Bears

Vic Fangio the first step as Bears start interviews for new coach

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AP

Vic Fangio the first step as Bears start interviews for new coach

As the Bears start their search for John Fox's replacement, their first stop was in-house.

General manager Ryan Pace interviewed Vic Fangio for the vacant head coach spot Wednesday, the team announced:

Fangio has served as the Bears' defensive coordinator for the last three years. He served in the same role with the San Francisco 49ers from 2011-14 and also has had stints with the Baltimore Ravens, Houston Texans, Indianapolis Colts, Carolina Panthers and New Orleans Saints in various capacities.

Fangio, 59, has never been a head coach anywhere he's gone but he has the respect of the Bears players and is highly thought of as a defensive mind around the league.

The Bears defense ranked 10th in the NFL in yards allowed in 2017 and 9th in points allowed per game (20.0). And that was with injuries devastating the linebacking group throughout the season.

The year before Fangio took over, the Bears ranked 30th in yards allowed and 31st in points allowed.

Bears grades and needs: What to do with Danny Trevathan, Nick Kwiatkoski?

Bears grades and needs: What to do with Danny Trevathan, Nick Kwiatkoski?

2018 depth chart

1. Danny Trevathan
Usage: 16 games, 93.7 percent of defensive snaps
2019 status: $7.65 million cap hit

The Bears could save $6.4 million in cap space if they were to release Trevathan before March 17, per Spotrac, but that move seems unlikely. Trevathan was one of the more underrated players on the league’s best defense in 2018, serving as a vocal leader while putting together his best season in Chicago. He finished the season with 102 tackles, two sacks, two interceptions, four pass break-ups, one forced fumble, one fumble recovery and eight tackles for a loss, all while playing 986 snaps, the third-highest total on the defense. 

With Chuck Pagano keeping 3-4 continuity, Trevathan will maintain a significant role in the Bears’ defense. Cutting him for cap savings could be detrimental to the Bears’ chances of making the playoffs again in 2019. He’s a guy who not only should be back, but should be one of the team’s most important players again this coming season. 

2. Roquan Smith
Usage: 16 games, 83.7 percent of defensive snaps
2019 status: $4,199,356 million cap hit

For a guy who participated in roughly one and a half practices during training camp and the preseason, and didn’t start in Week 1, Smith put together an impressive and encouraging rookie year. He was all over the field, with his speed, instincts and physicality often overcoming a steep learning curve in Vic Fangio’s defense. He led the Bears with 121 tackles but, perhaps just as impressive, tied for third on the team in sacks with five (which equaled Leonard Floyd’s total). 

Smith’s future is searingly bright. And as the Bears’ roster evolves over the next few years, with Mitch Trubisky’s rookie deal coming to an end and a rich extension due to Eddie Jackson, the Bears can overcome some potential roster/cap casualties by Smith living up to his potential while he’s still on his rookie contract. 

3. Nick Kwiatkoski
Usage: 16 games, 10.6 percent of defensive snaps, 71.5 percent of special teams snaps
2019 status: $2,188,780 cap hit

Kwiatkoski lost his starting job after Week 1, when it was clear the Bears needed Smith’s speed on the field after blowing that 20-point lead to the Packers in Green Bay. He barely played on defense after that, but credit the 25-year-old with committing himself to special teams and being a key contributor on those units (he also caught a two-point conversion pass on “Golden Ticket” in Week 17). 

The Bears, though, could save a little over $2 million in cap space by cutting Kwiatkoski. He’s a solid backup, but if the Bears think 2018 fourth-rounder Joel Iyiegbuniwe could be a similarly-solid reserve, they could decide to move on from Kwiatkoski. 

4. Joel Iyiegbuniwe
Usage: 16 games, 2.2 percent of defensive snaps, 74.6 percent of special teams snaps
2019 status: $739,643 cap hit

“Iggy” played more special teams snaps than anyone on the Bears, though his work on defense was limited to three snaps in garbage time in Week 4 against the Buccaneers and 12 after starters were pulled in Week 17 against the Vikings. That doesn’t give the Bears much film to evaluate, though he did play 129 snaps on defense during the preseason that should help with the team’s evaluation of him. 

5. Josh Woods
Usage: Practice squad
2019 status: Reserve/future contract

Woods, who played defensive back at Maryland, suffered a hand injury in the Bears’ second preseason game but stuck around the practice squad all year. 

Level of need (1-11, with 11 being the highest): 1

If the Bears stick to the status quo with their depth chart here, there’s not much work to be done. Trevathan and Smith are an excellent starting pair, with Kwiatkoski a reliable backup and Iyiegbuniwe a strong special teams contributor. If the team moves on from Kwiatkoski, they could be in the market for another backup here, but that wouldn’t be a pressing need. 

Bears will reportedly release Cody Parkey when new league year begins

Bears will reportedly release Cody Parkey when new league year begins

The biggest question regarding Cody Parkey wasn’t if he’d be released, but when. According to NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport, the “when” will be at the beginning of the new league year on March 13.

Parkey will still be paid the $3.5 million in remaining guaranteed money on his contract. The Bears guaranteed Parkey $9 million in his four-year, $15 million deal signed last year, and will not net any cap savings by releasing Parkey. The Bears can use a June 1 designation on Parkey to release him on March 13 without costing them any cap space (without using that collectively bargained designation, the Bears would owe an additional $1.125 million against their 2019 cap). They’ll still have to shoulder Parkey’s dead cap figure of a little over $4 million, per Spotrac. 
 
The move will bring to end an ignominious, brief tenure in Chicago, in which Parkey missed 10 kicks during the regular season before his infamous double-doink that dealt the Bears a loss in their first playoff game in eight years. Murmurs began surfacing regarding Parkey’s reliability when he missed a long game-winning field goal in overtime against the Miami Dolphins (a game the Bears lost), then hit a fever pitch when he bizarrely hit the uprights four times against the Detroit Lions at Soldier Field in November. 
 
A media circus quickly followed Parkey after that four-doink game, with helicopters from two news stations flying over Soldier Field while he practiced on a Wednesday night. Parkey did hit 10 of 12 field goals and 12 of 13 extra points after that brutal game against the Lions, but there was no coming back from the missed 43-yard field goal that knocked the Bears out of the playoffs. 
 
Parkey, too, didn’t help his cause by going on “TODAY” the Friday after that double-doink miss, with coach Matt Nagy sounding and looking annoyed with his kicker for that appearance. 
 
“We always talk as a team, we win as a team, we lose as a team,” Nagy said. “You know, I just -- I didn't necessarily think that that much too much of a ‘we’ thing.”
 
The Bears signed former Tulsa kicker Redford Jones to a reserve/future contract in January after bringing in several kickers for a tryout at Halas Hall. Cutting Parkey paves the way for the Bears to continue adding kickers in free agency, the draft and/or the undrafted free agent pool. 
 
Robbie Gould, who’s only missed three of 85 field goal attempts since being cut by the Bears before the 2016 season, is likely to have the franchise tag placed on him by the San Francisco 49ers, according to NBC Sports Bay Area’s Matt Maiocco.