Bears

'Pre' free agency time for Bears, NFL full of sound and fury, signifying…check back Thursday

'Pre' free agency time for Bears, NFL full of sound and fury, signifying…check back Thursday

As they do every year at this point, the blizzard of names swirled around the start of the period in which teams can negotiate contracts with free agents. As with any blizzard, however, the real issue is how much of the snow sticks, and for that, there is Thursday at 3 p.m.

The Bears were active: per various reports, in the market for a quarterback (Mike Glennon, Tampa Bay), cornerback (Stephon Gilmore, Buffalo), safety (D.J. Swearinger, Arizona), wide receiver (Alshon Jeffery; Andre Holmes, Oakland; Cordarrelle Patterson, Minnesota), tackle (Ricky Wagner, Baltimore). There are others under various radars, and the market will not stay static, either, or remain on the same trajectory.

The Jets, for example, had genuine interest in Glennon but stepped away from the process when the asking price was in mid-double digits. The 49ers were peripheral, with a hope to reuniting new coach Kyle Shanahan with former Washington protégé Kirk Cousins. But failing to engineer a trade for the franchise-tagged quarterback, and if the price recedes enough from its $14 million-$15 million starting point in the absence of multiple teams making offers, would the Jets come back into the market and the 49ers, who've seen Colin Kaepernick opt out of San Francisco, then make a play?

Pace and the Bears face the unenviable task of needing a dramatic turnaround from a 3-13 season with win-now additions, and growing the roster for years beyond this one. The situation means needing to upgrade at quarterback sooner than later, for instance, while also putting a player in development, something that wasn't done in the past two drafts. (In fairness to Pace, the Bears haven't invested a significant pick in a quarterback since the fourth-rounder used for Kyle Orton in the 2005 draft – a move that led directly to reaching the playoffs that season.)

The Bears long ago moved beyond the cliché'd "Misers of the Midway" image that was a misrepresentation even when free agency first began in 1993. The problem was that the Bears were willing to spend huge money (Bryan Cox, Phillip Daniels, Thomas Smith, Tom Carter, Alonzo Spellman, others) but too often gushed that money on wrong players who never played to their dollar cost.

Pace and the Bears can ill afford a similar drama playing out this offseason.

Nick Kwiatkoski was NFL's top linebacker in Week 10

Nick Kwiatkoski was NFL's top linebacker in Week 10

Chicago Bears linebacker Nick Kwiatkoski is in a contract year. And if he keeps playing the way he did in Sunday's win over the Detroit Lions, Ryan Pace better get ready to pay up.

Filling in for an injured Danny Trevathan, Kwiatkoski dominated the Lions offense to the tune of nine tackles, a sack and an interception. It was the second time this season that he stepped up in what could've been a crisis for the Bears defense. In Week 4 against the Vikings, Kwiatkoski filled-in for Roquan Smith who was deactivated shortly before kickoff for reasons still unknown. He was fantastic in that game, too.

But Kwiatkoski's performance on Sunday was borderline special. In fact, he was so good that he earned Pro Football Focus' highest grade of any linebacker in the NFL in Week 10 with a 92.4.

His ridiculous showing against Detroit pushed his season grade up to 88.2, which is second-best among Bears defenders with at least 100 snaps this season.

So, yeah, he's going to get paid.

Kwiatkoski's role moving forward is expected to change. He won't be coming off the bench filling in for Trevathan or Smith; he'll be starting for as long as Trevathan is on the mend. And with a starter's tag comes a week's worth of preparation by opposing offensive coordinators who will have more time to gameplan for his strengths and weaknesses. We'll find out real quick if his incredible flashes this season are sustainable as a traditional starter or if he'll be exposed in his newfound role.

Regardless, Kwiatkoski's emergence has been a bright spot in a season that's been lacking many of them so far.

Should the Bears consider signing Colin Kaepernick?

Should the Bears consider signing Colin Kaepernick?

Former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick will work out for all 32 teams on Saturday in Atlanta in what's essentially a pro day organized by the NFL, according to ESPN NFL insider, Adam Schefter.

Kaepernick, 32, hasn't appeared in an NFL game since 2016 when he started 12 games for the 49ers and finished with a 1-11 record. His controversial social and political opinions became a lightning rod for debate as well as the presumed explanation for his inability to land with a team over the last three seasons.

Kaepernick said on Twitter that he's been preparing this opportunity.

"I’m just getting word from my representatives that the NFL league office reached out to them about a workout in Atlanta on Saturday," Kapernick tweeted on Tuesday. "I’ve been in shape and ready for this for 3 years, can’t wait to see the head coaches and GMs on Saturday."

The Chicago Bears are in midst of what feels like the last lap in the evaluation process of Mitch Trubisky, who after 34 starts and more than 1,000 passes as a pro still hasn't reached the expectations that come along with being selected with the second overall pick in the first round. His status as the team's starter for 2020 will likely be decided over the final seven games of 2019, and even if he posts respectable numbers to finish the season, the Bears are likely to at least add competition at the position this offseason.

Naturally, that begs the question: Should GM Ryan Pace consider Kaepernick as a potential solution to the quarterback dilemma in Chicago?

First, let's address the elephant in the room. This isn't about Kaepernick's politics or views on social justice. It's about football. For some Bears fans, his off-the-field opinions will render him untouchable. For others, it won't matter. And that's the beauty of the United States; neither opinion is right or wrong. It's a complicated situation that has many layers and no one article or tweet or facebook post will offer a reasonable solution. That's why Twitter is great; head over there if you want to debate that stuff. 

For now, let's just focus on football.

Kaepernick, in a way, would make a ton of sense for the Bears. If Pace isn't ready to bail on Trubisky just yet, adding Kaepernick would allow the team to continue rolling Trubisky out as the starter for the rest of this season as well as into the offseason program. After being away from the game for three seasons, it's going to take time for Kaepernick to get back up to speed. He won't pose a real threat to Trubisky until probably midway through 2020, if at all, but his presence on the roster will at least send a message to the team that it's no longer Trubisky or bust.

And that message wouldn't be smoke and mirrors, either. Kaepernick would provide the Bears with a viable option to replace Trubisky early next season if he continues to fail. There's no denying Kaepernick offers more upside than Chase Daniel as a potential in-season replacement for Trubisky, and the soonest he'd be ready to make that jump is probably right around the same time that the Bears would be ready to officially pull the plug on their former first-rounder.

Also, Kaepernick will cost pennies on the dollar compared to the other quarterbacks likely to be available this offseason. Even players like Titans backup-turned-starter Ryan Tannehill are setting up to cash-in this winter and while Kaepernick certainly represents a greater risk of failure because of his time away from the game, the cost to find out whether he can still play won't be nearly as much as what it will take to invest in someone like Tannehill, Cam Newton, Teddy Bridgewater or Andy Dalton.

Kaepernick's last two seasons in the NFL weren't great (2015-16). He completed less than 60% of his passes and threw just 22 touchdowns in 19 starts. But when he was in the zone, he was one of the best playmakers at the position. He was 'Lamar Jackson' before Lamar Jackson, especially in San Francisco's 2012 playoff win over the Packers when he threw for 263 yards, ran for 181 and totaled four touchdowns. He was unstoppable, but that was also seven years ago.

Now in his early-30's, Kaepernick may not have the juice in his legs like he once did. And if that part of his game is gone, his erratic and inconsistent passing could just result in what the Bears are already getting out of Trubisky. And if you have two Trubisky-types on the roster, you probably don't have a quarterback.

That's why Saturday's workout is so important. Is he in shape? Does he still have that quick-twitch? If the answer is yes, he could be worth a flier, even if just to send a message to Trubisky.

Pace and the Bears should do their due diligence on Kaepernick, just like they should do their due diligence on every quarterback who will be available this offseason. At this rate, almost all of them will offer an opportunity to upgrade the position.

If Kaepernick proves he can make all the throws and still has the athletic ability to be a threat with his legs, a team will sign him. Whether or not that team will be the Bears is anyone's guess.