Jerrell Freeman

Bears get younger, net more cap savings in releasing Pernell McPhee and Quintin Demps

USA Today

Bears get younger, net more cap savings in releasing Pernell McPhee and Quintin Demps

The Bears continued shedding veterans and netting cap savings on Monday, with the team announcing the releases of linebacker Pernell McPhee and safety Quintin Demps.

Those two cuts come on the heels of the Bears last week releasing guard Josh Sitton and linebacker Jerrell Freeman. All told, those four moves garner the Bears about $21 million in cap savings; the expected release of quarterback Mike Glennon will produce $11.5 million more in cap savings, per Spotrac, and if the Bears release Markus Wheaton and Marcus Cooper, that’d save another $9.5 million. 

But in releasing two more veterans — Demps, like Sitton and Freeman, was a captain; McPhee was regarded as a good locker room guy, too — the Bears are continuing to get younger, too. 

Adrian Amos’ emergence as a solid player (maybe not an elite one, as some outside evaluations have pegged him as) made Demps an unlikely candidate to return as an expensive backup. Demps missed all but three games in 2017 due to a fractured forearm, and regrettably for him, his most notable moment was getting stiff-armed by Atlanta Falcons tight end Austin Hooper on an 88-yard touchdown in Week 1. 

McPhee’s production never matched the five-year, $38.75 million contract he signed in 2015, which was Ryan Pace’s first big splash as general manager. McPhee played in 36 of the Bears’ 48 games his three years in Chicago, only starting 17 of those and recording 14 sacks. He’ll be 30 in December, and despite being a positive presence at Halas Hall, his play didn’t match the near-$8 million cap number attached to him for 2018. The Bears could certainly look to draft an edge rusher with the No. 8 pick in April's NFL Draft. 

While Sitton wasn’t one of Pace’s free agent misses, McPhee, Freeman and Demps fall into that category (as do Glennon, Wheaton and Cooper). The Bears could wind up cutting ties with all of those busts, giving Pace plenty of money to spend on second contracts for Eddie Goldman and, possibly, Amos, as well as in this year’s free agent market. It’s now on Pace to make sure he hits on more of his free agent targets than he has in the past while nailing an important draft to build out the roster around a franchise quarterback and a first-year coach. 

“Free agency is high risk, and we understand that,” Pace said on New Year’s Day. “I think with free agency you have to be very disciplined during that time period, and I think we have been in regards to how we’ve structured a lot of these contracts. I think that’s helped. But I think as we continue to build more through the draft, we can continue to be a little more selective in free agency. There have been some hits. We talk about (Danny) Trevathan and (Akiem) Hicks. And there have been some misses too. That’s on me. We need to get better in that area, and we will get better in that area. But primarily our goal, as you know, is build through the draft and develop those players.”

Bears linebacker Jerrell Freeman got suspended — again — and admits his career may be over


Bears linebacker Jerrell Freeman got suspended — again — and admits his career may be over

Yes, you read that right.

For the second time in a calendar year, Bears veteran linebacker Jerrell Freeman was suspended for violating the NFL policy on performance enhancing substances.

Freeman — who is on injured reserve with a torn pectoral muscle — will be suspended 10 games starting immediately.

He was suspended Nov. 21, 2016 for four games for the same violation.

Freeman released a statement on Twitter, acknowledging his career may be over due to a head injury that he has been dealing with:

"I hate to say I'm sorry again but I am sorry. I've been on IR all year and you try and stay out of sight, but sorry for the distracton. I had been lying to friends, family, and loved ones when it came to the question of "Are you OK?". Knowing my career may be over due everything that came with the head injury (that's been purposely downplayed by me), memory loss and all, has actually been a bit of a struggle. That being said there's no excuse to cope with any problems by taking any kind of pills. I don't know my future but a big thanks to the Bears and the NFL, if I would have used their programs and services earlier than I did I wouldn't be in this situation. Sorry again for the distraction."

The 31-year-old Freeman signed a three-year, $12 million contract prior to the 2016 Bears season and was named one of the team's captains this fall. He has recorded 120 tackles over 13 games over two years and appeared in just one game in 2017.

Depth check: How injuries and suspension will have a major impact on Bears-Vikings


Depth check: How injuries and suspension will have a major impact on Bears-Vikings

A month ago, the Bears could reasonably describe their depth at inside linebacker as strong, and maybe as the strongest unit on the team. 

But on Monday, the Bears will be without the trio of players who comprised that depth: Jerrell Freeman is on injured reserve with a pectoral tear; Nick Kwiatkoski’s pec injury isn’t as serious but will keep him sidelined; and Danny Trevathan will serve his one-game suspension for the helmet-to-helmet hit he leveled on Green Bay Packers wide receiver Davante Adams last week. 

Trevathan will be back next week and Kwiatkoski appears to have avoided injured reserve, meaning he can be expected back at some point this season. But without them, the Bears will roll with Christian Jones, John Timu and Jonathan Anderson (the latter two began the season on the practice squad) against the Minnesota Vikings. 

“It's a concern, but at least we're playing with guys that were here that were in camp,” defensive coordinator Vic Fangio said. “That was the one position on defense, when we went to the 53 and practice squad where we did have guys, we had four active and two on practice squad and now all six of them have played, so (we) feel good about that in that we're not having somebody in off the street having to learn a new system and I think they'll all do fine.”

Jones and Timu have seen a decent amount of snaps alongside Trevathan this year: In the last three weeks, Jones’ defensive snap counts are 47, 36 and 28 while Timu played 17 snaps against Pittsburgh and 19 against Green Bay (Anderson has not played a defensive snap since Week 2). 

Timu, who’s played in 20 games over the last three years, will handle the defensive calls on Monday.

“We’re confident in John,” Fangio said. “John knows our defense. He’s been here for three years. The game’s not too big for him. He loves to play. He is instinctive and smart. So we think he’ll go in there and do fine.”

Added linebacker Pernell McPhee: “Timu’s a very good player, a very smart player, a very patient player. I think his play on the field shows how much he’s studying and how much he’s really locked in throughout the week.”

The Bears may be without two other starters, too: Saturday’s final injury report listed outside linebacker Willie Young (tricep) as doubtful, while cornerback Marcus Cooper is questionable with back spasms. Going back further, the Bears are also without veteran safety Quintin Demps, who handled a lot of the communication duties for this defense. 

But the Vikings will be without rookie Dalvin Cook (74 carries, 354 yards, 2 TDs), who tore his ACL last week. Backups Jerick McKinnon (2.6 yards/attempt) and Latavius Murray (2.7 yards/attempt) haven’t inspired much fear in 2017. And the expectation at Halas Hall is that quarterback Sam Bradford will start, though he’s listed as questionable on the Vikings’ final injury report. 

So in the matchup of the Bears' defense against the Vikings' offense, the group that gets the most out of its depth guys may be the one that swings that battle on Monday. 

“Any time you lose a starter — I think there's a reason they're the starter — but you know I feel good about our backups,” coach John Fox said. “I feel good about the replacement people we've had in there. We've got more depth this season than we've had in the past so I feel confident in the people we'll have out there and the options we have.”