Bears

A year after using franchise tag, Bears preparing for post-Alshon Jeffery scenarios

A year after using franchise tag, Bears preparing for post-Alshon Jeffery scenarios

INDIANAPOLIS – About this time last year, Bears general manager Ryan Pace was evincing optimism about progress toward a long-term deal with wide receiver Alshon Jeffery. That eventually faded to black in the form of a franchise tag that secured Jeffery for the 2016 season at a cost of $14.6 million.
 
This year, no optimism, at least not yet. The Bears have not ruled out having Jeffery for a sixth NFL season, but...

...where last offseason was spent deciding upon the best scenario for retaining Jeffery, this offseason is involving scenarios in which Jeffery is not back.
 
"Our approach – starting with [player personnel director] Josh Lucas, [pro scouting director] Champ Kelly, our pro scouts – they've done a great job, and our free-agent board is stacked," Pace said on Wednesday at the outset of the NFL Scouting Combine. "There's options in free agency and in the draft, and we have to see how it'll play out. We'll know a lot more in the coming week; a little over a week from now I'll be able to answer questions a little more directly.
 
"We have plans in place for every one of these scenarios. I feel extremely prepared for this free-agency process that we're about to enter and it gives me confidence with all these different scenarios."

The Bears opted against a second franchise tag, one that would have committed the Bears to $17.5 million for a receiver who missed 11 full games over the past two seasons and portions of others with injuries in 2015. After a season that saw Jeffery total 52 catches and two touchdowns in 12 games, missing four with a suspension for a violation of the NFL's substance policies.
 
Jeffery was not worth what he thought he was last season, based on production vs. cost. While they were unwilling to let the open market factor into Jeffery's value last year, the Bears were not prepared to use the tag again, a move that would have effectively cost the Bears $32 million over two years and still had him head for free agency after 2017 with nothing to show for it.
 
"It was thought-out thoroughly, obviously," Pace said. "I think sometimes when you can't come to a common ground with a player and an agent, sometimes it's necessary to kind of test the market to determine that player's value, and that's really where we're at.
 
"He's a good player and we'll see how it plays out. But I think there are certain instances where testing the market is a necessary part of the process...We're constantly having dialogue with him and that'll continue like it has pretty much always."

Anthony Miller is hyped about Nick Foles' knowledge of Bears' offense

Anthony Miller is hyped about Nick Foles' knowledge of Bears' offense

One of the main reasons the Bears targeted Nick Foles in an offseason that was overflowing with quality quarterbacks to challenge Mitch Trubisky for Chicago's starting job is his familiarity with Matt Nagy's offense. The Bears knew what they were getting when they traded a fourth-round pick to the Jaguars for the former Super Bowl MVP, and in the current COVID-19 reality, that knowledge of who Foles is as a quarterback is more valuable than the team could've ever imagined.

So is Foles' comfort with the playbook. 

Unlike traditional offseasons when players have a chance to acclimate themselves with their new city, teammates, coaching staff, and offensive system, the novel coronavirus has thrust the Bears' quarterback competition into a shotgun four-week run that Foles is oddly equipped to handle. He's already made a positive early impression on wide receiver Anthony Miller.

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“You can definitely tell that Nick has been playing this game for a long time, and he knows this offense very well," Miller said Friday during a Zoom call with reporters. "He’s very detailed in practice, you can catch him in the back of an offensive play going through his progressions and he’s not even in, so that’s just the type of player he is, and I can’t wait to see him live action to see what he really can do.”

It feels like the Trubisky vs. Foles showdown has been underway since March, but the reality is it's just getting started. Padded practices begin next week and will give Chicago's coaches and players their first real opportunity to evaluate which quarterback gives the team the best chance to win.

According to Miller, the starting gig is up for grabs.

“This is going to be an interesting competition to see and the best man is going to get the job.”

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Super Bowl or bust? Why Bears' championship formula is backward in 2020

Super Bowl or bust? Why Bears' championship formula is backward in 2020

First, the good news: The Bears can win Super Bowl LV.

Why not? It’s August.

If Matt Nagy can find the right quarterback and Ryan Pace’s play to overhaul the tight end room pays off, this offense could be a ton of fun to watch. And if the addition of Robert Quinn gives the Bears the sort of fearsome pass rush we expect it will, this defense should be among the best in the NFL – and more than good enough to win a Super Bowl.

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There’s absolutely no part of me that’s going to tell you the Bears cannot win a Super Bowl before we’ve seen them practice, let alone play a game, in 2020.

“We want to win a Super Bowl,” wide receiver Allen Robinson said. “Every day we come into the facility, all our meetings and things like that, I think that our coaches are doing a really good job for everybody to keep that in mind and that's the main thing.”

Okay, but you’re probably waiting for the bad news. I just didn’t want to start with it. Because while it's not impossible for the Bears to make a Super Bowl run, there's a big reason why it feels unlikely. 

The Bears’ formula for winning in 2020, seemingly, is pairing a good enough offense with an elite defense. It’s what got them to the playoffs in 2018 as NFC North champions. It’s what could get them back to the playoffs again this season.

But an “eh, it’s fine” offense coupled with an awesome defense is not a formula that wins you a Super Bowl in 2021. As the last 10 Super Bowls tell us, it pays to have a great offense – and doesn’t matter if you have a great defense.

The last 20 Super Bowl participants, on average, had the sixth-best offense in a given year as ranked by Football Outsiders’ DVOA. The average ranking of their defenses was about 12th.

It’s been even more pronounced over the last four years. On average, a Super Bowl team in that span ranked fourth in offense and 16th in defense.

Only two teams in the last decade reached a Super Bowl with an offense outside the top 10 in DVOA (Denver in 2015, Baltimore in 2012 – notably, both teams still won). Eleven of the last 20 teams to make a Super Bowl had a defense outside the DVOA top 10, including last year’s Kansas City Chiefs.

MORE: Why you shouldn't worry about Allen Robinson getting a contract extension

So the Bears, as currently constructed, do not appear built to win a Super Bowl. That doesn’t mean it can’t be done – we’re not all that far removed from the 2015 Broncos hoisting the Lombardi Trophy with the No. 25 offense and No. 1 defense – but recent history suggests it’s unlikely.

That is, unless Nagy can find the success his former peers (Doug Pederson, Andy Reid) had with his offensive scheme. Make no mistake: Offense leads Super Bowl runs, with defense a supporting character. Not the other way around. And it feels like the Bears have it the other way around. 

 

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