'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.

Trey Lance to the Bears? This 2021 mock draft thinks so

Trey Lance to the Bears? This 2021 mock draft thinks so

Barring some kind of career-year from Mitch Trubisky or Nick Foles, the 2021 NFL Draft will likely center around quarterback for the Chicago Bears. And while that's not necessarily good news for Bears fans, it could be worse. Next year's draft class will have a handful of quality quarterbacks with first-round grades.

In the latest mock draft from The Draft Wire, the Bears spend their first-round pick on North Dakota State darling, Trey Lance. The FCS standout is the apple of Draft Twitter's eye during the first wave of summer scouting, with some respected draft analysts like The Athletic's Dane Brugler ranking him ahead of Ohio State star, Justin Fields.

The Bears use the 12th overall pick in this mock on Lance. By the time April rolls around, and assuming Lance stacks another productive season on top of his remarkable 2019 performance, it's unlikely he'll be around outside the top 10.

Lance threw for 2,786 yards, 28 touchdowns and a remarkable ZERO interceptions in his first full season starting for the Bison. But that's not all; he ran for 1,100 yards and 14 touchdowns, too.

At an estimated 6-3 and 224 pounds, Lance checks all the early boxes for a franchise quarterback prospect. If he does end up leapfrogging Fields for QB2, he'll be a top-five pick.

But here's the catch: we just don't know enough about him yet. His 2019 season was fantastic, but it's the only one he has on film. And it was against FCS competition, which makes his projection to the NFL more difficult. It's a slippery slope to use Carson Wentz as an example to support Lance's ability to make the jump to the pros. Players like Wentz are the exception; they're few and far between.

It's only July, and the mock draft landscape will change multiple times between now and April. But if Trubisky and Foles fail to deliver in 2020, all mock drafts will have the Bears picking a quarterback. The only question is how high will the Bears be picking in Round 1, and which quarterback (if any) falls to their selection.

Cody Whitehair says he's excited to begin training camp at center

Cody Whitehair says he's excited to begin training camp at center

Cody Whitehair is comfortable and excited about playing center in 2020, a position that isn't new for him but also wasn't deemed his full-time home until midway through last season.

With 2020 training camp scheduled to begin in two weeks, Whitehair is feeling good about his season outlook now that he's back to being the quarterback of the offensive line.

"That's where I feel the most comfortable," Whitehair said on Bears All-Access. "Obviously I'm a team guy and I'll do whatever they ask me to do. If it happens to be where they need me to play a different position, whether that be July 28 when we come in the building or, you know, whenever that may be, you know I'm always down for it."

Whitehair has always been a team-first guy since joining the Bears as a second-round pick in 2016. The former collegiate tackle began his career at center before flipping to guard and then back to center last season. He played 561 snaps at center and 508 at left guard in 2019.

"But you know just being comfortable at that position and being played there for as long as I have in the NFL it's really exciting to be able to be there to start the season again," Whitehair said.

Whitehair will be counted on to keep the offensive line in sync and on task, especially in the run game.

"You want your offense to be able to count on that run and especially in obvious situations," Whitehair said. "You know, that's where an offensive lineman has really got to be, you know, at his best whether that be obvious pass or obvious run.

"So it's something we take pride in and in the run game everything starts up there upfront and making sure we can get a hole open for those guys in the backfield because when we do that we're going to be dangerous."

The Bears' offensive line was recently ranked 22nd in the league by Pro Football Focus with the caveat that they could become one of the NFL's 10-best units if it returns to the level of play we saw in 2018. Whitehair was a big reason for that productive season, and he logged all 1,139 of his snaps at center that year.