Bears still have options at running back after agreeing to terms with Mike Davis 

Bears still have options at running back after agreeing to terms with Mike Davis 

The Bears don’t need Mike Davis to be the solution to their inconsistent running game. A part of the solution? Sure. But teams generally don’t count on offensive or defensive players signed for two years and $7 million to be the primary solution to a problem. 

For comparison’s sake, that two-year deal worth a maximum of $7 million is the same one to which the New York Jets will reportedly sign Josh Bellamy, who previously was a core special teamer and fourth receiver for the Bears. 

Davis’ reported deal — which can’t become official until Wednesday at 3 p.m. — carries with it a few key implications for the Bears’ running game in 2019. Some thoughts: 

1. The Bears don’t absolutely have to trade or release Jordan Howard. 

Signing a higher-priced running back, like Le’Veon Bell or Tevin Coleman or even Mark Ingram, all but assuredly would’ve been a precursor to the end of Howard’s tenure in Chicago. Howard carries a cap hit of a little over $2 million in 2019; if he, Davis, Tarik Cohen and a fourth running back/draft pick combine for between $6.5-$7 million in cap space, that’s a palatable amount. As things stand now — before any of the big-name running backs sign — that figure would rank somewhere near the middle of running back spending. 

Even bringing back Benny Cunningham (mostly as a special teamer) for, say, another $1 million wouldn’t tip the scales to over-spending at running back. So the Bears could feasibly keep Howard on their roster as a reliable goal-line option — he scored nine touchdowns last year, after all — and as a decent insurance option if Davis and/or a draft pick falters. 

Still, if the Bears use a draft pick on a running back — especially with a third or fourth-round pick — that could make keeping Howard less tenable. Davis/Cohen/Howard/pick would make up a crowded depth chart; Howard certainly would be the most likely to go of that group. 

2. Davis has some intriguing traits. 

Granted, reading into one play can be a bit of a stretch, but this 20-yard touchdown run surely made it to the desks of Ryan Pace and Matt Nagy as they were evaluating tape of available running backs:

Consider what Nagy said he’s looking for in a running back at the NFL Combine last month:

“In this offense, you want to be able to have a guy that has really good vision that can make guys miss,” Nagy said. “And at the same time, there's that balance of being a hybrid being able to make things happen in the pass game too, but yet to where you're not one-dimensional. That's not easy.”

Taking a flier on Davis to be that guy seems sensible given the price. He’ll be 26 this season and doesn’t come with the wear and tear of a higher-priced guy like Ingram or Bell; he only has 234 rushing attempts in four-year his career, which is 16 fewer than Howard had in 2018’s regular season. He averaged 4.6 yards per carry in 2018 and caught 34 of 42 targets for 214 yards. 

Of course, Davis’ lack of a track record means projecting his future is more difficult. But what Davis put on tape is more important than his previous stats with the Seattle Seahawks (2017-2018) and San Francisco 49ers (2015-2016). Given how quickly the Bears moved to sign Davis, he likely checked off boxes of being 1) a good scheme fit and 2) inexpensive. 

3. The Bears can still draft a running back. 

Davis’ signing fits with Pace’s year-to-year roster building philosophy, which ends with a “best player available” approach in the draft. Just because he’s signs a free agent doesn’t mean he won’t draft a player at that same position — in 2017, the Bears signed Quintin Demps and drafted Eddie Jackson; more famously, they signed Mike Glennon and drafted Mitch Trubisky. 

Given Pace’s best-available draft strategy, the Bears were never guaranteed to take a running back with their third-round pick in April. Chances are, they’ll take someone over the course of the final day of the draft, and signing Davis will not preclude them from doing so. 

What’s clear, though, is the Bears weren’t comfortable standing pat with their running back depth chart before April’s draft, but perhaps also weren’t comfortable spending more to lure a bigger name like Ingram/Coleman/Bell. We’ll see what contracts that trio receives in the coming hours, and if any of them might make the Davis deal look better — or worse. 

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TE Greg Olsen signed with Seattle Seahawks, had hoped Bears would've reached out

TE Greg Olsen signed with Seattle Seahawks, had hoped Bears would've reached out

Former Bears first-round pick TE Greg Olsen officially signed a one-year, $7 million with the Seattle Seahawks. Olsen had previously played with the Bears and the Panthers over a 13-year NFL career.

After mutually parting ways with the Panthers, the 34-year-old had hoped the Bears, the team that drafted him in 2007, would reach out about signing him once he hit free agency. He told ESPN’s Waddle and Silvy that he wanted to come home to Chicago, but the Bears management hadn’t contacted him.

One of the Bears biggest needs this off-season is an upgrade at TE, and with Olsen’s pass-catching experience on top of his working knowledge of the Bears organization made him appear to be an ideal fit for the team. It appears Ryan Pace disagreed and now the Bears chance at a reunion with Olsen is gone for good. While Olsen’s age is showing, with him only appearing in 16 games in 2017 and 2018 combined, he’s still a stronger receiver than anyone currently on the Bears depth chart.

Interestingly enough, one of Olsen's best moments as a Bear came during their playoff win against the Seahawks in January 2011, where he scored a touchdown after catching a 58-yard pass from QB Jay Cutler in the first quarter.  

We will see come next season if Pace regrets not giving Olsen a call. It would be the empowering breakup movie of the season if the Bears weren’t stuck in the role of the ex who missed out on someone great. Until then, Bears’ fans can imagine a scenario in which Pace or Matt Nagy chases after Olsen in the rain (which makes perfect sense, since he’s going to Seattle after all), holding a boom-boom over their heads, begging him to return to Soldier Field. That’s the sports rom-com we all deserve in 2020. 

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With Drew Brees officially returning to the Saints, all eyes are on Teddy Bridgewater

With Drew Brees officially returning to the Saints, all eyes are on Teddy Bridgewater

The quarterback market leading up to the 2020 season keeps getting more interesting. 41-year-old Drew Brees had officially announced that he will live to play another season in the NFL, posting on Instagram that he is excited to “make another run at it!”

With Brees returning to the Saints, all eyes are now on where free-agent Teddy Bridgewater will land.  The Saints currently have two backup QBs, restricted free-agent Taysom Hill and unrestricted free-agent Bridgewater. Head coach Sean Payton has made no secret that the team cannot afford to keep both on the roster. The writing on the wall says Bridgewater will be the one to find a new home, with fans and analysts alike speculating where he will end up.

It was reported earlier this week that Bridgewater will command a starter-caliber salary in free agency. Bridgewater went 5-0 as a starter while Brees was injured last season, completing around 68% of his passes, and earning above-average rankings in adjusted yards per attempt (15th), QB Rating (11th), TD Rate (13th) and completion rate (6th) among 38 QBs to start at least five games in 2019.

While this makes Bridgewater a very attractive candidate for Ryan Pace, the price tag of approximately $30 million per year may not be doable with the Bears current salary cap situation. 

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