Bears

How the Bears' offseason plan will be defined by NFL's CBA negotiations

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USA Today

How the Bears' offseason plan will be defined by NFL's CBA negotiations

The Bears’ offseason will be defined by what happens in the next few days with (and sorry if this seems boring) labor negotiations. Trust us, though: It’s anything but boring. 

You’ve probably seen some of the items included in the collective bargaining agreement the league’s 32 owners ratified this week: Expanded playoffs, a 17th game, no franchise/transition tag, a new structure for fifth-year options, and — most importantly — more money for everyone (even if the owners, who do not play football nor suffer the aftereffects of playing football, have no interest in a 50/50 split of league revenue). 

But here’s where the intrigue lies: The owners want the NFLPA to either ratify or reject their current proposal by “next week,” a vague term clearly referencing the NFL combine. While the 2020 league year does not begin until March 18, the combine is where groundwork gets laid for deals and trades with agents, coaches and front office types, all mingling for a few days in downtown Indianapolis (which, by the way, is a lot nicer a place than you may think!). 

And without a clear direction (either moving forward with a new CBA or continuing with the old agreement for one more year), how are football bigwigs supposed to spill secrets when the shrimp cocktails at St. Elmo's are traded for real cocktails and then Bud Lights…and more Bud Lights?

(Also, Jerry Jones probably wants to know if he can or cannot use both the franchise and transition tags on Dak Prescott and Amari Cooper.)

If the NFLPA ratifies the owners’ proposal, the Bears could get an immediate injection of cap space (the Athletic estimated an extra $5 million) that’d be a significant aid to Ryan Pace’s offseason strategy. 

It’d be interesting to know if the new CBA would affect Mitch Trubisky’s fifth-year option, which needs to be picked up or declined by May 2 and is guaranteed for injury only. If the new CBA were applied to Trubisky’s fifth-year option, it would be fully guaranteed, meaning the Bears would be on the hook to pay Trubisky no matter what in 2021 if they were to pick it up. But: the amount they’d pay him would certainly be less than the $24 million-ish he’d be due in the old agreement because it’d be based on performance and, well, you know. 

But the real chaos (and downside for the Bears) could hit if the NFLPA does not ratify the owners’ proposal. Mike Florio at PFT ran down the impact of this, saying that even if there seems to be a growing perception among some of the league's biggest voices, it's an awful deal for players. 

But playing out one more year under the current CBA, with no guarantee of labor peace or a 17th game, could mean free agents (or those due for extensions, like Allen Robinson) may not be interested in longer-term contracts given the uncertainty of A) the money available to players in the future and B) the 17th game, and what that means for the next round of TV contracts with ludicrous payouts. 

So, no new CBA could mean more short-term deals with a high average annual value — the kind of thing a team with about $14 million in cap space can’t afford. The Bears’ best bet in free agency is to backload three, four and five-year contracts for top players, allowing them to add talent while staying under the cap in 2020. 

To put it less abstractly: What if the Bears trade for Derek Carr (the Instagram post meant something!) but can't sign him to the extension they want, getting his $21.5 million cap hit down in 2020 while locking him up for a few more years after? It'd mean they'd probably have to cut a player or two they were hoping to keep

The coming hours and days are going to be massive in figuring out what direction the Bears can take this offseason. It may not be as interesting as TOM BRADY’S TOUR STOPS AT HALAS HALL but these negotiations will have a profound impact on what sort of roster the Bears field when the 2020 season begins in September. 

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Bears lost the Nick Foles trade according to one prominent NFL writer

Bears lost the Nick Foles trade according to one prominent NFL writer

Every city needlessly hates on the national media, but it feels like Bears fans are going to blow a fuse if another prominent NFL writer comes out and rains on Ryan Pace's expensive parade. The latest? ESPN's Bill Barnwell, who weighed in on the recent Nick Foles trade in a column on Wednesday afternoon. You can read the entire thing right here, though he hits on the trade right from the top. In particular, it's the contract that Barnwell takes issues with: 

There's nobody else on a veteran contract like this in football. Foles has most of his third year guaranteed, and when players get three guaranteed seasons, they're usually being paid like superstars. Borderline starters like Foles rarely get more than one guaranteed year on their deals. He is essentially guaranteed to get top-level backup money for two years and what will be mid-tier backup money in the third. That's not necessarily a bad deal in itself and it's much more in line with Foles' established level of play than his prior deal.

He gives the Bears a C- for the deal, which isn't outrageous as much as it's the latest in an endless line of reminders what teams have to deal with when they get their QB evaluations wrong. The real kicker is giving the Jaguars an A- for "getting out of the Foles pickle." As for the blockbuster quarterback competition coming to Lake Forrest at some point in the future, Barnwell suspects that "the Bears still badly want Trubisky to win the job and traded for a quarterback who was just good enough to push him without being good enough to clearly push him aside." An exciting time to be a Bears fan! 

And if you think that's bad, you can probaly just skip over Barnwell's evaluation of the Jimmy Graham signing. Just keep reminding yourself that that C's do actually get degrees, or even concentrate on the B's he gave to the Robert Quinn and Germain Ifedi deals. Just don't read the Jimmy Graham blurb. 

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Why Bears made Robert Quinn their big signing in NFL free agency

Why Bears made Robert Quinn their big signing in NFL free agency

Only five players were guaranteed more money in free agency than Robert Quinn, whose five-year, $70 million deal with the Bears includes $30 million guaranteed. Somehow, general manager Ryan Pace and cap guru Joey Laine managed to land one of the biggest free agents of 2020 despite not having a ton of money to spend. 

But why Quinn and not a cornerback, safety, right guard, tight end or quarterback? The Bears entered free agency with true, glaring needs at those five positions. So it was not only surprising that the Bears landed a big fish, but also that it was Quinn. 

Meanwhile, Ryan Pace went bargain shopping with Artie Burns and Tre Roberson at cornerback, and Deon Bush/DeAndre Houston-Carson/Jordan Lucas at safety. See also: Germain Ifedi at right guard. Nick Foles and Jimmy Graham weren’t cheap, but also weren’t Teddy Bridgewater or Austin Hooper. 

RELATED: Adam Hoge's #10BearsThings

But looking at how free agency played out, the Bears’ call to go with Quinn (and jettison Leonard Floyd) does make sense.  

“We just feel like Quinn’s a proven pass rusher,” Pace said. “He’s got excellent edge speed. He’s got outstanding ability to bend the corner and I think we can take a position of strength on our defense and we make it even stronger and more dangerous when you add Quinn and you combine him with the players that are already up there, especially up front.”

The Bears’ 2020 defense feels like a bet on an elite pass rush covering for some potential deficiencies in the secondary. Eddie Jackson and Kyle Fuller are still there, but can a battle between Kevin Toliver II/Burns/Roberson/TBD draft pick produce a true starting-caliber corner? Or can Bush slide into a starting role next to Jackson after spending the last three seasons almost exclusively as a backup?

It’d be ideal for the Bears if the answers to those questions were yes. But what if opposing quarterbacks don’t consistently have enough time to throw because Mack, Quinn, Hicks, Roy Robertson-Harris, etc. are wrecking things in the pocket?

There’s certainly a thought in some NFL circles that great coverage is preferable to a great pass rush — it’s worked well for the New England Patriots, after all — but it’s not a hard-and-fast rule. Not every team gets to have an in-his-prime Khalil Mack. The Bears do. Signing Quinn to help maximize Mack’s impact makes a lot of sense. 

The money makes sense, too. Quinn is guaranteed $30 million, sure, but his $6.1 million cap hit in 2020 ranks 32nd among this year’s free agent signings. That’s really how the Bears made this work — big-ticket cornerbacks James Bradberry and Byron Jones are in the top five of 2020 free agent cap hits, while Bridgewater’s $14 million bargain is more than double Quinn’s cost. 

So all those factors led the Bears to Quinn. This feels like the right kind of signing, one that’ll help give the Bears a top-five defense — even if there may still be some holes in the back end of it. Floyd wasn't cutting it, despite his run-stuffing and coverage skills. The Bears needed to make their pass rush better, and did with signing Quinn.

Good thing that coin flip (metaphorical or not) wound up on the Bears’ side of things. 

“It's always been a defensive kind of team what was always presented to me about the city,” Quinn said. “So that was always an exciting thing going into a town like that where they love to see defense. Points of 0 versus 100, you know. So that's always exciting, plus the talent they already have there. Who can't get excited to join up with guys like Mack, Fuller, (Akiem) Hicks, (Eddie) Goldman, (Danny) Trevathan?”

 

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