Nick Kwiatkowski or Danny Trevathan. That was the choice facing Bears GM Ryan Pace when the offseason kicked off. Both linebackers were set to become unrestricted free agents and only one could return.
Maybe it wasn't much of a choice at all. The Bears re-signed Trevathan to a three-year, $21.8 million deal while Kwiatkoski inked a lucrative three-year, $21 million deal with the Raiders.
"I think Danny's leadership is special," Bears inside linebackers coach Mark DeLeone told reporters recently. "I think it's unique. I also think prior to his injury last year he was playing the best ball he ever played. So I think there's a lot of reasons to bring Danny back and I'm excited about that."
Trevathan injured his left elbow in Week 10 last season, limiting his time on the field to just nine games. He ended the year with 70 tackles and one sack. He played all 16 games in 2018 and finished the Bears' 12-4 campaign with over 100 tackles.
"There aren't many other players that guys look up to like they look up to Danny. I think it raises everybody's levels. He had a lot of ownership in the success the other guys in the room had last year because of the way he led. I know he makes me a better coach."
While some Bears fans preferred the youth of Kwiatkoski, Trevathan's ability to quarterback the defense can't be understated. And it's not like Trevathan isn't a really good linebacker in his own right. It's fair to say he's an all-around better player than Kwiatkoski when healthy; he just has more grays.
Trevathan's best season in Pro Football Focus' grading scale came in 2017 when he registered an elite 89.8 tackling grade and an 80.4 overall grade. If the Bears get that version of No. 59 in 2020, the defense might just live up to the expectations it had prior to the start of last season.