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A new contract extension for Nick Saban

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A new contract extension for Nick Saban

From Comcast SportsNet
TUSCALOOSA, Ala. (AP) -- Alabama coach Nick Saban said he received overtures for other jobs after claiming the second national title in three years. Instead of bolting, he has received a raise and contract extension worth 5.62 million a year that he said represents his intention to finish his career in Tuscaloosa. "From my standpoint, the acceptance of this extension represents our commitment ... to the University of Alabama for the rest of our career," Saban said. "We made that decision after the season when other people were interested." The university's board of trustees approved a two-year extension for Saban on Monday that will run through Jan. 31, 2020. He'll receive 5.32 million in 2012 with a 50,000 raise next year and 100,000 annually after that. Under the deal, he'll make 5.97 million in 2019. Saban will make nearly 45 million over eight years in base salary (245,000) and what Alabama calls "talent fees." The contract represents a 500,000 raise in talent fees plus longevity pay and the built-in raises. The former Miami Dolphins coach declined to say who made the overtures. "It doesn't really matter," Saban said. "We wanted to stay at Alabama. We're staying at Alabama and we're not interested in going anyplace else. We weren't interested in going anyplace else at the end of the season, so it really doesn't matter." Saban remains among college football's highest paid coaches, along with Mack Brown of Texas (5.2 million) and Oklahoma's Bob Stoops (4.875 million), dwarfing the eye-catching eight-year, 32 million deal he received after leaving the Miami Dolphins. He made at least 5.170 million last year in salary, talent fee and bonuses, including 400,000 for winning the national title. The new deal represents a 500,000 raise to his talent fee, plus longevity pay, which totals 5 million over the duration, and a 5 million life insurance policy. The Tide is 48-6 over the past four seasons. Saban has restored the program to the point that a 10-3 title follow-up in 2010 was viewed as a big disappointment. He has had Alabama at its best in the biggest games, particularly the powerhouse defense. The Tide claimed the 2009 title with a 37-21 win over Texas and blanked LSU 21-0 in New Orleans for the national championship two years later. Before his arrival, Alabama hadn't won a national title since the 1992 season. The deal states that if he's fired without cause he gets the lesser amount between four years of pay or the balance of his contract. Saban said he "really wasn't involved in the negotiations." "To me, this all happened a long time ago right after the (LSU) game," said Saban, whose agent is Jimmy Sexton. "I really think they sort of decide what they want to do and you decide if it's good enough and it's certainly good enough for me." His coaching staff was rewarded, too. The trustees' compensation committee also approved a 100,000 raise for defensive coordinator Kirby Smart, up to 950,000. New offensive coordinator Doug Nussmeier will make 590,000. Both have three-year deals. Smart is the only assistant coach who doesn't owe a 20 percent buyout if he leaves early, but will owe 72,000 if he leaves for any position other than head coach. He also got a 100,000 raise in January 2011. New outside linebackers coach Lance Thompson will make 355,000 in a two-year deal. The assistant coaches will receive 4 percent bonuses for an appearance in the SEC championship game, 8 percent for a bowl game, 12 percent for one of the SEC's top 5 bowl tie-ins and 16 percent for a BCS game. "I think there's a very competitive market out there when it comes to assistant coaches," Saban said. "I think it's imperative that we keep continuity and that we had the opportunity to be competitive salary-wise with other schools who are trying to hire our coaches. "It doesn't really matter what my opinion is or anyone else's opinion. The market is what it is, and if we're not willing to pay that to the best people that we have, they're not going to be here." Most of the other assistant coaches got raises and one-year extensions through Feb. 28, 2014: -- Bobby Williams, who coaches tight ends and special teams, received a 35,000 raise, to 350,000. -- Strength and conditioning coach Scott Cochran got a raise from 310,000-325,000. -- Defensive line coach Chris Rumph goes from 288,750 to 310,000 -- Running backs coach Burton Burns got a 10,000 hike, up to 290,000. -- Receivers coach Mike Groh's pay went up from 250,000 to 280,000. -- Secondary coach Jeremy Pruitt is now making 260,000, up from 225,000. Offensive line coach Jeff Stoutland was the only on-the-field assistant to not get a raise. Saban said that was related to his alleged involvement in rules violations while with the University of Miami. Saban has said the university uncovered no compliance "red flags" on either Stoutland or director of football operations Joe Pannunzio from their tenures at Miami. Both former Hurricanes coaches were named in a report alleging that they steered recruits to a jailed booster who says he supplied Miami players with prostitutes, cars and other gifts over the past decade. "As a university, we make decisions to do things because we think it's the right thing to do," Saban said. "In the future, I think Jeff Stoutland deserves to get a raise based on the merit of the work that he's done here, but I also think that it wouldn't be smart on our part of ignore other things that have happened."

Should the NFL’s playoff changes mean the Bears should be more aggressive in a quarterback trade or free agent signing?

Should the NFL’s playoff changes mean the Bears should be more aggressive in a quarterback trade or free agent signing?

If the NFL’s proposed collective bargaining agreement is ratified, seven teams from each conference will make the playoffs in 2020— a change that will immediately alter the league's player movement landscape in the coming weeks and months.

Under the proposed structure, the Los Angeles Rams would’ve been the NFC’s No. 7 seed in 2019, with the 8-8 Bears finishing one game out of a playoff spot (really, two games, given they lost to the Rams). But as the Tennessee Titans showed last year, just getting into the dance can spark an underdog run to a conference title game. The vast majority of the NFL — those not in full-on tank mode — should view the potential for a seventh playoff spot as a license to be more aggressive in the free agent and trade market as soon as a few weeks from now.

So, should the Bears look at this new CBA as reason to be more aggressive in pushing to acquire one of the big-name quarterbacks who will, or could, be available this year? After all, merely slightly better quarterback play could’ve leapfrogged the Bears past the Rams and into the playoffs a year ago.

The prospect of Teddy Bridgewater or Derek Carr or Andy Dalton representing that upgrade feels tantalizing on the surface, right?

But the CBA’s addition of a seventh playoff team does not, as far as we know, also include an addition of significantly more cap space available to teams in 2020, even if the salary cap has increased 40 percent over the last five years. An extra $25 million is not walking through that door to add to the roughly $14 million the Bears currently have in cap space, per the NFLPA’s public salary cap report.

So that means every reason we laid out why the Bears should not make a splash move at quarterback remains valid, even with the NFL lowering its postseason barrier to entry.

The Bears’ best bet in 2020 remains signing a cheaper quarterback like Case Keenum or Marcus Mariota (who shares an agent with Mitch Trubisky, potentially complicating things) and banking on roster improvements being the thing that gets them back into the playoffs. Adding a quarterback for $17 million — Dalton’s price — or more would hamstring the Bears’ ability to address critical needs at tight end, right guard, inside linebacker and safety, thus giving the Bears a worse roster around a quarterback who’s no sure bet to be good enough to cover for the holes his cap hit would create.

Does it feel like a good bet? No, and maybe feels worse if it’s easier to get in the playoffs in 2020. But a Trubisky-Keenum pairing, complete with a new starting right guard to help the run game and more than just Demetrius Harris to upgrade the tight end room, is a better bet than Dalton or Bridgewater and a worse roster around them.

Also: This new playoff structure will tilt the balance of power significantly toward the No. 1 seeds in each conference. The last time a team made the Super Bowl without the benefit of a first-round bye was after the 2012 season, when the No. 4 seed Baltimore Ravens won the title. Otherwise, every Super Bowl participant since hasn't played on wild card weekend. 

So while the Bears may become closer to the playoffs if the new CBA is ratified, they won’t be closer to getting a No. 1 seed. And that holds true even if they were to find a way to sign Tom Brady.

Getting in the playoffs can spark something special. But the Bears’ best path back to meaningful January football still involves an inexpensive approach to addressing their blaring need for better quarterback play. 
Is it ideal? No.

But it’s far less ideal to be in this situation three years after taking the first quarterback off the board with 2017’s No. 2 overall pick. 

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Austin Hooper dubbed Bears' ideal free-agent target

Austin Hooper dubbed Bears' ideal free-agent target

The Bears are expected to be extremely busy in their effort to upgrade at tight end this offseason. In fact, they've already made their first move with the signing of veteran Demetrius Harris, but it's unlikely he'll be the only new player added at the position over the next few months.

The most appealing free-agent tight end who's likely to hit the open market is Falcons pass-catcher Austin Hooper, who was recently dubbed the ideal target for Bears GM Ryan Pace once the spending frenzy gets started.

Hooper is exactly the type of performer the Bears currently lack. He can provide a reliable outlet to make life easier on quarterback Mitchell Trubisky.

Granted, the 25-year-old tight end shouldn't be viewed as a Travis Kelce-like difference-maker in head coach Matt Nagy's scheme, but he's the best option in thin free-agent and weak draft classes.

Hooper would be the dream acquisition for Chicago, but the dollars are unlikely to make sense. According to Spotrac, Hooper's market value will command a five-year, $49.9 million deal, or $9.9 million per season. If the Bears inked Hooper to a contract like that, they'd have nearly $19 million tied up in tight ends in 2020 (Trey Burton's contract counts as $8.5 million against the cap next season).

As much as Bears fans want more production at tight end, that's just too steep a price to pay regardless of how important the position is for Nagy's offense.

The better route for Pace to pursue is the 2020 NFL Draft, where Chicago could be the first team to draft a tight end in April. This year's class of tight end prospects is without a clear first-rounder and with the Bears' first pick coming at No. 43 overall, there's a good chance they could have their pick of the litter.

Prospects like Notre Dame's Cole Kmet, Purdue's Brycen Hopkins, and Washington's Hunter Bryant will all be given strong consideration in the first half of the second round.

It'll be another strike against Pace's work in free agency if he's forced out of the Hooper market because of the contract he gave Burton in 2018. But maybe it's for the best. He hasn't been very good at identifying tight ends since taking over as Chicago's GM in 2015 -- Khari Lee, Dion Sims, Adam Shaheen, Burton -- and probably shouldn't be trusted with the checkbook while searching for another one this offseason.

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