Bears

Due diligence could cost Bears dearly

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Due diligence could cost Bears dearly

Among his core tenets, legendary UCLA coach John Wooden counseled: Be quick, but don't hurry. He was offering what could be very good advice for the Bears.

President Ted Phillips said Tuesday that the Bears would be not be rushed in their search for a general manager to replace fired Jerry Angelo.

That is sound business policy. That could also be a problem.

Because being too deliberate could cost the Bears shots at the top candidates for the job. If they were not prepared to move very quickly to replace Angelo with an upgrade over someone who got them to four NFC North titles, two NFC Championship games and one Super Bowl, the move to jettison Angelo could blow up in their faces.

The Bears have Baltimores Eric DeCosta at the top of their list, having asked the Ravens for permission to interview the 40-year-old director of player personnel.

Phillips said this week that the Bears do not have a timetable. They may need one considering market conditions. Both the Indianapolis Colts and St. Louis Rams have asked for permission to interview DeCosta.

Phillips and the Bears presumably did not make the Angelo move without an established short list of perceived top candidates in mind. The problem could be what those candidates, and other teams, have in mind.

Were going to do our research, were going to be thorough, and were going to find the right guy, Phillips said. Im sure the other teams feel the same way and well find the guy who makes sense for the Chicago Bears.

If the guy who makes sense for the Chicago Bears was Reggie McKenzie, that name appears to be already going off the board, with Adam Schefter at ESPN reporting that Reggie McKenzie will leave the Green Bay Packers and take over the GM job with the Oakland Raiders.

The Colts also are looking for a general manager to replace Bill Polian, and that is a franchise with the No. 1-overall pick of the draft, which projects to be a selling point over the Bears, who have the No. 19 pick. The Bears also do not have a tradeable legend (Peyton Manning) that could bring a franchise-altering ransom in return.

Like the Raiders, the Bears have their head coach (Lovie Smith) in place, which appears to be no deterrent for at least one candidate. Coincidentally (?), Indianapolis is keeping coach Jim Caldwell.

The Bears can be aggressive in NFL free agency if they bet on new CBA

The Bears can be aggressive in NFL free agency if they bet on new CBA

If the NFL’s proposed CBA is ratified by the NFLPA — and, right now, it seems like it will be — every current, active contract will look like a bargain in a few years. And that’s the starting point for how the Bears could maybe, just maybe, get a little weird in free agency this year. 

There's always money in the banana stand, after all. 

The Bears are projected to have about $26 million in cap space, per Spotrac, a number that currently would not allow them to sign a big-name free agent or trade for a guy with a high price tag. Cap space can always be created, though — it just depends on how willing a team is to kick the proverbial can down the road. 

And that bill always comes due. But what if the Bears have loads more cap space when the bill comes due thanks to lucrative new TV deals signed a few years after the CBA is ratified?

A new CBA would likely immediately increase 2020's salary cap (the Athletic estimated a $5 million increase per team). But the best way for the Bears to create more cap space in 2020 is by borrowing from the Bank of Khalil. 

The Bears could create about $10 million in cap space by converting some of Mack’s base salary into a signing bonus, per Spotrac, and could also do the same with the contracts of Eddie Goldman, Kyle Fuller, Cody Whitehair and Akiem Hicks, if they so chose. 

The Bears would save a total of about $22.5 million in 2020 cap space by restructuring all five of those contracts. Add in a contract extension for Allen Robinson that could save a few million in 2020 and the Bears wind up with over $50 million in cap space this year. 

That’s a lot of cans to kick down the road, and it’s not without risk (injuries, age-based regression, etc.). It's also crazily aggressive, but who knows what contracts will look like in 2022 or 2023. Paying Mack $26 million then might look like a bargain, even as he plays into his 30s.  

So the money is there if the Bears really want it, and are willing to place a big bet on their 2020 roster. This space of the interweb has mostly been reserved for preaching the Bears’ need for salary cap prudence this offseason; it’s part of the reason why the expectation still is for Ryan Pace to target a backup who can “compete” with Mitch Trubisky, not a guy to start over him. 

But maybe the Bears can shop in a different aisle for that second quarterback. Instead of targeting a Case Keenum-type on a cheap, one-year contract, perhaps the Bears can pry Andy Dalton away from the Cincinnati Bengals and not worry about his $17.7 million cap hit. 

Maybe it means offering a contract to the guard or tight end Pace and Matt Nagy want, not the one they can afford. Needs at inside linebacker, cornerback and/or safety could be more readily addressed before the draft, freeing Pace up to actually stick to his “best player available” mantra. 

There is hope here if you want the Bears to be more aggressive in free agency than their current amount of cap space suggests they will be. That doesn’t mean the Bears are going to follow this path, though. The new CBA needs to be ratified first, of course, and maybe that immediately drives up prices in the free agent market, leaving the Bears in the same position they’re in now. 

But the Bears do have a way to inflate their salary cap balloon, and if they do, they might not need to totally worry about it popping a few years from now. It all depends on if the new CBA is ratified or not before the new league year begins in mid-March. 

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David Montgomery on list of players poised for 2nd-year breakout

David Montgomery on list of players poised for 2nd-year breakout

Bears running back David Montgomery began his rookie season with a lot of hype. Probably too much hype, to be honest.

It began with his strong training camp performance and continued through the preseason, especially after his dazzling opener against the Carolina Panthers when he totaled 46 yards and a touchdown on just six touches.

And while his regular season wasn't a complete disappointment, it did fall short of those summer expectations. He finished the year with 242 carries for 889 yards and six touchdowns (3.7 yards per carry). At times, he looked like a player who could put the Bears' offense on his back. At other times, he looked like a typical rookie running back who danced too much behind the line of scrimmage.

There was more good than bad, however, and it's because of those good moments that Montgomery is considered one of next season's second-year players poised to breakout.

Montgomery averaged a solid 4.3 yards per carry in the final five weeks of the regular season, which is a sign the 22-year-old finally became acclimated to the NFL game. 

Another promising sign? Only a handful of running backs broke more tackles than Montgomery, who lacks the home run speed to consistently pull away after contact but should become more of a volume rusher after head coach Matt Nagy spends an offseason creating more opportunities for one of his best offensive weapons. 

It's hard to imagine a player with Montgomery's talent won't explode, especially if he's better supported by an offense that was a mess and fourth-worst overall in 2019. 

Montgomery was at least partially victimized by a sub-par offensive line and a passing game that never quite found its rhythm. Opposing defenses dared the Bears to throw the ball; Montgomery was fighting an uphill battle each and every week.

The Bears will make every effort to upgrade the offensive line as well as add a legitimate pass-catching tight end who can loosen up the second-level of the defense. If that happens, Montgomery will have more room to run and is a safe bet to eclipse 1,200 rushing yards, assuming he gets the touches he deserves. 

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