Bears

Sunday serves as proof Bears schedule gets tougher

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Sunday serves as proof Bears schedule gets tougher

Sunday, Nov. 21, 2010
6:25 PM

By John Mullin
CSNChicago.com

The Philadelphia Eagles are the immediate concern for the Bears but what was happening a little further down the schedule was startling. General manager Jerry Angelo said last Thursday that he thought the Bears didnt necessarily have to get any better this season to be successful, just be as good as they are now but do it consistently.

But the Bears themselves might concede that theyll have to keep their game at its highest level in the face of whats coming in the next six weeks after Michael Vick and the Eagles:

New England (Dec. 12)

New England scored touchdowns on each of its first three possessions against the Indianapolis Colts and very methodically was doing business at the Colts expense. Then Peyton Manning began doing what Peyton Manning does.

Missing receivers and running backs and working with a patchwork offensive unit, Manning brought the Colts virtually back from a three-score deficit before throwing his third interception with Indianapolis nearly within range of kicking a tying field goal (sound vaguely familiar?).

The Patriots have won seven of their last eight, with only that head-scratcher in Cleveland cluttering up the run. Nasty observation: New England has scored no fewer than 23 points in any game this year and put up 30 or more in six of their 10 games.

New York Jets (Dec. 26)

New York blew a 16-point lead in the fourth quarter against Houston, then scored a winning TD to down the Texans 30-27 in what longtime Houston Chronicle NFL guru John McClain called the second-worst collapse ever (the first being Houstons vs. Buffalo a long time ago in a playoff nightmare bad enough to get D-coordinator Buddy Ryan to take a sideline swing at offensive coordinator Kevin Gilbride).

Mark Sanchez continues toward elite status among NFL quarterbacks, engineering the Jets final TD drive with precision throws and finishing with 315 passing yards and 3 TDs vs. just one INT.

The Bears last shutout before the one Thursday in Miami was against the Jets in 2006. Just a guess, but Im not seeing another shutout when the Jets show up in Soldier Field the day after Christmas.

Green Bay (Jan. 2)

Green Bay spotted the Minnesota Vikings a 3-0 lead in the first quarter, then obliterated Brett Favre and the rest of that spiraling team, 31-3. The drama playing out with Favre and Brad Childress may be interesting copy, but what the Packers have done since losing consecutive OT games a month ago is significant.

Since edging by the Vikings 28-24, the Packers have beaten the Jets, Dallas and now Minnesota again, allowing 0, 7 and 3 points. Aaron Rodgers is making the highlight films; the defense is officially becoming scary.

The Packers have allowed 146 total points. Same as the Bears. The Bears-Packers difference? Green Bay has scored 252 to the Bears 191.
Missing Moss

Is anybody charting Randy Moss impact on the Tennessee Titans offense? The guy that some observers thought the Bears simply could not prosper without has caught exactly one (1) pass for Tennessee and it did not come in Sundays overtime loss to the Washington Redskins.

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. 

Click here to download the new MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of the Bears.