Bears

Bears free agency rumor tracker: Wednesday

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USA Today

Bears free agency rumor tracker: Wednesday

Teams can finalize contracts with free agents at 3 p.m. today, but the Bears have almost all their shopping done already. On Tuesday, wide receivers Allen Robinson and Taylor Gabriel, tight end Trey Burton, linebacker Sam Acho, cornerback Prince Amukamara and kicker Cody Parkey reportedly agreed to sign with the Bears, but there still are some open spots on the roster for Ryan Pace to fill...

5:40 p.m. update

QB Mike Glennon, WR Markus Wheaton, CB Marcus Cooper

The news: The Bears released all three players

As expected, the Bears parted ways with 2017's three biggest free agent swings and misses, and saved about $21 million in cap space in the process. Glennon quickly found a landing spot, signing a two-year, $8 million deal with the Arizona Cardinals:


5:30 p.m. update

DE Mitch Unrein

The news: Will sign a three-year deal with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Unrein was a favorite of defensive coordinator Vic Fangio and defensive line coach Jay Rodgers for his assignment-smart football that helped allow Akiem Hicks and Eddie Goldman to play fast. Losing him to Tampa Bay means the Bears could turn to Jonathan Bullard as the other defensive end opposite Hicks in Fangio's 3-4 base. 

3:10 p.m. update

PK Cody Parkey

The news: He'll receive $15 million, with $9 million guaranteed, in his four-year contract

That's a considerable investment in the kicking position, which has been inconsistent for the Bears since they released Robbie Gould prior to the 2016 season. Parkey connected on 21 of 23 field goal in 2017 for the Miami Dolphins. 

2:40 p.m. update

P Kevin Huber

The news: Will re-sign with the Cincinnati Bengals

The Bears reportedly kicked the tires on Huber, but he's not going anywhere. We'll see if this means Pat O'Donnell will be back after all. 

2:10 p.m. update

LB Trent Murphy

The news: Will sign a three-year, $21 million deal with the Buffalo Bills

The Bears' biggest need is at outside linebacker going forward, and finding impact guys to pair with Leonard Floyd there in free agency will be difficult. Most likely, the Bears will have to take a flier on someone like Alex Okafor, who tore his Achilles' in November, or Aaron Lynch, who hasn't improved off a promising start to his career back in 2014 and 2015. Murphy fit that bill, having missed the 2017 season with a torn ACL but netting nine sacks in 2016. 

WR Taylor Gabriel

The news: His deal is worth $26 million over four years, with $14 million guaranteed

Best guess here is most of that guaranteed money is paid out in the first two years of Gabriel's deal. The average annual value of $6.5 million is less than what Albert Wilson will get ($8 million/year over three years), for what it's worth.

TE Trey Burton

The news: More info on his contract

What's interesting here is the Bears signing Burton and Gabriel to four-year contracts that don't include clear outs after one season. That was how Ryan Pace structured three-year contracts given to Dion Sims, Marcus Cooper and Mike Glennon, as well as the two-year contract signed by Markus Wheaton, a year ago. Pace is betting on the upside of Burton and Gabriel, as these guys aren't signed to low-risk deals. 

9:55 a.m. update

OL Zach Fulton

The news: Will sign with the Houston Texans

So Fulton indeed goes to the Texans on a deal that'll pay him, on average, only about $500,000 less than Josh Sitton was due to be owed in 2018 had the Bears picked up his option. Josh Kline, who will re-sign with the Tennessee Titans, will average $6.5 million per season in his four-year deal. If the Bears go cheaper than Fulton and Kline at guard, they could still keep the door open to draft Notre Dame's Quenton Nelson with the eighth overall pick. Or the Bears could slot in Eric Kush, who's coming off a torn ACL suffered last training camp, at one of their starting guard spots and then draft another guard in April. 2017 fifth-round pick Jordan Morgan could be in the mix as well. 

9:05 a.m. update

OL Josh Kline

The news: Will re-sign with the Tennessee Titans

The Bears still need to find an interior lineman to replace Josh Sitton, and Kline seemingly could've been an option before opting to stick in Tennessee. The terms of his deal are worth noting here if the Bears dip into his tier of guards to sign someome -- that's probably too much money to spend to then draft Quenton Nelson with the eighth overall pick. If the Bears go for a cheaper option, it could keep the door open for Nelson to come to Chicago. 

P Kevin Huber

The report: The Bears have interest

Pat O'Donnell is a free agent, so kicking the tires on another punter isn't out of the blue for the Bears. 

7:25 a.m. update

QB Chase Daniel

The news: Will sign with the Bears

Daniel has connections to Ryan Pace and Matt Nagy, having spent 2010-2012 with the New Orleans Saints and 2013-2015 with the Kansas City Chiefs, so the Bears' interest in him makes a lot of sense. While Daniel has only thrown three passes since the end of the 2014 season, he's highly regarded for his football intelligence and fits as a mentor of sorts for Mitch Trubisky. 

LB Sam Acho

The news: Will sign a two-year, $7.5 million deal with the Bears

Acho's older brother scooped all the big names on this one. Bringing back Acho retains another steady piece of Vic Fangio's defense, and rewards a guy who appeared in all 16 games and played 60.4 percent of the Bears' defensive snaps. Acho notched three sacks and forced a fumble in 2017. 

 

Studs and Duds from Bears' season-ending Week 11 loss to Rams

Studs and Duds from Bears' season-ending Week 11 loss to Rams

The Chicago Bears fell to 4-6 after losing to the Los Angeles Rams, 17-7, in Week 11's Sunday Night Football. And while there may be a mathematical possibility for the Bears to make the playoffs, it's likely around 1 percent. 

It's time to accept the harsh and painful reality of the Bears' 2019 season, one of the most disappointing and shockingly bad years this franchise has endured in a very long time. 

Heartache like this is often the result of unrealistic expectations to begin with. Were the Bears really prepared to make a Super Bowl run with a second-year head coach and a third-year quarterback who still wasn't a finished product? The defense certainly appeared ready for a special season, but there was never the kind of overall team balance to make this year's goals a reality.

So here we are. With six games left on the schedule, the Bears are three games out of a wild card spot. The offense is still a mess and the defense is steadily getting less reliable.

Chicago managed just seven points against the Rams on Sunday night while the defense allowed running back Todd Gurley to eclipse 100 total yards for the first time since Week 1. And then there's the whole kicking situation.

Here are Week 11's Studs and Duds:

Stud: LB Roquan Smith

Smith led all Bears defenders with 11 tackles and an interception. He didn't play a perfect game and often got bullied on the second level when the defensive line couldn't keep him clean, but the sideline-to-sideline burst that made him a first-round pick was on display for four quarters. 

Dud: K Eddy Pineiro

Pineiro left six points on the field for the Bears with two killer misses early in the game. In fact, those misses seemed to take the life out of Chicago's offense. Pineiro hasn't been good the last two weeks and even though Nagy said the Bears aren't looking to bring in competition, it doesn't appear Pineiro is the long-term answer.

Stud: SAF Eddie Jackson

Jackson was playing noticeably faster Sunday night and had one of his best plays of the season when he penetrated the backfield for an explosive tackle for loss. He ended the game third on the team with six tackles and looked like he got some of his mojo back.

Dud: RB David Montgomery

Montgomery hasn't had any help from the offensive line or play-calling this season, but at some point, he needs to flash the ability to pick up more yards on his own. He managed just 31 yards on 14 carries and his longest run of the game covered just five yards. There are a lot of reasons to be excited about Montgomery's future, but it's time for him to prove he can really be a special running back.

Stud: RB Tarik Cohen

Cohen made the most of his workload against the Rams. He had 14 touches for 74 yards and a touchdown and looked explosive along the way. An argument could be made that Cohen should've received the lion's share of the carries Sunday night. He was simply more effective.

Dud: Offensive line

It's become glaringly obvious that the Bears' offense is hindered by the problems along the offensive line. Aaron Donald didn't do them any favors; he embarrassed every Bears lineman he faced. And while that's a pretty common occurrence for Donald, it only accentuated the need for Ryan Pace to pay close attention to the position group this offseason. 

Bears' tight ends invisible once again in Week 11 loss to Rams

Bears' tight ends invisible once again in Week 11 loss to Rams

When the Bears hired Matt Nagy as head coach in 2018, the vision was that he'd bring to Chicago much of what he learned during his time as Andy Reid's offensive understudy in Kansas City. He was supposed to be the Bears' version of Doug Pederson, who like Nagy was a Reid disciple with the Eagles and Chiefs from 2009-2016.

Pederson won the Super Bowl in his second season as Eagles coach. Not so much for Nagy.

The Lombardi Trophy isn't the only difference between Pederson and Nagy since becoming head coaches. Pederson, much like Reid, has the luxury of a superstar player filling the role of one of the Reid offense's most critical positions: tight end.

The Eagles field Zach Ertz. The Chiefs have Travis Kelce. Meanwhile, Nagy and the Bears have Ben Braunecker?

Braunecker was the only tight end to record a reception in Chicago's 17-7 loss to the Rams Sunday night. And it was just one catch for eight yards. 

Trey Burton was placed on injured reserve (calf) after Week 10's win over the Lions; it brought an end to a brutal season for last year's free-agent prize. Burton's 2019 will finish with just 14 catches for 84 yards.

Remember: Burton is the player who Ryan Pace and Nagy dubbed as Chicago's version of Ertz and Kelce. 

Ertz has 55 catches for 621 yards and two scores while Kelce's registered 56 catches for 741 yards and three scores so far this season. 

Burton will enter the third year of a four-year, $32 million contract in 2020 and might be too costly for the Bears to cut loose this offseason. He'll cost the team $7.5 million against the cap if they decide to part ways. An argument can be made that he's been limited by injuries all season (he's played in just 50.1 percent of the team's snaps this year) and deserves another shot to prove he's the kind of playmaker he was signed to be. At this point, there may not be much of a choice.

Former 2017 second-round pick Adam Shaheen has been a massive bust. His career with the Bears has been defined by a series of nagging injuries. And even when he's been healthy, he's played like 'just a guy.' He has one year left on his rookie contract but doesn't appear likely to factor into the position moving forward.

Even if Burton remains on the roster next year and Shaheen is given another chance to develop, Pace has to make tight end a priority position over the next few months of roster reconstruction. There will be some intriguing Day 2 prospects in the NFL Draft, like Purdue's Brycen Hopkins, and veteran options like Eric Ebron and Vance McDonald should find themselves on the open market in free agency. At least one of those avenues should be explored.

Sunday night's disappointing and likely season-ending loss was the result of a year of underachievement by the Bears. And no position has underachieved more than this tight end group.