Why the Bears are willing to take the risk on Kyle Fuller

Why the Bears are willing to take the risk on Kyle Fuller

The Bears giving Kyle Fuller a hug in the form of a we-want-you-back transition tag represents an interesting chapter in their relationship with their pick at No. 14 of the 2014 draft.

This time a year ago, the Bears were on a course that would involve lavishing $7 million for one year on Prince Amukamara, and $8 million guaranteed in a three-year pact with Marcus Cooper. Fuller wasn’t drafted by the Ryan Pace regime, and defensive coordinator Vic Fangio had publicly cast aspersions on Fuller’s resolve after the cornerback remained out late in the season after seemingly minor knee surgery in August. Throwing Fuller under the bus did not sit well at all in a locker room conditioned to keeping issues in-house, let alone with Fuller himself.

Since the end of 2017, Fangio has been retained under new coach Matt Nagy, and he has reached out to Fuller for some golf and presumably a bit of relationship-building. The Bears engaging in contract talks described by GM Ryan Pace as “aggressive” reinforced the positive message. Best guess at this point is that, with the help of the market either producing an offer or validating the Bears’ offer with its silence, Fuller will be a starting Bears cornerback for several more seasons.

The result of the tag is difficult to predict conclusively. Teams may be reluctant to fashion a multi-year package for Fuller, reasoning that they will effectively just be doing the Bears’ work for them, the presumption being that the Bears will just match the offer.

Collective bargaining talks in 2011 eliminated flagrant “poison pills” in contract offers but opposing teams are free to structure contracts with front- or back-loading intended to put the player’s current team in a salary-cap bind. The Bears, however, have managed their cap superbly under Pace and are among the teams with the greatest cap space with which to make or match offers.

A tag not without risk

The Bears have had good and bad experience with the transition tag. They landed Andy Heck when the Seattle Seahawks passed on matching the Bears’ offer to the left tackle in 1994. They’d placed transition tags on defensive backs Mark Carrier and Donnell Woolford the year before and kept both with multi-year deals.

But letting the market set the value of one’s own players can blow up, sometimes painfully. The Bears were deep in negotiations with Alonzo Spellman in 1996 but refused to budge to the $2 million-per-year mark. The Jacksonville Jaguars then tendered a four-year deal worth $12 million, 50 percent more than the Bears’ line in the sand. The Bears then mysteriously matched the Jacksonville package, which included a $100,000 annual donation to Spellman’s foundation that the Bears unsuccessfully challenged.

Late in 1995, with tackle James “Big Cat” Williams in search of a new deal in the range of $2 million per season. A Bears executive scoffed, “James Williams, a $2-million tackle?! Oh, please.” He was right; the Bears let Williams hit the market, the Oakland Raiders came after him with an offer the Bears countered, and which revealed that James Williams in fact was a $2.9-million tackle.

With their transition tag, the Bears are telling Fuller that they think he’s worth $12.971 million a year, at least for the 2018 year. That the two sides didn’t get a deal done already at that level – A.J. Bouye and Stephon Gilmore set the cornerback market last offseason at $13.5 million per season – suggests that the increase of the salary cap to $177.2 million from $167 million has predictably bumped expectations (and demands) upward.

That no deal got done with “aggressive” negotiating says that the Bears may be saying Fuller isn’t a $13.5-million cornerback. What they’re hoping they don’t find out, in the Big Cat tradition, is that Fuller in fact isn’t a $13.5-million cornerback, that he’s a $15-million cornerback.

The Bears last year lost free agents over demands for massive guarantees rooted in coaching and quarterback uncertainties. They may still be looking at high guarantee demands but took their first step on Tuesday to keeping one of their own.

NBC Sports Chicago is on Apple News. Favorite us!

GM Ryan Pace named Sporting News' Executive of the Year, first Bears GM to win since 1985

GM Ryan Pace named Sporting News' Executive of the Year, first Bears GM to win since 1985

The offseason awards continue rolling in for the Bears. 

On Sunday, GM Ryan Pace was named Sporting News' Executive of the Year award. The award's fitting, given what Pace was able to do during the 2018 offseason to turn a 5-11 team into the NFC North Champions: 

Pace is the third Bears executive to win the award - George Halas and Michael McCaskey both won the award in 1956 and 1985, respectively. The award was voted on by a group of Pace's peers and other executives around the NFL. He talked with Sporting News about what the win meant for him and the Bears organization

"It's extremely humbling," Pace told Sporting News upon reception of his award. "It’s also motivating. (Halas and McCaskey) have really set the high standards we strive to live up to. Every day we walk into Halas Hall. To me it’s just a constant reminder of how fortunate we are to be a part of this."

Perhaps no team was more active than the Bears in the 2018 offseason. Though the hiring of Matt Nagy and signing of Robinson, Gabriel, and Burton made headlines, it may be Pace's 2017 draft that ends up being the feather in his Bears' cap. Eddie Jackson and Tarik Cohen, both taken in that draft's 4th round, were named All-Pros after their stellar 2018 seasons. As Pace heads to Arizona this week for the NFL's annual Owner Meetings, questions about his offseason plans continue to linger.  

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

Jay Cutler plays wingman in latest 'Very Cavallari'

Jay Cutler plays wingman in latest 'Very Cavallari'

If you are like a sizable chunk of Chicago and just watch "Very Cavallari" for Jay Cutler moments, this week’s episode won’t make be your favorite.

After stealing the show last week as the “biggest a-hole on the planet,” Cutler had a more muted role. That didn’t stop the former Bears quarterback from having some very Jay moments.

Cutler opened by offering some advice to his wife, Kristin Cavallari, about issues at her work. His solution was to fire someone, which she noted is always his answer. (Did he have the same reaction when things weren’t going well for the Bears?)

“Cut off the head of the snake,” Cutler said, trying to offer wisdom. “There’s something else that goes with that line, I just don’t know it.”

Cutler tried to sound philosophical and realized mid-thought that that is not his brand and quickly adjusted.

Cutler later talked to his friend Chuy while tending to his massive yard/forest. He asked his friend, who is gay, how his dating life is going and asked "Don't they have like apps for that?"

Cutler then offered more dating advice (which was a theme for him this episode): "I would 100 percent do somebody rich if I was you."

There you have it. In another life, Jay Cutler might have been a gold digger.

Later on, Cavallari walks in on Cutler making a fire in the fireplace. She commented that this is the first fire in their new home.

“This is more of a me fire,” Cutler said. “I didn’t know you were attending.”

Classic Cutler. He had every opportunity to use this to gain some brownie points with his wife, but no, that would be too easy. This is Cutler forcing a deep ball instead of hitting the open checkdown.

Cutler’s last notable scenes this week involved him playing wingman for Cavallari’s best friend, Kelly. He volunteers his services to help her in her single love life. Cutler begins by describing the type of man she would be interested in and the two women cut him off to say he is describing the perfect man.

“I don’t think he exists,” Cavallari said.

“Oh, I was just describing myself,” Cutler responded without missing a beat.

Cutler did go out with Kelly for a drink to talk about how he can help her in her dating life. The solution is to have him run her profile on a dating app. Nothing materialized from this yet on this episode, but there’s definitely potential Cutty gold there.

Oh, and also, this week featured FULL CAMO CUTTY: