NFL free agency buzz: Bubbling going on below the surface


NFL free agency buzz: Bubbling going on below the surface

The initial two free-agency tsunamis have passed, the first being the mega-deals worked out during the pre-signing period, the second coming with less fanfare, in the form of key but quieter signings like the Bears’ with tackle Bobby Massie and linebacker Danny Trevathan. Even Matt Forte to the New York Jets, a smart second-level signing for what the NFL knows to be a first-level player.

More are coming, but take care to distinguish between smoke and fire. To wit: a fake report that the Bears had traded tight end Martellus Bennett to the Jets for ... oh, never mind on that one.

[MORE FREE AGENCY: Bears add to 'violent' quotient with Danny Trevathan, Bobby Massie]

Beneath the actual signings were percolating myriad visits and talks. The Bears were remaining aggressive on defense, with visits from New England Patriots defensive lineman Akiem Hicks and Indianapolis Colts linebacker Jerrell Freeman, both ranked No. 2 at their respective positions per Neither accepted a Chicago deal as of Saturday morning, and Hicks was reportedly scheduled to visit the Detroit Lions on Saturday, not a positive sign for a possible Bears signing.

And the Patriots are expected to be in on Hicks as well, with their pattern of making clear to players that they are wanted in New England but with the understanding that most athletes want very much to have that one first spin through the open market. The Patriots handle these situations well, quietly putting an offer in place and asking only that their player give them a chance to match anything better.

[SHOP: Gear up Bears fans!]

The Jets gave a touch of credibility to the Bears’ positive feelings toward Shea McClellin, bringing in the linebacker for a visit. That makes Vic Fangio and Todd Bowles, Jets head coach and former Arizona Cardinals defensive coordinator, two very credible defensive coaches who think more of McClellin than many local critics do.

The once-and-now-again Los Angeles Rams cut ties with linebacker James Laurenitis, who is now on visit lists for the Bears, Atlanta Falcons, New York Giants, New Orleans Saints and San Francisco 49ers.

Chicago Bears Training Camp: Veteran and rookie report dates

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,'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.