Bears

Meriweather progressing, will play vs. Atlanta

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Meriweather progressing, will play vs. Atlanta

Thursday, Sept. 8, 2011Posted: 9:42 p.m.
By John Mullin
CSNChicago.com Bears Insider Follow @CSNMoonMullin Brandon Meriweather is expected to be inserted in spots at free safety Sunday against the Atlanta Falcons despite only being signed over the weekend.

Meriweather is receiving a crash course in the Bears scheme based on a go-now program and from Day 1, we were trying to get him game ready as soon as we possibly could, defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli said Thursday. We have thrown a lot at him, but hes picked it up quickly. But when youre a pro, youve been around, you have some different terminology, but most of the coverages are similar. He knew a little bit about how we play ball, so well see. Hes right on pace.

Meriweather played his way to two Pro Bowls as a member of the New England Patriots and coaches have not been shy about throwing him into the defense and into plans to go against one of the NFLs elite offenses.

Hes a real smart guy, said coach Lovie Smith. I think he understands everything were doing. But now its just doing it; the repetition of doing it, the run fits and all those things Were trying to get him up to speed as fast as we can.

Meriweather may not be the only very new guy making an impact on just a few days practice. Fullback Tyler Clutts, signed off the Cleveland Browns practice squad, played on all four Browns special teams and is expected to be on more than one as a new Bear.

Sick bay

Running back Marion Barber was out of practice again Thursday, all but guaranteeing he will be sidelined for the Atlanta game because of a calf injury suffered in the Tennessee game. Nose tackle Anthony Adams (calf), receiver Sam Hurd (ankle) and defensive end Corey Wootton (knee) practiced on a limited basis. Adams is expected to be ready Sunday but Wootton is a longer shot, coming back from knee surgery.

Bears skeptic

As you can probably deduce from previous postings, Im curious why there is such widespread low-balling of the Bears, not just locally but also nationally. This isnt a fan speaking; I have no personal rooting interest here, and my 10-6 or better prediction for the second straight year is simply my guess on what actually will happen, not what I somehow wish would happen (except that, as my wife knows, I seriously love being right).

But Jason LaCanfora over at NFL Network calls himself a Bears skeptic rather than a Bears hater and explains why. Not a lot of surprises, including the observation that the Bears are getting older at a number of spots on defense.

A curious thing, though, is why investing a No. 1 draft choice in a tackle (Gabe Carimi) isnt considered doing much to fortify the offensive line, which also has left tackle JMarcus Webb going into a second NFL season and Chris Williams doing the same at left guard. Unless they mysteriously backslide, those are upgrades-in-place.

If Frank Omiyale was a starter last season and is not good enough to this year, that means your offensive line is better (no slight of Omiyale here). If Chris Spencer, a starter in Seattle, is not good enough to start, the Bears line is better.

Jason does raise a good question regarding Meriweather, whom the Bears signed to a one-year contract worth more than 3.2 million. It would seem that they couldve traded a draft choice for him (New England was shopping Meriweather) and paid less, although Meriweather had reached some contract escalators, so the Bears wouldve been paying quite a bit more than the 1.6 million in Meriweathers rookie deal.

Plus, two other factors: The Bears do not treat late-round picks lightly. They have two seventh-rounders starting on their offensive line (Webb, Lance Louis) and a sixth-rounder (Chris Harris) starting at safety.

And thats what the market said they needed to pay for a two-time Pro Bowl safety.

John "Moon" Mullin is CSNChicago.com's Bears Insider and appears regularly on Bears Postgame Live and Chicago Tribune Live. Follow Moon on Twitter for up-to-the-minute Bears information.

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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