Bears’ quest for pass rusher urgent but by no means a clear path


Bears’ quest for pass rusher urgent but by no means a clear path

Not all that long ago the Bears were consistently a solid pass-rushing team. Three times (2005, ’06, ’12) in the span of Lovie Smith’s last eight years the Bears had at least 40 sacks, coincidentally or not, three years in which they won a combined 34 games.

The last three years they averaged 35 sacks per season, coincidentally or not, three years in which they won a combined 19. Not necessarily a direct cause-and-effect, but one that the Bears are intent on remedying in the 2016 offseason through a combination of draft and free agency.

But here’s the problem:

Free agency rarely offers elite pass rushers, and the Bears made their play for one last offseason with a $35 million contract for Pernell McPhee from Baltimore. Teams do not let top pass rushers escape without incumbent options (the Ravens had Elvis Dumervil and Terrell Suggs) and the franchise tag for defensive ends ($15.7 million) accordingly is second only to that for quarterbacks ($19.95 million).

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Not surprisingly, Denver franchised Von Miller (11 sacks), Miami use a transitional tag on Olivier Vernon (7.5) and the Jets used their franchise tag on Muhammad Wilkerson (12).

The draft is the best way to secure disruptors in the pass rush. And the ’16 draft class is widely considered one of all-time best for defensive linemen. ESPN draft analyst Todd McShay said that he had 16 defensive tackles in his top 100 players in this draft, meaning that an elite down-lineman like Alabama’s A’Shawn Robinson projects as the right choice based on best-player-available philosophies.

Because various edge options in the draft are anything but enthralling.

[SHOP: Gear up, Bears fans!]

“[Clemson defensive end Shaq] Lawson is going to be the most consistent effort guy,” McShay said of the 275-pound rusher who tied for the ACC lead with 12.5 sacks. “He’s going to bring a lot of fire and emotion. He’s a natural pass rusher in terms of his instincts. But he’s not a speedster.

“But I think he’s a junkyard dog. I love the way he plays.”

Georgia outside linebacker Leonard Floyd has moved up on some draft boards. But whether those boards include the Bears’ is open to question.

“I’d rather personally — and I’m not speaking for [the Bears] — bet on [Lawson] that’s going to go out and give me everything every single snap, and play with that kind of intensity, than a player like Floyd who is supremely talented but never has quite found his niche,” McShay said. “Maybe it’s how they used him...but he’s never grown into the player you would expect when you look at those measurables.”

Predicting the value of Roquan Smith's rookie contract with Bears

Predicting the value of Roquan Smith's rookie contract with Bears

Chicago Bears first-round pick Roquan Smith remains unsigned, a situation that prior to the rookie wage scale would've been cause for concern. With contracts now based on slotting, or where a first-round pick is selected, there's little reason or room for agents to haggle over terms. A holdout isn't expected.

There have been some exceptions to this general principle, however. Joey Bosa, who was selected with the third pick by the Chargers in 2016, held out until August 29 over offset language and his signing bonus. So, while a holdout for Smith is unlikely, it's not impossible.

Assuming he agrees to a contract on time, here's what the terms of his deal should look like, according to CBS Sports:

2018 Cap Number: $3,349,485
Signing Bonus: $11,517,940
Four-year value: $18,477,168

If the numbers are correct, Smith will have the 17th-highest cap hit for the Bears in 2018, according to Spotrac. By comparison, Danny Trevathan has a $7.15 million cap hit this season.

Drafting well is critical for long-term success. If a general manager misses on first-round picks, the cap consequences mount over time. Consider Kevin White, the seventh-overall pick in 2015. He has zero touchdowns in his pro career but has a $5.27 million cap hit this year. Leonard Floyd, the team's first-rounder in 2016, has a $4.30 million cap hit and Mitch Trubisky, last year's second pick overall, is $6.59 million. Pace's four first-round picks, when counting Smith's expected deal, are four of the top-17 paid players on the payroll even though none of them have the production to back it up.

Smith, however, is as close to a bust-free prospect as the Bears have drafted in Pace's tenure. He was considered one of the best pure football players in the entire 2018 draft class and will start immediately alongside Trevathan as a rookie, assuming he's under contract in time to contribute in Week 1.

Which Bears have the highest player rating in Madden 19?

Which Bears have the highest player rating in Madden 19?

The time has come to start counting down to the release of Madden 19. The most popular football video game franchise of all-time is set to release in early August and as is a tradition with the weeks leading up to the game appearing on store shelves, leaks about features and player ratings have started.

Here are the highest rated Bears players in this year's edition:

Adrian Amos leads the way with an 88 rating, followed by Akiem Hicks (85) and Allen Robinson (85). 

Chicago's offense received a 75 overall rating, which should result in a significant challenge for Bears fans trying to score virtual points later this summer. The defense, however, will be stout, coming in with an overall rating of 81. Amos and Hicks have a lot to do with that.

Ratings are subject to change due to injury. Madden 19 is scheduled for release on August 10.