Bears Insider J.J. Stankevitz and producer Cam Ellis sit down in their respective remote work stations to chat about what the Bears are up to.
CAM ELLIS: JJ! Hello! For a variety of reasons it's been a while since we've been able to chat Bears, but because of [gestures around] we've got some time on our hands! Originally we were going to going into what we wanted to see from the rest of the Bears offseason, but with the recent defensive news, that seems like a better place to start?
J.J. STANKEVITZ: I wrote earlier this week the Bears' No. 1 priority in free agency, among defensive players, should be re-signing Danny Trevathan. Congrats to the Bears for following my advice (*they most certainly did not and were gonna make the move anyway)! I'm sure we'll get into Trevathan's contract here in a bit but in general, keeping a guy who when healthy is fast, physical and smart is a good thing at ILB. Plus, his impact off the field cannot be understated.
ELLIS: I'll admit I was a bit surprised by the original numbers reported, but maybe everyone's in for a big payday once we know what the CBA has in store? It's a fine move to me. You assume a few games missed here and there and pay him for the behind-the-scene stuff just as much as the on-field stuff. There are probably worse ways to spend money.
STANKEVITZ: I think the CBA thing is a really good point here - we don't know what sort of immediate impact it'll have on the salary cap, but if it's passed, the new TV deals that'll hit in the early 2020s will make Trevathan's contract look like a bargain, maybe as soon as 2021. We'll see. I was thinking about this Spice Adams video going through the "different speeches in the locker room" and then thinking about Trevathan, whose leadership qualities are unquestionably genuine. As Josh Woods put it so well: "He’s not like one of those leaders that’s like an a—hole or anything."
ELLIS: And everyone likes to bang the leadership drum – which is fair – but he actually played really well last season! There are *several* Green Squares on his Pro Football Focus grade sheet. He finished 5th in tackles and missed two months! The big picture trends don't look great, but also how many of your 30 year old friends are as good as anything now as they were when they were 25?
STANKEVITZ: Cam, I hate to break it to you, but I'm 31 and uh...I just had the best 12-inch softball season of my life? So take that buddy. [ed note: sick brag] Anyways!
Inside linebackers do have a sort of interesting history of playing well into their 30's. Thomas Davis, who just got cut by the Chargers, started playing in the NFL in 2005. 2005! And he had 112 tackles last year. So it's not out of the question the Bears could still get some good years out of Trevathan. He just has to stay healthy, which is the largest concern about a guy that missed 17 games due to injury over the last four years.
ELLIS: And now that Prince Amukamara is gone, there's one less guy in that locker room with a ring. It sounds trite because it is trite, but that stuff still matters to lots of people involved in football, so it's worth talking about. The Kwiatkoski ripple effect is obvious, but I'm curious how you see this impacting other aspects of the defense? I've seen some people argue it's maybe tipping their hands on Leonard Floyd, which is a fun juicy bit of speculation.
STANKEVITZ: Yeah, I've seen the speculation that this move portends the end of Leonard Floyd in Chicago. I'm not 100% sure that's the case, but the Bears have until March 18 to make a decision on this - the $13.222 million he's due for his fifth year option becomes fully guaranteed when the new league year begins, so long as the NFL doesn't push their calendar back in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. But to me, Floyd's future might be the most pressing question to be answered in the coming days. I know he only had three sacks last year, but the Bears keep saying they value his versatility. Do you buy it?
ELLIS: Yes and no (analysis!). I do buy that the Bears are far more bullish on Floyd than the rest of the NFL may be. There's a lot to like! There are not many players in football built like him. One of the hardest things to do is move on from former lottery picks who are still productive in specific roles with occasional flashes of ceiling. I also believe that the Bears are farrrrrr too On The Clock to pay him $13 million. Much was made about how Akiem Hicks' injury stunted Khalil Mack's season, but that wouldn't have been nearly the issue it was if the Bears got more reliable rushing from the other edge. Mack's so good that it's easy to just assume he can evade quadruple-teams every game, but Floyd's absence was really felt in that final stretch of Hicks-less games.
STANKEVITZ: Floyd's pass rush productivity rate ranked 55th out of 60 qualified edge rushers last year. That's not good! So while Floyd may be doing some good things in coverage, or in setting the edge against the run, he's not a productive pass rusher and has actually regressed in that area -- which is a pretty big one! -- over his four years in Chicago despite being healthy. But the problem then is the Bears are opening another hole on their defense. It wouldn't be as easy as you may think for Ryan Pace to find as impactful a player as Floyd on the free agent market. Is it worth a shot, though? I lean toward yes.
ELLIS: It'll be wild when he goes to New England and has 13 sacks next year. And speaking of wild, back to Kwiatkoski for a moment. Assuming that Ian Rapoport's reporting on the financials of Trevathan's contract are correct, that'd put him barely outside the top-10 highest-paid inside linebackers. Which means Kwiatkoski is probably set to become one of the top-10 highest paid linebackers?!? Am I jumping the gun? AM I?
STANKEVITZ: I don't think you are! I think something around $8 million average per year could be the starting point for him, and probably with more than the $14 million guaranteed to Trevathan. The Bears should be happy for Kwit that he earned that money from some other team, just like they were with Adrian Amos last year (and the Packers might actually be a good fit for Kwit too!). It's okay if the Bears let Kwiatkoski go somewhere else. It helps with the comp pick game, they get to keep their original starting ILB tandem and everybody is happy. Also on your Floyd retort: Hey that would be a dozen more sacks than Shea McClellin had in his one year with the Patriots!
ELLIS: I sort of love the idea of all the Bears' backups getting starting gigs with the Packers. Think of the cryptic posts! It also makes me wonder how the Bears' priorities re: drafting ILBs in a month will shift, but that's probably a conversation on its own. Trevathan's contract – and Roy Robertson-Harris' tender for that matter – is great housekeeping, but I think Ryan Pace has shown he's plenty good at housekeeping. Offseason grades don't matter, but I'll wait to hand mine out until he makes some of the harder decisions. So like 4 days!
STANKEVITZ: Four days, maybe. We'll see if the NFL decides to push back free agency and/or the start of the league year amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Anyways: While I like the Trevathan move and giving Roy Robertson-Harris a second-round tender probably was a smart move (I could see another team with oodles cap space eyeing his potential and making him an offer), this is all window dressing for the quarterback stuff, right?
ELLIS: Oh you know it! At first I was a little bit surprised that the Bears had spent all of pre-Free Agency working on the defensive side on the ball, but it actually makes all the sense in the world given how much of the next month, if on schedule, will be spent restructuring the offense. I certainly didn't have Allen Robinson making it to mid-March without an extension! My last question: did the Bears' defense get better so far than it's been in year's past? Or maybe the Bears don't really need it to? I guess that was two questions.
STANKEVITZ: This is one instance where a two-part question is actually okay (they're usually not)!
I would say the Bears defense is not better right now than it was in 2019, and certainly 2018, because I think losing Prince Amukamara is going to have a bigger impact than folks may realize -- and yet, I still would've made the move to cut him if I were Pace, since $9 million is *does money thing with thumb and index/middle finger.* But let's see how Pace goes about finding a new cornerback and safety in the coming months, either in free agency, the draft or both. I kinda like the idea of signing Philly's Jalen Mills and Baltimore's Tony Jefferson to play CB and safety -- both previously-injured guys who have some upside while also drafting guys at both positions. I think the Bears' defense can be better with those moves and, of course, a healthy Akiem Hicks.
Does it need to be better in 2020? The hope is no, if the offense can pull its act together and not need a historically-awesome season to propel this team into the playoffs.
ELLIS: They're certainly thinner than they've been in a couple years, which means there might be some positional competitions at camp this year! Instead of just deeply charting kicks, though I know you'll personally miss that a great deal.
STANKEVITZ: Don't rule out a kicker battle in OTAs! We still could be obsessively charting field goal attempts though would do so knowing there are actually other holes on the roster, as opposed to last year, when we (wrongly) assumed everything else was totally fine!
ELLIS: I'm not at all ready for that!