Bears

Bears showing prove-it theme with Alshon Jeffery that worked with Jay Cutler

Bears showing prove-it theme with Alshon Jeffery that worked with Jay Cutler

The Bears of general manager Ryan Pace and coach John Fox have been comfortable with prove-it scenarios in their year-plus in Chicago. Indications are growing that they’re leaning toward another one with wide receiver Alshon Jeffery.

By way of perspective: When Pace took over as Bears general manager a year-and-a-half ago, he hired Fox, and Fox in turn brought Adam Gase with him from Denver as his offensive coordinator. What ensued was a detailed, under-the-radar scrutiny of Jay Cutler, with Gase reaching out to Cutler’s former coaches for their perspectives, among other vettings of the incumbent quarterback.

Neither Fox nor Pace publicly expressed more than tempered positive feelings about Cutler, even with the organization on the hook for a significant amount of money because of the contract given Cutler by former general manager Phil Emery. Chairman George McCaskey stated that the new staff would not be constrained by money if the decision was to move on without Cutler, whose contract still was decidedly not to the liking of the revamped organization, sources have told CSNChicago.com.

Proceeding with restraint and reservations yielded results for a new staff feeling its way with what Emery had declared a “franchise” and “elite” quarterback. Working with Gase and then-quarterbacks coach Dowell Loggains, now Cutler’s offensive coordinator, Cutler produced the best statistical season of his career.

Now the Bears appear to be following a similar theme with Jeffery (who actually is a “franchise” wide receiver and has the signed tag to prove it). Not that the Bears aren’t down with Jeffery, just not to the degree he envisoned, and perhaps the Bears would be offering if Jeffery had been a gameday “show” more often than he was in 2015.

The Bears placed their franchise tag on Jeffery in late February, and the fourth-year wideout signed the deal that guarantees him $14.6 million for this season. The tag gives the two sides until July 15 to reach a multi-year contract, after which point the tag is Jeffery’s 2016 contract.

Pace has expressed what has sounded like gradually lessening optimism that a long-term deal would be negotiated. The staff was comfortable with Jeffery’s recent injury issues that cost him about half of last season, at least comfortable enough to consider a new contract — with reservations, the kind that come with talking an expensive contract with a player who missed nearly half the preceding season.

Concurrently, Jeffery has been a no-show for all of the Bears’ offseason programs or practices, working out on his own, first in California, lately in Florida.

Jeffery’s absence points to the obvious, that a deal to his liking, in the Dez Bryant/Demaryius Thomas range of $14 million-to-$15 million range per year, has not reached near completion. Matt Forte played through his tag season. Jeffery will play for his (players don’t skip $14.6 million), and the continued absence even from voluntary sessions says that is the anticipated short-term resolution.

Unfortunately, irrespective of tags, if there is one unofficial indicator of contract problems, it is the no-show.

With two years left on his contract at the time, Thomas Jones employed it in 2006 before then-general manager Jerry Angelo agreed to work at trading him after the following season (which Angelo did). Forte no-show’d in 2011 after he received the franchise tag that offseason, then signed a four-year deal next offseason after Emery succeeded Angelo.

Martellus Bennett, with two years remaining on his Bears contract, skipped voluntary sessions last offseason. He eventually honored his contract, then was traded to New England this offseason.

Just one glitch in the skip-workouts thinking: Jones got new paper from the New York Jets after Angelo dealt him there. Bennett did get himself traded to New England, but the Patriots haven’t done any more in the way of giving him a new deal than the Bears did. He’s still signed through 2016, still due $5.1 million this season. Maybe he envisions getting more balls from Tom Brady than he did from Cutler, but if he’s counting on more than Rob Gronkowski, good luck with that.

Chicago Bears Training Camp: Veteran and rookie report dates

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USA Today

Chicago Bears Training Camp: Veteran and rookie report dates

Chicago Bears training camp is right around the corner with the first practice (non-padded) scheduled for July 21. 

Bears veterans and rookies will report a few days ahead of that first session to acclimate themselves to their new (for some) surroundings. Rookies report on July 16, with veterans coming three days later on July 19.

All eyes will be on QB Mitch Trubisky and the potentially high-flying offense under coach Matt Nagy. Training camp will take on extra importance because of the plethora of new faces on the roster and coaching staff as well as the installation of a completely new offensive scheme. It's critical that Trubisky builds chemistry with wide receivers Allen Robinson, Taylor Gabriel, Anthony Miller and Kevin White, all of whom he's never thrown a regular-season pass to. Add Trey Burton to that mix and a lot of miscues should be expected in the preseason.

The rookie class is led by linebacker Roquan Smith, who remains unsigned. With less than 30 days until rookies are required to report, a greater sense of urgency -- even if it's not quite a panic -- is certainly creeping in. Assuming he's signed in time, Smith should earn a starting role early in training camp and ascend to one of the defense's top all-around players. 

The Bears have higher-than-usual expectations heading into the 2018 season making fans eager for summer practices to get underway.

Leonard Floyd picked as potential Pro Bowler in 2018

Leonard Floyd picked as potential Pro Bowler in 2018

The Chicago Bears need a big season from outside linebacker Leonard Floyd. He's the team's best pass-rush option and the only legitimate threat to post double-digit sacks this year.

Floyd joined the Bears as a first-round pick (No. 9 overall) in 2016 and has flashed freakish talent at times. The problem has been his health; he's appeared in only 22 games through his first two seasons. 

Floyd's rookie year -- especially Weeks 5 through 9 -- showed a glimpse of the kind of disruptive force he's capable of becoming. He registered seven sacks and looked poised to breakout in 2017. Unfortunately, injuries limited him to only 10 games and four sacks.

Despite his disappointing sophomore season, NFL.com's Gil Brandt has high hopes for Floyd in 2018. The long-time NFL personnel executive named Floyd as the Bear with the best chance to earn a first-time trip to the Pro Bowl.

CHICAGO BEARS: Leonard Floyd, OLB, third NFL season. Floyd had seven sacks as a rookie in 2016, but missed six games last season due to a knee injury. He's a talented guy who can drop into coverage or rush with his hand on the ground and should play much better this season. He also has become much stronger since coming into the league.

The Bears will be in a heap of trouble if Floyd doesn't emerge as a Pro Bowl caliber player. There aren't many pass-rushing options on the roster outside of Floyd aside from Aaron Lynch and rookie Kylie Fitts. Neither edge defender has a resume strong enough to rely on as insurance.

It's a critical year for Floyd's future in Chicago, too. General manager Ryan Pace will decide whether to pick up Floyd's fifth-year option in his rookie contract next offseason. If he plays well, it's a no-brainer. If not, Pace could be looking at two straight first-round picks (see: Kevin White) that he's declined the extra year.

We're a long way from that decision. Until then, the Bears' season may sink or swim based on its pass rush. It begins -- and ends -- with Floyd.