In moving forward with Dion Sims, the Bears will keep a mix of skillsets at tight end

USA Today

In moving forward with Dion Sims, the Bears will keep a mix of skillsets at tight end

When the Bears signed Trey Burton to a four-year contract worth a reported $32 million (with $18 million of it guaranteed), the natural thought was this: So long, Dion Sims. But the Bears are all but certainly going to hang on to the 27-year-old tight end after his $4 million roster bonus became fully guaranteed on Friday, barring a trade. 

“We like Dion Sims, a well-rounded tight end,” general manager Ryan Pace said on Thursday. “We’re excited we got him.”

Cynically — or, perhaps, fairly — Pace’s comments could’ve been interpreted as part of a play to trade Sims, who signed a three-year contract in 2017. The Bears saw Sims as a strong run blocker with pass-catching upside, but still gave themselves an out after one year that would’ve netted $5.666 million in cap savings. 

Sims didn’t show any of that receiving upside last year, though, catching 15 of 29 targets (51 percent) for 180 yards with one touchdown. Crucially, the Bears have the cap space to keep Sims, even with the flurry of signings they’ve announced this week -- and Kyle Fuller's reported four-year, $56 million extension -- and contract extensions looming for Eddie Goldman and possibly Adrian Amos, too. 

So hanging on to Sims means the Bears value his contributions as a run blocker and are willing to shoulder a $6.3 million cap hit for him to primarily be used in that role. The Bears expect Shaheen to be their primary in-line tight end, with Burton and Daniel Brown, who signed a one-year contract Friday, the more pass-catching-oriented “move” guys in Matt Nagy’s offense. But Sims will still have a role as the Bears look to maximize their production from the tight end position. 

“I think we can use all our tight ends,” Pace said. “I think the Super Bowl champions are a recent example of that, of using a lot of tight ends. They’re all valuable weapons. They’re all a little different. I think they all complement each other. It fits together nicely.”

The Bears sure don't sound like a team trying to move on from Leonard Floyd

The Bears sure don't sound like a team trying to move on from Leonard Floyd

I would make an argument that Leonard Floyd is the most divisive player on the Bears right now. Before you point out that well, actually, Mitch, you should remember that  everyone in Chicago's opinion on Trubisky is concretely set in stone. 

Floyd, on the other hand, gets a lot of love from the All-The-Tools gang while garnering equal amounts of hate from people who swear by Pro Football Focus. He's an incredibly athletic, situationally-useful, edge rusher that can't really get to the passer. Is there value in that? There sure is! How much? IDK, but it's probably not $13 million! That's how much Floyd, who had a career-low three sacks last season, is due to make in 2020, and it's a number that the Bears have surely looked at a few times. On one hand, even that's a lot of money for an edge rusher whose impact shows up on the box score. On the other hand, it's a lot of money for an edge rusher whose impact doesn't show up on the box score. 

You'd think that said predicament would open the Bears up to some sort of contract restructuring, or even a trade. Every second of media availability at the combine is just a chance for GMs to set smokescreens, but it certainly doesn't sound like the Bears are trying to move on. 

"I think Leonard wants to be more productive as a pass rusher," Pace said on Tuesday morning. We want him to be more productive there too. He's close in a lot of areas when you look at the pressures and those things. He just needs to finish a little better on the quarterback. But I think when you're evaluating him, you have to factor in everything. His run defense, his ability in coverage."

"We consider him our SAM outside linebacker, so we value what he can do in coverage and think sometimes that goes a little underrated for what he does in that area, for a guy that's of his stature. Not many outside linebackers can drop in coverage like he does, so that's a factor."

Maybe that's what the Bears WANT us to think! Maybe Ryan Pace is playing chess while we're all playing checkers. Or maybe Ryan Pace has a problem knowing when to cut bait with a high draft pick that hasn't panned out. Who knows! 

Heading into Year 3, Matt Nagy's still searching for the Bears' identity

Heading into Year 3, Matt Nagy's still searching for the Bears' identity

Matt Nagy met with media on Tuesday, so naturally the horrid state of his offense eventually came up. When pressed on what's going to change, Nagy said some things that fans will probably like hearing.

"We know offensively we struggled in a lot of different areas, but we're about fixing it," Nagy said. "If we're OK with what we did last year, then we're in the wrong place. And we're not. So, we gotta fix things."

And then he followed that with some things they may not:

“Yeah, I’ll be calling the plays," he added.

"As we go through this offseason here, we need to figure out offensively what is our identity. I think more specifically, too, in the run game, we struggled there. So, we got to figure out what our identity is and that's going to be an objective for us. And then last year you heard me say, sometimes it takes five or six weeks. I feel like personally that's always the case but there's a sense of urgency for us going into this year. It needs to happen sooner."

Though the notion of who's calling plays has become something of a strawman for 2019, the Bears have already addressed it plenty. Gone are offensive coordinator Mark Helfrich, offensive line coach Harry Hiestand, and tight ends coach Kevin Gilbride. (Helfrich and Hiestand were reportedly heavily involved in the team's run plan.) In their places, respectively, are Bill Lazor, Juan Castillo, and Clancy Barone. They even brought on John DeFilippo to be the new QB coach after promoting Dave Ragone. 

"For me as a head coach, what I’m trying to do is, I want to become the best possible head coach I could be," Nagy said. "And by doing that, having guys around me that I can delegate and give things to is important … we don’t have the run-game coordinator title, but we have guys in Juan Castillo, Clancy Barone that have a great background in that. Bill Lazor can oversee really everything. We’re all having great ideas."

And while the Bears are fully embracing the idea of (too?) many cooks in a kitchen, there's still only one chef. This will still be Nagy's offense, for better or for worse. With that said, after watching Andy Reid -- his professional mentor -- adjust the Chiefs' gameplan all the way to a Super Bowl title, the art of the adjustment hasn't been lost on Nagy. 

"Coach Reid, in Philadelphia, ran a true West Coast offense," he said. "Not running that anymore. He’s been changing. So being able to change to your personnel—When we had Alex Smith, he brought in a lot of the RPO stuff. And now he’s got Patrick and they’re doing their things. So, to each their own. And it worked. But that also took a little bit of time, right? I remember coming in in 2013 in Kansas City and the year before, they were 2-14. It took time. Now seven, eight years later, it’s a Super Bowl. There’s a foundation there of players that has been created over time and that offense is not the same as what it was when I was there two years ago. That’s fun."

Here's to hoping that Bears' fans have patience for "seven, eight years later." 

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