This week Albert Breer of Sports Illustrated included Bears linebacker Nick Kwiatkoski in his ‘Free Agents Ready to Cash In’ section of his Monday Morning Quarterback (MMQB) column.
He describes the 26-year-old 2016 fourth-round pick as someone ready to cash in at the right time as he enter free agency.
Here’s the guy who’d never really gotten the chance to be a full-time starter, then did… at just the right time. The fourth-year former fourth-round pick started Chicago’s final seven games and showed that he can play the middle for someone, and he could get paid after guys like Cory Littleton and Joe Schobert come off the board. And maybe that someone will be his old coordinator, Vic Fangio in Denver.
The right time he is referring to is when Kwiatkoski started the final seven games of the Bears’ disappointing 2019 season while Danny Trevathan was injured. During those starts, he averaged seven tackles per game.
Breer isn’t the only analyst noticing Kwiatkoski after his solid stretch to close out 2019. After Week 10’s matchup against the Lions, Kwiatkoski earned Pro Football Focus’ highest grade for linebackers with a score of 92.4. In that game, he racked up eight tackles, one sack and one interception against Detroit, helping to bring home the W for the Bears on Thanksgiving.
The West Virginia alum and four-year NFL veteran proved how well he could play the middle, with Breer speculating he may be picked up by his old defensive coordinator Vic Fangio, now with the Broncos. Entering free agency this offseason, Ryan Pace is stuck in the position of having to chose between Kwiatkoski and Trevathan, whose contract is also expiring and spent the better part of the season out with a shoulder injury. The Bears can’t afford them both after Kwiatkoski’s value surely skyrocketed this season. It has yet to be seen where he or Trevathan will land.