Bears

Brandon Marshall thinks Bears almost traded him to Patriots before 2014 season

brandonmarshallalmosttradedtopatriots.png

Brandon Marshall thinks Bears almost traded him to Patriots before 2014 season

Imagine Brandon Marshall celebrating a Super Bowl victory on a float next to Tom Brady and watching Rob Gronkowski crushing a beer on another.

In an impromptu appearance on ESPN 1000 Friday morning, the ex-Bears wide receiver revealed that he was almost traded to the Super Bowl XLIX champion New England Patriots prior to the 2014 season.

[MORE BEARS: Bears replace Brandon Marshall with his 'baby bro' Kevin White]

"I could've played for the Patriots last year," Marshall told ESPN 1000. "There was an opportunity where [the Bears] could have traded me before the season. There was a little tension [between Marshall's agent and the Bears] on the contract stuff. I thought I was worth a little more and I ended up settling. There were a couple of teams that were offering more money.

“It never got that far, but there was a possibility with a couple teams.”

After back-to-back Pro Bowl seasons with the Bears in 2012 and 2013, Marshall's production declined in a drama-filled 2014. In 13 games, he had 61 receptions for 721 yards and eight touchdowns before suffering a season-ending collapsed lung against the Dallas Cowboys in December, which ended up being Marshall's last game in a Bears uniform.

[NBC SHOP: Get the latest Bears gear here]

Despite wanting to finish his career in Chicago the 31-year-old Marshall was traded on March 10 to the New York Jets for a 2015 fifth-round draft pick, which Bears GM Ryan Pace used on Penn State safety Adrian Amos.

Marshall mentioned to ESPN 1000 that he still spends his weekends in Chicago, but since getting dealt to the Jets he hasn't spoken with Bears quarterback Jay Cutler.

"Yeah, I just haven't talked to him," Marshall said. "We didn't talk at all, but it was kind of funny. Eric Decker sent out a picture of me relaxing with my feet up during downtime, and he sent out a group text to me, Brandon Stokley and Jay Cutler. So there was a little communication back and forth between those guys. But I haven't personally [talked to Cutler]."

Chicago Bears planning a run at free-agent tight end Austin Hooper

Chicago Bears planning a run at free-agent tight end Austin Hooper

The 2020 NFL Combine is revving up off the field as much as it is on the field as quarterbacks, wide receivers and tight ends kick off the on-field workouts at Lucas Oil Stadium. But it's what's going on inside the bars and restaurants in Indianapolis that should have Bears fans interested.

According to Jason Leister of the Chicago Sun-Times, the Bears are preparing to make a run at prized free-agent tight end, Austin Hooper. The Falcons playmaker is the top free-agent tight end on the market this year and according to Atlanta's general manager Thomas Dimitroff, he'll be given the opportunity to find out what his market value is.

That number is likely to come close to $10 million per season, which seems like an impossible price to pay for a Bears team that's already up against the salary cap. But with a new CBA on the horizon, everything we thought we knew about the salary cap could soon change.

Hooper would instantly provide the Bears with the kind of second-level threat the passing game's been lacking since, well, forever. Or, since Martellus Bennett left town in 2016.

Ryan Pace has to be careful, however. He's swung and missed on two free-agent tight ends since becoming the Bears GM. First, it was Dion Sims in 2017. Then came Trey Burton in 2018. 

Sims lasted just two seasons in Chicago. He totaled 17 catches as a Bears. Burton, who's battled injuries over his first two years in Chicago, had just 14 catches in 2019.

Pace doesn't really have a choice but to pay up at this point. If he hits on Hooper, the misses on Sims and Burton will be quickly forgotten.

These 3 tight ends improved their stock at the 2020 NFL Combine

These 3 tight ends improved their stock at the 2020 NFL Combine

Chicago Bears general manager Ryan Pace said earlier this week that he is going to explore every avenue when it comes to upgrading the team's tight end group. The 2020 NFL Draft will be a great place to look for the pass-catcher Matt Nagy's offense needs at the position, and three prospects elevated their draft stock at the 2020 NFL Combine.

Stephen Sullivan, LSU

Sullivan, the wide receiver-turned-tight end, was one of the most impressive players at the 2020 Senior Bowl, and he continued his rise up the draft board with a strong showing in Indianapolis.

Sullivan, who weighed in at 6-5, 248 pounds, ran a 4.66 40-yard dash, which tied for second-fastest among all tight ends. His 36.5-inch vertical jump is an elite number, too.

He was smooth in the on-field drills and showcased his effortless catching style. 

Sullivan won't be an early-round prospect. He's probably going to slip into Day 3. And if he does, the Bears have to give him a long, hard look. He has a chance to be the biggest sleeper in the draft (regardless of position) who can become an impact playmaker in the NFL.

Brycen Hopkins, Purdue

Hopkins, like Sullivan, ran a 4.66 and looked every bit the part of a move tight end. He was smooth on downfield routes and caught the ball cleanly (for the most part). One of the concerns surrounding Hopkins is his tendency to double-catch. He did a nice job quieting that worry just a bit.

Albert Okwuegbunam, Missouri

Albert 'O' was the big winner with his blazing 4.49 40-time, which ranks among the 10-best 40-times for a tight end since 1999, per the Mock Draftable database.

'O' is coming off a very disappointing season when he totaled just 26 catches for 306 yards and six touchdowns. But he lost his quarterback from 2018 -- Drew Lock -- and never got into an offensive rhythm in 2019.

It wasn't a perfect day for him, however. He loafed the gauntlet drill and continued the narrative around his game that suggests he doesn't give 100% effort on every down. But it's impossible to ignore his speed at 6-5, 258 pounds.