With their signings of linebackers Jerrell Freeman and Danny Trevathan and tackle Bobby Massie, the Bears added three presumed starters to their 22 position spots. With those three, however, come a handful of…well, quirks.
Not necessarily bad at all, just…quirks. Consider:
Both Freeman and Trevathan intercepted Jay Cutler the first and only times they faced their new Bears teammate, both in Soldier Field. (This of course does not necessarily put them in elite company; Cutler has gotten better with ball security but he's thrown picks to assorted defensive tackles, too.)
Freeman returned a Cutler interception for a TD in the first quarter of his first NFL game, a 2012 Bears win. Trevathan picked off Cutler last season in the Broncos’ 17-15 win. Notably perhaps with respect to Trevathan’s cover skills: The interception came on a throw toward Marquess Wilson – a wide receiver in the deep middle.
The current four projected starting linebackers in the Bears’ 3-4 all came to Chicago via free agency. It’s a situation that has to change organizationally, with GM Ryan Pace opening up a draft pipeline, but that’s for another discussion.
Right now, however, Freeman and Trevathan are starting inside-‘backers, and Lamarr Houston and Pernell McPhee are the OLB’s. Houston’s contract situation may be an issue at $6 million for 2016 but he also was the Bears’ sack leader last season, so… .
With Houston at $6 million, McPhee at $7.5 million, Trevathan at $6.1 million and Freeman at $4 million, the Bears need to score on draft picks like safety Adrian Amos and nose tackle Eddie Goldman for fiscal balance as well as a sound future.
All three new Bears experienced coaching changes with their previous teams:
Massie: The Arizona Cardinals fired Ken Whisenhunt after 2012 and hired Bruce Arians.
Trevathan: The Denver Broncos went from John Fox to Gary Kubiak last season.
Freeman: Colts coach Chuck Pagano needed time away in 2012 to battle cancer, with Arians stepping in for Pagano.
[SHOP: Gear up Bears fans!]
Teams typically want to build with youth for obvious reasons. Freeman is something of an outlier, turning 30 this coming May 1, in large part due to his playing three seasons (2009-11) with the Saskatchewan Roughriders in the Canadian Football League after the Tennessee Titans cut him after training camp 2008.
All three come to Chicago smarting from disrespect, some dating back to even before they got to the NFL. Besides the positive life lesson of not letting others’ opinions of you affect how you look at yourself, the residue from doubters is pure motivation.
Massie watched on draft day 2015 as the Arizona Cardinals used their first-round pick on a tackle – D.J. Humphries – to replace him. Humphries spent the year as an inactive but the Cardinals only offered Massie a one-year contract to remain with them.
Freeman gets to play this season against both Tennessee, which cut him before the 2008 season, and Indianapolis, which he said made no real effort to re-sign him this offseason despite his averaging 119 tackles for the past four seasons. That he came from a D-3 program still fuels him.
“That chip on my shoulder is never going to get knocked off,” Freeman said. “It's always going to be there. I carry it with me. It's shaped the kind of player I am. The aggressiveness, recklessness, just out there running around because I can really appreciate where I've come from. There was a lot of people counting me out in a lot of different situations, so I definitely carry that chip.”
Trevathan led the prestigious SEC in tackles in 2011 but was not a finalist for the Dick Butkus Award for college football’s top linebacker. At 240 pounds (generously) he has been type-cast as too small: “It’s an issue for everybody else, not for me. I believe it’s the fight. They same I’m undersized, but I’m not. Seriously. I like that people keep saying it’s something about me.”