Does Ryan Pace have a big move brewing after clearing cap space with Khalil Mack’s contract?

Does Ryan Pace have a big move brewing after clearing cap space with Khalil Mack’s contract?

 Are the Bears up to something big?

Clearing that much cap space in 2019 — and, essentially, deferring it to 2020-2023 — is a strong signal that Ryan Pace is working on something. Or somethings. 
Without the full 2019 details of the contracts of running back Mike Davis (reportedly two years, $7 million max) and slot corner Buster Skrine (reportedly three years, $16.5 million), it’s hard to know exactly how much cap space the Bears have after the Mack re-structuring. It’s likely north of $20 million, which would allow Ryan Pace to sign one of the biggest free agents still available, like safety Earl Thomas or running back Le’Veon Bell. 
Or, alternatively: It would allow Pace to sign a safety to replace Adrian Amos, who the Chicago Tribune’s Brad Biggs reported Monday night would likely land elsewhere in free agency. In addition to that safety, the cap space could allow the Bears to add depth at a few critical positions: Wide receiver, offensive line and edge rusher, specifically. 
The Bears will lose versatile special teamer Josh Bellamy to the New York Jets, per multiple reports, and are unlikely to retain 2015 first-round pick Kevin White. That leaves their wide receiver depth chart needing at least one player, possibly more. The Bears have been linked to New England running back/wideout Cordarrelle Patterson, who could add an explosive element to the offense. 
Both the Bears’ primary interior offensive line reserves – Bryan Witzmann and Eric Kush – are unrestricted free agents, leaving them with a need for a backup there, especially given Kyle Long’s injury history. 
And behind Mack and Leonard Floyd at outside linebacker are a pair of young, unproven players in Isaiah Irving and Kylie Fitts. Signing a veteran to back up Mack and Floyd would be a prudent move. 
On the surface, the sensible thing to do may be to use the money freed up by Mack’s restructuring to build out a depth chart that wasn’t particularly tested by injuries in 2018. The Bears may not be able to count on the same luck in 2019, so adding reserves at a few critical positions is important. 
Or maybe the Bears really are going to throw caution to the wind and make a legitimate run at Bell. We’ll likely find out soon. 

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Four Bears who need to improve over final 11 games of 2019

Four Bears who need to improve over final 11 games of 2019

Chicago Bears fans entered the 2019 season with expectations that, admittedly, may have been a bit too high. After last year's 12-4 finish, NFC North title and what should've been at least one playoff victory, it's easy to understand why. The defense was returning all of its key pieces and the offense was set to emerge in Year 2 under Matt Nagy.

And while a 3-2 start certainly isn't the end of the world, the Bears haven't looked like a team that can realistically win a Super Bowl. Sure, the defense is championship caliber, but the offense is nowhere close. 

But that was all pre-bye week. Is it fair to demand better results now that the coaches and players have had some time to step back and evaluate what's worked (and what hasn't)? Absolutely.

In order to really feel good about this team's chances at a Super Bowl run in 2019, a handful of players need to step their game up.

Here are four of those guys:

QB Mitch Trubisky

Trubisky represents the Bears' 2019 season perfectly. He's the classic case of in-season play not living up to the preseason hype. But, much like this team in general, he can quickly flip the narrative into a positive one if he gets off to a hot start in Week 7 against the Saints and over the next five weeks in general.

Trubisky is expected to start Sunday after injuring his shoulder in Week 4 against the Vikings, an injury that forced him to miss Week 5's loss to the Raiders. His absence was felt in London; backup quarterback Chase Daniel wasn't atrocious, but he showed he isn't the kind of player who can elevate his teammates and finish a rally. Trubisky has proven he can be that guy — at least, in spurts — and now has to put this offense on his back, carry it to more production, points and victories.

Statistically, Trubisky could be worse. He's completing over 65% of his passes, and while his yardage and touchdown totals aren't the kind that fantasy football owners desire, he's kept the Bears above water. It's time for him to turn the corner and start proving to Nagy and this fanbase that Chicago can win games because of him and not just because of the defense.

WR Anthony Miller

Miller was supposed to be the Bears' breakout star on offense. He was supposed to challenge wide receiver Allen Robinson for targets. He was supposed to be a touchdown-scoring playmaker. Instead, he has just eight catches for 80 yards and no touchdowns through five games. He's on pace for just 256 receiving yards this season. This, from a player the Bears invested a second-round pick in in 2018. 

Miller flashed his playmaking ability in Week 5 when he hauled in four passes for 52 yards against the Raiders. But he hasn't eliminated bone-headed penalties and still appears, at times, like he lets his emotions get the best of him. Miller has to mature as a route-runner and he needs to maintain a team-first attitude between the lines in order to reach his full potential. If he falls behind wide receiver Javon Wims in the pecking order after the bye, concern for his role in this offense moving forward is very, very real.

The Bears need Miller to emerge as an explosive after-the-catch mid-level target for Trubisky. Otherwise, the offense won't come anywhere near reaching its potential.

LT Charles Leno, Jr.

Leno has been one of the most consistent and reliable Bears players over the last few seasons, but he's off to a rocky start in 2019. He has Chicago's fifth-lowest grade on offense (via Pro Football Focus) and has been penalized a team-high eight times. Aside from Kyle Long, Leno's been the worst offensive lineman in the run game, too.

There's no reason to worry that Leno has suddenly regressed to a fringe starter. Sometimes, players go through a slump. But the left tackle is one of the most important positions on offense, and the Bears need theirs to be better down the stretch.

OLB Leonard Floyd

Week 1 seems like a long, long time ago for Floyd. He registered two sacks in the opener and it felt like we were finally seeing the emergence of the former first-round pick's pass-rushing upside. Now entering Week 7, Floyd is still sitting on two sacks.

To be fair, Floyd has been his usual solid self. He's playing sound football against the run and in coverage, but edge defenders will always be judged by how often they get to the quarterback. With each passing week, Floyd continues to cement his reputation as just-a-guy in that department.

A breakout from Floyd would put the Bears defense in a tier of its own over the final 11 games. In fact, if he can be that double-digit-sack guy to complement Khalil Mack, Chicago's defense will be of the quality that can win a Super Bowl with or without above-average play from Trubisky.

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Sports Talk Live Podcast: Akiem Hicks out, Mitch Trubisky in?

USA Today

Sports Talk Live Podcast: Akiem Hicks out, Mitch Trubisky in?

Patrick Finley, Justin Roman and Jason Goch join Kelly Crull on the panel.

0:00 - Mitch Trubisky is a fully participates in practice on Wednesday. Do the Bears need him to play to have any chance of beating the Saints. Plus the panel discusses Matt Nagy's offense and how the defense will cope without Akiem Hicks.

12:45 - Joe Maddon goes home again. The panel reminisces about his time at Wrigley and they discuss the options to replace him at Wrigley?

22:00 - NBC Sports' Chris Simms joins Kelly to talk about Mitch's status for Sunday and he tries to figure out the Bears identity on offense.

Listen here or via the embedded player below:

Sports Talk Live Podcast


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