Bears

Looking for cap space, the Bears release Prince Amukamara and Taylor Gabriel

Looking for cap space, the Bears release Prince Amukamara and Taylor Gabriel

There's some newsworthy whispering coming out of Halas Hall today:

The moves aren't particularly surprising, as both were heavily rumored to be moved on from after 2019's underwhelming 8-8 campaign. Amukamara put up respectable numbers (29 pass breakups, 3 INT, 3 forced fumbles, 2 fumble recoveries, and 1 TD) during his three-season run in Chicago and while the 30-year-old corner was still playable in 2019, the team clearly wanted to go in a younger (and cheaper) direction. Backup Kevin Toliver (who, notably, was given some of Amukamara's snaps late in the season), 2019 sixth-round pick Duke Shelley, and newly-signed CFL star Tre Roberson would all be in-house candidates to step up into a starting role. 

When healthy, Gabriel flashed some potential as a deep threat. With that said, two concussions sidelined the speedster and he only appeared in nine games last year. Over two seasons with the Bears, Gabriel had 96 receptions for 1041 yards and six touchdowns. 

Most importantly, the two moves free up $13.5 million in 2020 cap space for Ryan Pace and company. As the team looks to (significantly) upgrade (multiple) key positions (like quarterback?), the front office will now have around $27 million in space to operate with.

RELATED: Should the Bears have cut ties with Amukamara?

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NFL Power Rankings: Bears drop 5 spots after offseason moves

NFL Power Rankings: Bears drop 5 spots after offseason moves

The Bears have been relatively aggressive in free agency (and the trade market) this offseason with the additions of Jimmy Graham, Robert Quinn and Nick Foles, and while the veteran acquisitions are expected to improve the 2020 Bears, they haven't moved the needle nearly enough in the post-free agency NFL Power Rankings on NFL.com.

In fact, Chicago dropped five spots and into the bottom tier of the league.

No. 22: Chicago Bears (previous: No. 17)

The Bears did what everyone expected, bringing in a veteran name brand to compete with Mitch Trubisky. That veteran is Nick Foles, the former Super Bowl MVP who endured a nightmarish (but very lucrative) one-season stint with the Jaguars. Trubisky will likely enter training camp as the presumed starter, but holding off Foles will be much more difficult than fending off Chase Daniel was a year ago. Put it this way: There's a very good chance Foles ends up starting more games next year than the former first-round pick hypothetically ahead of him on the depth chart. The Robert Quinn signing was ... fine. The move to bring in 33-year-old Jimmy Graham, who did next to nothing with Aaron Rodgers throwing him spirals, makes you wonder if GM Ryan Pace will ever figure out the tight end position.

If there's any good news, it's that the Bears aren't the lowest-ranked team from the NFC North. That distinction belongs to the Lions, who check-in at No. 28.

The Packers remain the class of the division at No. 5, while the Vikings rank 14th.

The Bears' ranking seems a little harsh considering Chicago was a borderline playoff team in 2019 with nothing that resembled a competent NFL offense. Now, with Foles on the roster, there's at least a veteran insurance policy and proven winner ready and able to right the ship (which may come as soon as Week 1). And Quinn's presence opposite Khalil Mack will give the Bears one of the most lethal pass-rushing tandems in the league, which wasn't the case in 2019 with Leonard Floyd operating as Mack's running mate.

Chicago's additions appear to outnumber the roster's subtractions, which should at least keep them hovering around a wild-card team in the power rankings.

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How the NFL's uncertain offseason will impact the Bears in 2020

How the NFL's uncertain offseason will impact the Bears in 2020

As the NFL tries to make its 2020 season work amid the COVID-19 pandemic, one thing does look clear (if there is a season): The lead-up to it will be significantly shortened. 

That means no offseason program and, potentially, a truncated training camp and preseason. In other words: Fewer practices. Much fewer.

Atlanta Falcons owner Arthur Blank floated a bit of speculation to Peter King in this week’s Football Morning In America:

“On whether he believes there will be a 16-game regular season, Blank said: “If I had to speculate now, and I use the word speculate because that’s really all it is, I would say yes. Only because it’s so far away from where we are today. I could easily see camps being shorter, players being tested on a daily basis, things of that nature. No fan attendance. Things like that. We may have fewer preseason games, which probably wouldn’t be the end of the world. But I think by September, my hope is by the time the regular season starts, that we’ll be able to bring people together in some form or fashion in a safe manner and play.”

It feels like what Blank is saying is almost a best-case scenario, since it involves a full season being played — even if the circumstances around it (short camp, no fans in the stands) aren’t ideal. Pro Football Talk’s Mike Florio drilled down further on Blank’s comments, but let’s take them into account from a Bears perspective (while keeping in mind that this, in the grand scheme of the COVID-19 pandemic, matters very little).

The Bears are in an okay situation relative to the lack of an offseason program, seeing as Matt Nagy won’t need to spend that time installing a brand new offense with a bunch of new players. Their biggest offseason additions — Jimmy Graham and Nick Foles — are seasoned veterans. Foles knows the offense from his time with Nagy in Kansas City and then with the Eagles. And Graham was a second-year player with the Saints during the 2011 lockout, which wiped out that year’s offseason program and shortened training camp. 

“There was no offseason program,” Graham said. “There was nothing. I basically showed up at training camp and then that year I put up 1,300 yards. 

“… I’m going to obviously get the playbook. I’ve already asked for every tight end target over the last two years just to see where they’re trying to hit the tight end and what they’re looking for down the field and what they’re looking for in the red zone and on third down and where I can help and how I can implement what I’m good at. So for me, it’s really continuing to do the things that I’ve done on those offseasons that have not had me basically being able to practice with the team.”

The Foles vs. Mitch Trubisky quarterback competition wasn’t going to be decided in the offseason program anyway, too. Fewer training camp practices, though, would mean the Bears have to make a decision quickly — and that probably works against Trubisky in this case. If Foles is sort of a steady hand here, it’ll be easier for the Bears to make him QB1 rather than trying to wait out Trubisky’s potential, as they maybe could’ve over the course of a month-long preseason. 

Foles already could’ve been viewed as the favorite to win the job in a normal year, but if the Bears prioritize “safe” options given the relative lack of preseason practices, he’ll have the inside track to be their Week 1 starter. 

A drawback for Foles, though, is he won't have the opportunity to work with any of the Bears' pass-catchers before an abbreviated training camp -- one in which he won't get all the first-team reps if there's a true competition between him and Trubisky. He'll have to develop a rapport with guys like Allen Robinson, Tarik Cohen and Graham quickly, though his experience with a number of different teams could help him with that. 

And as for quarterbacks — it didn’t make much sense for the Bears to draft a quarterback with one of their two second-round picks under normal circumstances. Now? That quarterback — be it Jake Fromm or Jalen Hurts or whoever — couldn’t be reasonably expected to learn the Bears’ offense in Year 1 without rookie minicamp and OTAs, as well as a full training camp. If the Bears were to draft a quarterback, don't expect that guy to play in 2020. 

Speaking of rookies, it’s going to be harder for anyone the Bears draft to contribute right away this fall. Not impossible — but harder. Talent always shines through, but the Bears don’t go on the clock until pick No. 43. The super-talented top 10 picks like Ohio State's Chase Young and Jeff Okudah, will be fine. But it'll take great scouting and even greater coaching for the Bears' two second-round picks to yield impact guys this year. 

As King wrote: "The best scouts in the NFL will be the MVPs of the draft this year."

But while there will be a draft in April, let's just hope there will be a season starting in the fall.