The 2020 NFL offseason is already underway for the Bears, but the real fun won't get started until March when free agency officially kicks off.
Here are some key dates to circle on your calendar if you plan on tracking what general manager Ryan Pace does over the next few months:
- March 16-18: Beginning at 11 a.m. (CT) on March 16, clubs are permitted to contact, and enter into contract negotiations with the certified agents of players who will become unrestricted free agents.
- March 18: Prior to 3 p.m. (CT), clubs must exercise options for 2020 on all players who have option clauses in their 2019 contracts.
- March 18: Prior to 3 p.m. (CT), clubs must submit qualifying offers to their restricted free agents with expiring contracts to retain a right of first refusal/compensation.
- March 18: Prior to 3 p.m. (CT), clubs must submit a minimum salary tender to retain exclusive negotiating rights to their players with expiring 2019 contracts who have fewer than three accrued seasons of free agency credit.
- March 18: Top 51 begins. All clubs must be under the 2020 salary cap prior to 3 p.m. (CT).
- March 18: All 2019 player contracts expire at 3 p.m. (CT).
- March 18: The 2020 league year and free agency period begin at 3 p.m. (CT).
Pace will have some difficult decisions to make between March 16 and 18, and some of those decisions will involve the future of current Bears players.
Here's the list of current Bears who are scheduled to become unrestricted free agents, per Spotrac:
- LB - Danny Trevathan
- QB - Chase Daniel
- FS - Ha Ha Clinton-Dix
- S - Sherrick McManis
- OLB - Aaron Lynch
- TE - Bradley Sowell
- G - Ted Larsen
- DT - Nick Williams
- LT - Cornelius Lucas
- LS - Patrick Scales
- OLB - Kevin Pierre-Louis
- DE - Brett Urban
- OT - T.J. Clemmings
- LB - Nick Kwiatkoski
- S - Deon Bush
The good news for the Bears is there are only a few names on this list who warrant serious consideration to be re-signed. Kwiatkoski, Trevathan, Williams and Clinton-Dix immediately come to mind, but McManis and even Daniel deserve some attention. It isn't easy to find a special teams player as productive and selfless as McManis nor is it a simple task to land a backup quarterback who can serve as a coach and mentor without a starter's agenda.
The most likely scenario to unfold this offseason is this: Pace will identify two of the Bears' unrestricted free agents as priorities (my guess would be Kwiatkoski and Clinton-Dix) and will do everything in his power to re-sign them before March 16. He'll allow the market to dictate the terms for Trevathan and Williams; if their contract offers from other teams are reasonable and Chicago can offer the same terms? Maybe the hometown club gets the nod.
Pace acted swiftly to extend safety Eddie Jackson last week, and there's no reason to believe he won't (or shouldn't) do the same with wide receiver Allen Robinson. Then it'll be time to turn his attention to the team's players who are ready to cash-in on the open market before getting raided by clubs with more money and bigger needs.Click here to download the new MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of the Bears.