Bears

Bears In-Foe: Mariota and Murray have Music City attack humming

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USA TODAY

Bears In-Foe: Mariota and Murray have Music City attack humming

Though Bears GM Ryan Pace will never admit it publicly, there was talk the day of the 2015 draft that he was furiously trying to work a deal in which he would send Jay Cutler and the seventh overall pick to Tennessee for the chance to draft Marcus Mariota (if Tampa Bay chose Jameis Winston, which they did).  But when you consider the offer then-Titans GM Ruston Webster rejected from Philadelphia and Chip Kelly, it was no wonder Pace's reported offer didn't get very far. 

Kelly, suddenly in charge of basically everything with the Eagles, so badly wanted to pick his former quarterback at Oregon that CSNPhilly reported Kelly offered the Eagles' first- and second-round picks in 2015, their 2016 first-rounder, any quarterback that was then on Kelly's roster, and any defensive player(s). Just for Mariota. Webster stood pat and picked the Heisman Trophy winner.

Leap forward to this past spring, when Webster's replacement, former Buccaneers Director of Player Personnel and previous Patriots College Scouting Director Jon Robinson picked up the phone with the post-Kelly Eagles. Even though the Chipster was fired, DeMarco Murray was so miserable in his one season there he wanted out.  So Robinson offered his fourth-rounder in exchange for Philly's fourth rounder, a 13-spot drop. And Murray.

Mariota's solid rookie season included missing four games, but also a 19-to-10 touchdown-to-interception ratio, 2,818 passing yards and a 62 percent completion rate.  Through the team's 5-6 start this season, that TD-to-INT split is 23/8 while his accuracy's jumped a couple of percentage points. Entering Monday night's Oakland-Houston game, Mariota ranked sixth in passer rating (100.3) and passing yards (2,772). He's obviously picked up the pro-style offense well while still remaining a threat to run (his 264 rushing yards is third among quarterbacks).

As for Murray, his 1,100-yard drop in rushing yards from that sick 2014 in Dallas (on 212 fewer carries), has resulted in exactly 1,000 yards this year coming here Sunday (second only to his eventual Cowboys successor, rookie Ezekiel Elliott). He has eight rushing touchdowns and another three receiving (on 40 catches), limiting second-round bulldozer Derrick Henry to just 62 carries (252 yards).

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How about some more "M's" besides Mariota and Murray? Mike Mularkey. A lot of fans wanted a fresh, new head coach after Mularkey slid into that role following last year's firing of Ken Whisenhunt. And went 2-7. But Robinson decided to keep the man who'd gone 16-32 in three previous seasons as head coach in Buffalo and Jacksonville. The five wins now matches the Titans' win total over the previous two seasons. Long-term answer? We'll see. Mularkey brought in 33-year NFL coaching veteran Terry Robiskie as Offensive Coordinator.

One more "M."  Mathews. As in Rishard, whom the Dolphins chose not to exercise the fifth-year option on his rookie contract. The wideout had nine catches for 122 yards in Sunday's loss in Indianapolis to give him 45 receptions, one off the team lead held by under-the-radar tight end Delanie Walker, who erupted for a 94-catch season a year ago after seven years as a backup in San Francisco. Fifth-round rookie Tajae Sharpe has 34 catches, while 2012 first-rounder Kendall Wright's added 25 (three touchdowns) after a couple of injury-plagued seasons.

This is a team that has cut ties with each of its underwhelming second-round picks between 2013 and 2015, wideouts Justin Hunter and Dorial Green-Beckham, and running back Bishop Sankey. And while Robinson fleeced the Rams ahead of this spring's draft to stack several extra picks this year and next (including L.A.'s 2017 first-rounder), his move down this spring netted him right tackle Jack Conklin to bookend with 2014 top pick Taylor Lewan. The latter left Sunday's game with a left knee injury (replaced by Dennis Kelly), while 2013 first-round guard Chance Warmack was sidelined early in the season after finger surgery. But their claim on waived ex-Patriots guard Josh Kline (13 starts last season) has paid off, and center Ben Jones was signed away in free agency from division rival Houston, all in an effort to protect the one "M" behind center and spring the other "M" to 1,000 yards on the ground already.

Bears still have league-average amount of salary cap space left

Bears still have league-average amount of salary cap space left

Free agency has slowed to crawl a little more than a week into the process, and the Bears still have some money to spend.

Ryan Pace made multiple moves to clear up additional salary cap space this offseason, but he spent his money cautiously.

Even with five outside signings under contract, he still has the space to make some more moves.

As of Friday, the Bears have just under $17 million in cap space, the 16th-most in the NFL, according to ESPN’s Field Yates.

Pace has more money to work with now than he did before the team started releasing players to clear space.

He still has to keep some cap available to sign their draft picks as well as an emergency fund for the season, but the Bears have more than enough money left to add an impact player or two on the open market.

The pool of talent to pick from continues to shrink, but Pace can still find quality options that could come at a bargain the longer they sit on the open market.

 

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Chicago Football Madness Rd. of 32: Chalk dominates the 1st round, with some notable exceptions

Chicago Football Madness Rd. of 32: Chalk dominates the 1st round, with some notable exceptions

Excitement for the Bears are at an all-time high, so while March Madness and the NCAA Tournament begin, we still have Bears on the mind. So we've created Chicago Bears Football Madness, pitting players from the three best Bears teams and legends head-to-head.

THIS. IS. STILL. MARCH. 

The first round of our inaugural Chicago Football Madness Tournament is over, and friends, it was kind of anti-climatic -- except for Jay Cutler advancing, that rules. 

Out of all the 32 Opening Round matchups, only two underdogs moved on: Robbie Gould and The Fridge. Now, Gould's got a tough matchup against 2-seed Lance Briggs, and there's no rest for the Perry (this joke works, right?) as he takes on Walter Payton. 

Keep sending the votes in! You can find all the matchups over on our Twitter account, or on the website, because we like to give you options. 

RD. OF 32 REGIONS:

1985 Bracket

2006 Bracket

2018 Bracket

Legends/Others Bracket

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