Leonard Floyd

Why Bears made Robert Quinn their big signing in NFL free agency

Why Bears made Robert Quinn their big signing in NFL free agency

Only five players were guaranteed more money in free agency than Robert Quinn, whose five-year, $70 million deal with the Bears includes $30 million guaranteed. Somehow, general manager Ryan Pace and cap guru Joey Laine managed to land one of the biggest free agents of 2020 despite not having a ton of money to spend. 

But why Quinn and not a cornerback, safety, right guard, tight end or quarterback? The Bears entered free agency with true, glaring needs at those five positions. So it was not only surprising that the Bears landed a big fish, but also that it was Quinn. 

Meanwhile, Ryan Pace went bargain shopping with Artie Burns and Tre Roberson at cornerback, and Deon Bush/DeAndre Houston-Carson/Jordan Lucas at safety. See also: Germain Ifedi at right guard. Nick Foles and Jimmy Graham weren’t cheap, but also weren’t Teddy Bridgewater or Austin Hooper. 

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But looking at how free agency played out, the Bears’ call to go with Quinn (and jettison Leonard Floyd) does make sense.  

“We just feel like Quinn’s a proven pass rusher,” Pace said. “He’s got excellent edge speed. He’s got outstanding ability to bend the corner and I think we can take a position of strength on our defense and we make it even stronger and more dangerous when you add Quinn and you combine him with the players that are already up there, especially up front.”

The Bears’ 2020 defense feels like a bet on an elite pass rush covering for some potential deficiencies in the secondary. Eddie Jackson and Kyle Fuller are still there, but can a battle between Kevin Toliver II/Burns/Roberson/TBD draft pick produce a true starting-caliber corner? Or can Bush slide into a starting role next to Jackson after spending the last three seasons almost exclusively as a backup?

It’d be ideal for the Bears if the answers to those questions were yes. But what if opposing quarterbacks don’t consistently have enough time to throw because Mack, Quinn, Hicks, Roy Robertson-Harris, etc. are wrecking things in the pocket?

There’s certainly a thought in some NFL circles that great coverage is preferable to a great pass rush — it’s worked well for the New England Patriots, after all — but it’s not a hard-and-fast rule. Not every team gets to have an in-his-prime Khalil Mack. The Bears do. Signing Quinn to help maximize Mack’s impact makes a lot of sense. 

The money makes sense, too. Quinn is guaranteed $30 million, sure, but his $6.1 million cap hit in 2020 ranks 32nd among this year’s free agent signings. That’s really how the Bears made this work — big-ticket cornerbacks James Bradberry and Byron Jones are in the top five of 2020 free agent cap hits, while Bridgewater’s $14 million bargain is more than double Quinn’s cost. 

So all those factors led the Bears to Quinn. This feels like the right kind of signing, one that’ll help give the Bears a top-five defense — even if there may still be some holes in the back end of it. Floyd wasn't cutting it, despite his run-stuffing and coverage skills. The Bears needed to make their pass rush better, and did with signing Quinn.

Good thing that coin flip (metaphorical or not) wound up on the Bears’ side of things. 

“It's always been a defensive kind of team what was always presented to me about the city,” Quinn said. “So that was always an exciting thing going into a town like that where they love to see defense. Points of 0 versus 100, you know. So that's always exciting, plus the talent they already have there. Who can't get excited to join up with guys like Mack, Fuller, (Akiem) Hicks, (Eddie) Goldman, (Danny) Trevathan?”

 

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Upgrading the pass rush was necessary for the Bears, even if it was a knock on Leonard Floyd

Upgrading the pass rush was necessary for the Bears, even if it was a knock on Leonard Floyd

Ryan Pace said that signing Robert Quinn was "not necessarily a knock on Leonard [Floyd]," and though the optics may scream otherwise, the Bears' GM was adamant that the moves weren't as directly correlated as they looked. 

"Look, Leonard’s had some very good years here. He’s a key part of a top defense," he told reporters on Friday morning. "It’s just doing what we feel is best for our team ... but for us, it was just, hey, we’re constantly tweaking and trying to upgrade our roster and we feel like we’ve done that with our pass rush with Robert Quinn.

"I think you saw how quickly Leonard signed elsewhere, a pretty good contract. So we’re happy for him." 

Only 24 hours after being cut by the Bears, Floyd signed a one-year, $10 million deal with the Los Angeles Rams – a testament to the potential some NFL teams still see in him. While coaches in Chicago always praised his physical traits and abilities in other aspects of the game, Floyd never found a way to consistently get to the quarterback. Given the strength of Roquan Smith and Danny Trevathan in pass coverage, Pace and the front office felt comfortable moving on from the former ninth overall pick (before having to pick up a $13 million option), freeing them to make a move for one of the market's best pure pass rushers. 

"... I think a strength of Leonard's was no doubt his coverage ability," Pace said. "We look at our inside linebackers room as a strength and I think the depth of that room is a strength as well ... Now, Quinn and Khalil, you want those guys rushing the quarterback as much as possible, but they are athletic enough to do different things on defense to just to keep it flexible." 

Quinn comes to Chicago on the heels of his most productive season since 2014, and led the Cowboys in sacks (11.5). It's a number Quinn thinks he can get back to, even lined up next to the likes of Khalil Mack and Akiem Hicks. 

"Do I feel pressure? No, but that’s just my personal expectations," he said. "Regardless of who I’m playing beside, my personal expectation is double-digit. I’d say record-breaking sacks every year  and  record-breaking TFL’s every year. They’re just personal standards, regardless of who you’re playing along. Let me just say, the dogs that you get to play beside, that should definitely make it fun."

Leonard Floyd agrees to one-year deal with Rams

Leonard Floyd agrees to one-year deal with Rams

Former Chicago Bears first-round pick, Leonard Floyd, agreed to a one-year, $10 million deal with the Los Angeles Rams on Wednesday, ESPN's Adam Schefter reported. 

Floyd was released by the Bears on Tuesday after the team committed five years and $70 million to former Rams and Cowboys edge rusher, Robert Quinn. 

Floyd's underwhelming tenure with the Bears included 54 starts and just 18.5 sacks. The former ninth-overall pick was projected to be a top-tier pass rusher coming out of Georgia, but his on-field play never matched his physical traits.

Now, Floyd has a chance to resurrect his career with the Rams and former Bears OLB coach, Brandon Staley. Staley is Los Angeles' defensive coordinator.