NFL Draft: Bears have five of first 127 picks


NFL Draft: Bears have five of first 127 picks

The Bears currently go on the clock with the 11th pick in the 2016 draft – not a position a franchise particularly wants to be in unless it’s traded up there, since you only earn that slot otherwise with a miserable season. But it’s a spot where elite and near-elite players live ( see Watt, J.J.; Marshall, Wilber; Cutler, Jay), which is a good thing for a team in need of a rookie-year difference-maker.

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Not that No. 11 guarantees anything, of course. The Bears had No. 11 in 1994 and used it for pass rusher John Thierry when Larry Allen, Isaac Bruce and Aaron Glenn were still in the pool. They had No. 11 in 1997 and traded it to Seattle for Rick Mirer. And the Bears will have and will explore trade options this year like every year.

Whether the Bears move in round one or not, however, things get even a bit better as the draft goes on.

They hold nine total picks, including five in the first 127 selections by virtue of their trade of Martellus Bennett to New England that netted them a second pick in round four (where they landed Jeremy Langford, Ka’Deem Carey and Henry Melton in recent drafts).

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Their second-rounder is 10th in the round; their third is ninth; and the first of their fourth’s is eighth in that round, all by virtue of the rotation of the teams holding 6-10 records.

Ryan Pace says Bears are optimistic Roquan Smith will soon be at training camp

USA Today

Ryan Pace says Bears are optimistic Roquan Smith will soon be at training camp

Chicago Bears general manager Ryan Pace and coach Matt Nagy met with the media to kick off training camp on the campus of Olivet Nazarene University in Bourbonnais Thursday, and the first question peppered at Pace was the status of rookie first-round pick Roquan Smith's contract negotiations.

"We're optimistic he's here soon," Pace said of Smith. "It's a process"

Smith is one of several early first-round picks that remain unsigned, something that doesn't come as a surprise to Pace. The Bears don't have the same benefit of time with Smith as some of the other teams have with their first-rounders. Chicago is one of the first teams to open training camp, bringing more of a focus to Smith's absence.

Pace used the word details to describe what's preventing a deal with Smith at this point and said there's no date in mind for when the first-rounder "really needs to be" at camp. 

The Bears' first practice is scheduled for Friday, July 20. 

Three questions for Bears safeties: Does Adrian Amos have a future in Chicago?


Three questions for Bears safeties: Does Adrian Amos have a future in Chicago?

Pre-camp depth chart

1. Adrian Amos
2. Deon Bush
3. Deiondre Hall

1. Eddie Jackson
2. DeAndre Houston-Carson
3. Nick Orr

1. Will Adrian Amos get a second contract?

Pro Football Focus ranked Amos as the second-best safety in the NFL last year, behind only Minnesota’s Harrison Smith, which may not necessarily align with the Bears’ view of him (or, to be fair, that of the rest of the league). If the Bears really thought they had one of the two best safeties in the league on their defense, he’d already be signed to a contract extension, most likely. 

The Bears like Amos, of course. But do they view him as a good, not great player who could potentially be replaceable after the season? Or do they view the 25-year-old as a long-term piece of this defense? 

We’ll figure out the answers to those questions by how Ryan Pace approaches a possible second contract for Amos. While the free agent market for safeties was slow this year — Tre Boston, PFF’s No. 30 safety, only signed a one-year, $900,000 deal, for example — there are 28 safeties with contracts carrying an average annual value of at least $5 million. 

Amos only has one interception in 2,638 career snaps, and is a year removed from being shoved down the depth chart after the additions of Quintin Demps and Eddie Jackson. He still has room to improve, and has plenty to prove. 

If he and the Bears are on the same page regarding his value, we may see a deal get done before the season. If not, Amos will go into 2018 with plenty of motivation to earn a sizable payday in 2019. 

2. Can Eddie Jackson improve on a solid rookie year?

Jackson showed a playmaking streak as a rookie, picking off two passes, breaking up four others, forcing a fumble and scoring two touchdowns (which were the only two touchdowns of the Bears’ 17-3 win over the Carolina Panthers). The fourth-round pick earned high marks for his durability, too, playing 99.7 percent of the Bears’ defensive snaps a year after his college career was cut short by a broken leg. 

“(He) reminds me of a player that can do it all,” coach Matt Nagy said. “He can hit, he has great ball skills, he has good speed and is smart. As a rookie last year for him coming into his own and this year being a second year guy to play, we want him to get a little bit better from last year. I was impressed with him.”

Jackson very well could be another mid-round find by Pace, who previously unearthed Amos, Jordan Howard and Nick Kwiatkoski with fourth/fifth-round picks. There’s a little more pressure on Jackson to play well this year, given he arguably has the best ball skills of any player in the Bears’ secondary — and if this defense is going to improve off the eight interceptions they’ve managed in each of the last three years, Jackson may need to play a big role in it. 

3. Can anyone from the 2016 rookie class step up?

That this is the third question we have about the Bears’ safety unit actually speaks to a strength here. It’s seemingly been an annual rite of passage every spring to wonder how the Bears will address their safety unit; that the Bears neither signed nor drafted a safety this year speaks to the solidity of the Amos-Jackson pairing. 

Still, the Bears need depth, and chances are it’ll come from a group of players entering their third years in the NFL. Deon Bush, DeAndre Houston-Carson and Deiondre’ Hall will all need to be ready to step in and succeed in place of Amos or Jackson, with only undrafted free agent Nick Orr in place to provide some camp competition. 

So while there won’t be much of a competition for a starting gig, there will be some important work done on the second and third teams of this defense to see who will earn their way into being the first guy off the bench.