffs since Pace became the team’s general manager in 2015 — most recently and notably, Markus Wheaton and Marcus Cooper at those red-line positions — have made those needs even more pressing. The Bears won’t be able to address all of them through the draft; Pace will need to hit on a free agent signing or a trade if all of them will be filled.

But there’s enough of a core here — it’s certainly better than things were after the end of the Marc Trestman/Phil Emery Era — that the next coach won’t have to do as much “erasing” as Fox did when he took over in 2015.

3. Updated facilities

The Bears picked an odd time — 4:30 p.m. on a Friday — to announce plans to significantly expand and renovate Halas Hall back in November. But the renovations are designed to add plenty of space and resources for the team’s players and coaches, and could be a selling point for not only the next coach, but future free agents. The renovations are expected to be completed in time for the 2019 season and include:

— A 13,000-square-foot indoor turf space with a 133’x26’ video projection wall and an adjacent virtual reality room.

— The weight room being expanded by 2,000 square feet.

— The sports medicine space being four times larger than the current space; there will also be an equipment room, recovery space and a nutrition and fuel station that are double the current size at Halas Hall.

— Coaches offices increasing by 50 percent, and position meeting rooms doubling in capacity.

— The locker room being expanded by 1,700 square feet, and a 3,250 players’ lounge will be added.

— The cafeteria being expanded by 4,300 square feet.

— Two additional practice fields that are already under construction, doubling the team’s outdoor practice field capacity.

Projecting what holes the Bears will have to fill on their 2018 depth chart

USA Today

Projecting what holes the Bears will have to fill on their 2018 depth chart

On Wednesday’s edition of the Under Center Podcast, John “Moon” Mullin and I broke down the Bears’ current depth chart, and which players on it will and won’t be back in 2018. 

The genesis of the pod, which you can listen to below, was with this color-coded depth chart:


Instead of a deep dive into each of these units, as we did on the podcast, this will more be a look at who those players are who are locked into roster spots in 2018. This should begin to paint a picture of where the Bears’ positions of need are heading into the offseason. 

QB: Mitchell Trubisky
RB: Jordan Howard, Tarik Cohen
WR: Cameron Meredith, Kevin White
TE: Dion Sims, Adam Shaheen
LT: Charles Leno Jr.
LG: Josh Sitton, Eric Kush
C: Cody Whitehair
RG: Kyle Long, Eric Kush

The first point to note with any of these projections is we don’t know what the Bears offense and defense will look like in 2018 with a potentially different coaching staff in place (i.e., if that coaching staff wants a fullback). 

The biggest need on this side of the ball, clearly, is wide receiver. Meredith and White are both coming off injuries (for White, three injuries in three years), and it’s fair to wonder if they can be as productive as the Bears expected them to be this season. 

The top five receivers currently scheduled to hit free agency are Davante Adams (744 yards, 7 TDs), Jarvis Landry (699 yards, 6 TDs), Marqise Lee (637, 3 TDs), Paul Richardson (592 yards, 5 TDs) and Sammy Watkins (528 yards, 6 TDs). Dontrelle Inman and Kendall Wright could play their way into contracts with the Bears in 2018 — both are due to hit free agency, too — with good play down the stretch. Inman, especially, has quickly developed chemistry with Trubisky since being acquired from the Los Angeles Chargers in October. 

The Bears could also potentially see an upgrade at right tackle, depending on how they’ve evaluated Bobby Massie’s season and his potential cap savings if he’s released ($5.6 million, according to Spotrac). There will be a need to add depth behind these starting linemen — though if Kush returns healthy from a training camp ACL injury, that would be a boost. 

Not all of these offensive players are "core" guys, but Trubisky, Howard, Cohen, Sitton, Whitehair and Long should fit that designation. 

DE: Akiem Hicks, Jonathan Bullard
DT: Eddie Goldman
OLB: Leonard Floyd
ILB: Danny Trevathan, Nick Kwiatkoski
S: Eddie Jackson, Adrian Amos

Whether the Bears’ 2018 defense is a 3-4 (as run by Vic Fangio) or a 4-3 (as run by a different defensive coordinator) remains to be seen, but these eight players would fit any scheme. 

The clear need is at cornerback, with Kyle Fuller and Prince Amukamara becoming free agents next year. Marcus Cooper hasn’t played up to his contract and would save the Bears $4.5 million in cap room if he were released (again, per Spotrac). Nickel corners Bryce Callahan (a restricted free agent) and Cre’von LeBlanc could be back, as could special teams ace Sherrick McManis (an unrestricted free agent). Finding an upgrade at this position is a definite “must-do” for the Bears’ offseason checklist.

But so is adding at least one go-to edge rusher, regardless of scheme fit. Pernell McPhee and Willie Young aren’t guaranteed to be back, given their relative lack of production (largely in McPhee’s case), their injury histories (in both players’ cases) or their age (in Young’s case). But if the Bears pencil in Hicks and Floyd as go-to pass-rushers in 2018, they still need a third. 

The good news is Jackson and Amos proved to be a solid safety duo in 2017, and that should carry over to 2018 (Quintin Demps could return, but perhaps as a backup). Goldman has been one of the Bears’ best defensive players this year and could be in line for a contract extension in the offseason. Trevathan is a rock on this defense, too, and is another player on whom a 2018 defense can be built. 

The "core" guys in this group: Hicks, Goldman, Trevathan and Floyd. 

Long snapper: Andrew DePaola, Patrick Scales

Pat O’Donnell will be a free agent, while the Bears’ revolving door of kickers in 2017 isn’t likely to produce a long-term solution in 2018.