Bears

Mitch Trubisky was the key to the Khalil Mack trade, and remains the key to the Bears’ 2018 success

Mitch Trubisky was the key to the Khalil Mack trade, and remains the key to the Bears’ 2018 success

The Bears are expected to make Khalil Mack the highest-paid defensive player in the NFL when their reported blockbuster trade with the Oakland Raiders, and ensuing contract for the edge rusher, is announced. When it is, we'll be able to add that to the list of rich contracts given out by Ryan Pace since April of 2017 (all figures via Spotrac):

— Signed left tackle Charles Leno Jr. to a four-year, $37 million extension with $21.597 million guaranteed

— Signed defensive end Akiem Hicks to a four-year, $48 million extension with $30 million guaranteed

— Signed wide receiver Allen Robinson to a three-year, $42 million contract with $25.2 million guaranteed

— Signed wide receiver Taylor Gabriel to a four-year, $26 million contract with $14 million guaranteed

— Signed tight end Trey Burton to a four-year, $32 million contract with $22 million guaranteed

— Signed placekicker Cody Parkey to a four-year, $15 million contract with $9 million guaranteed

April 2017 is the operative month here, because that’s when Pace traded up one spot to draft Mitch Trubisky, giving the Bears their franchise quarterback on a rookie contract. The total value of Trubisky’s four-year, $29,032,424 million contract is worth less than the average annual value of Aaron Rodgers’ new deal ($33.5 million), and is only a couple million more than the average annual value paid out to Kirk Cousins ($28 million) and Matthew Stafford ($27 million). 

The Bears, as a result, rank 24th in quarterback spending in the NFL. Combined with Pace’s shrewd salary cap management — remember, he was able to get out from all those “bad” contracts he signed, like Mike Glennon’s — and the Bears have been able to be extremely aggressive in bringing in talent since drafting Trubisky. 

“We’re in an advantageous position right now with that,” Pace said back in March at the league meetings in Orlando. “I think you’re seeing us add weapons around him right now, and that will continue as you go into the draft and even into the preseason. But it starts with (Trubisky), and we’re in a fortunate situation right now.”

What Pace has done with Trubisky on his rookie deal is part of a larger trend in the NFL of teams being aggressive while their quarterbacks are cheap. The Los Angeles Rams were able to make Aaron Donald the highest-paid defensive player in the league (a distinction he won’t hold for long) thanks to Jared Goff being in his rookie deal, for instance. And the six-year, $135 million deal Donald signed this week is what spurred the Raiders to start legitimately fielding calls for Mack. 

The window to win in the NFL no longer opens once a team has an established quarterback. For any team with a promising quarterback on a rookie contract, the window is open as soon as that guy merely becomes a starter. 

But while Trubisky has allowed the Bears to make this flurry of major moves, retaining Leno and Hicks and acquiring Robinson, Gabriel, Burton and Mack won’t make the Bears a playoff contender. After all, the Raiders had Mack in 2017 and finished 6-10; the Jaguars had Robinson in 2016 and went 3-13. 

What will make the Bears a legitimate playoff contender, now, is Trubisky being a better quarterback. That fact remains unchanged even with Mack on board. 

Yes, Trubisky is the cheapest quarterback in the NFC North by a wide margin, but until further notice, he’s also the worst quarterback in the division. But that may be an unfair categorization — of course he’s not as good as three of the established best passers in the game. What Trubisky needs to do in 2018 is close the gulf between him and Stafford/Cousins/Rodgers to where the Bears can be competitive with all those pieces around him. 

That’s not how Trubisky is viewing things, of course. 

“Nothing is ever good enough,” Trubisky said. “And in my eyes, it could always be better. So I think just having that mentality every day, coming to work and trying to make it as perfect as possible but knowing it never will be. And I think that just allows me to get better every single day and continue to grow and develop.”

The Bears should be better because of all the players they’ve added around Trubisky in the last 19 months. But how much better they’ll be will be dependent on Trubisky. We’ll start to know the answer to that question in eight days. 

John Fox says Bears had worst offseason in the NFL

fox-espn-515.jpg
ESPN

John Fox says Bears had worst offseason in the NFL

John Fox is now more than a year removed from his tenure with the Chicago Bears, but he still has some strong opinions about the team.

Fox, now an NFL analyst for ESPN, fired a shot at the Bears during a segment of NFL Live on Monday. Fox was among a panel asked which team had the worst offseason in the NFL. Fox chose his former employer.

"I think when you're going to play defense, you're going to lean on your takeaways to help a young offense and you don't have a kicker, a reliable kicker that you're going to need those points from after some of those turnovers," Fox said. "I think the kicking question is really big right now in Chicago and I think that might be a problem going into the season."

That is sure to earn some eyerolls from skeptical Bears fans who weren't happy with Fox's 14-34 record with the Bears.

Fox wasn't the only one to pick the Bears. Damien Woody, who won two Super Bowls with the Patriots as part of his 12-year career, actually picked the Bears before Fox.

"I think losing Vic Fangio... is huge," Woody said. "That Chicago Bears defense, it literally fueled their offense. It's the identity of the Bears and when you lose a talented defensive coordinator like that, I think there's going to be some slippage there."

 

Click here to download the new MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of the Bears.

Why 'Turbo' Taylor Gabriel fell in love with the slow-paced game of golf

9-22taylorgabriel.jpg
USA Today

Why 'Turbo' Taylor Gabriel fell in love with the slow-paced game of golf

Plenty of NFL players will use the league’s mandated five-week summer break to play a little golf as a way to relax and recharge for the grind of training camp and regular season. But you won’t find many players who take golf more seriously than Bears wide receiver Taylor Gabriel. 

Which is a little ironic on the surface, right? Gabriel’s nickname is “Turbo,” after all. 

“Yeah, that’s very weird when I think about it,” Gabriel laughed. “It’s not a sport to where you’re running and jumping, and I wouldn’t say not doing anything really athletic — it’s more mental than anything. 

“But I feel like it kind of helps me football-wise in the sense of kind of focus. Like dialing in on that swing, keeping that same swing rhythm pattern, not getting too frustrated after I just sliced a drive or go O.B. on the driver. So it’s helping me.”

Gabriel had played sporadically earlier in his life, and said his father golfs, but didn’t get hooked by the sport until last April while watching Tiger Woods win the Masters. He bought his first set of nice clubs after that remarkable weekend in Augusta and frequently posts videos of his swing to his Instagram account.  

So it’s become a serious hobby of his — “There’s not a day that goes by that I don’t practice,” he said. It’s also something he and his wife do together. 

Though he admitted his wife is a better golfer than he is. 

“She’s not trying to crush the ball, she’s not trying to do too much, but she keeps that consistent same rhythm, same swing, same follow-through every time,” Gabriel said. “Me, I might see the hole is probably 180 (yards) out, I mean, I just want to crush it on the green. And that’s when everything goes wrong.”

Still, for someone who’s only been seriously golfing for about two months, that Gabriel said he can consistently hit his drives 240 yards is rather impressive (being an exceptional athlete, certainly, has to help). But this isn’t some casual love affair with golf — it’s a legitimate way for Gabriel to take his mind off football while staying sharp mentally and doing something he’s quickly grown to genuinely enjoy doing. 

“It’s relaxing, just playing 18 holes — I’m a walker, I like walking,” Gabriel said. “Eighteen holes kind of figuring out your swing, what you did wrong, you know what I mean, just being on the golf course, relaxing, the atmosphere. But at the end of the day I’ve been doing pretty good. I’ve been hitting them pretty straight, I’ve been putting them pretty good, so I guess I’m catching on quick. 

“But every time I ask a golfer, I mean, how long did it take for you guys to get a consistent swing, they say 20 years. I mean, I got that to look forward to.”