Mike Davis

Bears waive running back Mike Davis

Bears waive running back Mike Davis

After a week of speculation over the future of Mike Davis, the Bears officially waived the running back on Saturday.

Davis was signed in free agency to a two-year, $6 million contract in an effort to replace Jordan Howard, who was traded to the Eagles for a conditional sixth-round pick earlier in the offseason. Davis failed to make any impact on offense, totaling just 11 carries for 25 yards through eight games.

Davis' departure strengthens the Bears' chances of securing a fourth-round compensatory pick after losing safety Adrian Amos to the Packers in free agency. Had Davis been on the roster for the Lions game (Week 10), he would have offset the loss of Amos in the mysterious compensatory pick formula.

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Mike Davis has a stressful week ahead of him, but it's nothing he hasn't dealt with before

Mike Davis has a stressful week ahead of him, but it's nothing he hasn't dealt with before

In a season full of rough first halves, Bears’ running back Mike Davis might be a sneaky-good candidate for the dubious honor of having the worst. He signed a two-year, $6 million contract with Chicago this offseason under the impression that his versatility could find him snaps in Matt Nagy’s system the way it didn’t in Seattle with Pete Carroll. 

That hasn’t been the case. Through his first seven games in Chicago, Davis has rushed 11 times for 25 yards. He’s been a non-factor in the pass game (7 receptions for 22 yards), too. Matt Nagy told reporters a few weeks back that Davis wasn’t doing anything wrong, and that his limited snap count was more a matter of what the team was trying to do on offense. Being in a running back room with Tarik Cohen and David Montgomery hasn’t helped things, either. 

“I’ve just got to stay positive, and stay upbeat,” Davis said on Tuesday afternoon. “Don’t let anything take my joy. Just come in here, have fun, and work. I love my teammates around me, so I refuse to be that teammate that’s bringing negative vibes.”

He mentioned that he feels his role right now, amidst the Bears’ 4-game losing streak, is keeping everyone upbeat. Davis did admit, however, that he’s been surprised at his lack of any real role in the offense. It’s nothing he hasn’t dealt with before – the running back’s time with the Seahawks ended, despite career-best numbers, because he fell behind Chris Carson and Rashaad Penny on the depth chart.

“I’ve been in a dark place before when I was in Seattle when I first started,” he said. “I always told myself I’d never go back to that place again, so it’s just something where I always keep a smile on my face, I always keep myself upbeat. No matter the situation.

“It was just basically mental. Me loving the game and not being able to play and help my teammates, really. It really put me in a dark place to where I really hated a lot of things. But that’s what you have family for – to help you get out of those tough situations.”

Davis’ name has come up more often this week because the Bears will have to, at some point before Saturday, make a decision about his future on the roster. If they cut him before this weekend’s deadline, they’d receive a 4th-round compensatory pick. 

Couple Davis’ underwhelming stats with the Bears’ underwhelming amount of draft capital, and it’s easy to see why the Bears might make that tough decision. Job uncertainty is nothing new to Davis, who’s been on three teams in five years. If anything, his time in Seattle provided him a blueprint for how to deal with weeks like these. 

“I feel like thinking of something like that is negative,” he added.” I really don’t care about outside voices or whatever comes with it. All I can do is come show up every day, be a great teammate, and be ready to go no matter what happens.” 

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Should the Bears cut Mike Davis to secure compensatory pick?

Should the Bears cut Mike Davis to secure compensatory pick?

After watching Eagles running back Jordan Howard abuse the Bears' defense for 89 yards and a touchdown in Week 9's loss in Philadelphia, it's worth asking what GM Ryan Pace was thinking when he initially tabbed free-agent signee, Mike Davis, as Howard's potential replacement.

Remember: The Bears signed Davis in free agency and had no guarantees that a player like David Montgomery would be available for them in the 2019 NFL draft. Had Montgomery not fallen in the third round (and had Pace not been aggressive and traded up for him), Davis would've been trusted to carry the load for Chicago's running game.

But here we are, eight games into the regular season, and Davis has been a complete non-factor. He's played a total of 71 snaps, per Pro Football Focus, and has just 11 carries for 25 yards. Total. As in, for the entire year.

All this from a player who's making more money in 2019 (he signed a two-year, $6 million deal) than Howard was ever paid by the Bears.

Look, free-agent signings don't always work out. And in an average offseason, Pace's whiff on Davis wouldn't be the end of the world. But heading into 2020, it could have some significant consequences.

The Bears were in line to receive a juicy compensatory pick in the 2020 NFL draft after the Packers signed safety Adrian Amos in free agency. In fact, one analyst at Over The Cap suggested Chicago could be awarded a fourth-round pick. Keep in mind that the formula used by the NFL to award compensatory picks remains a secret, but here's how NFL.com's Lance Zierlein explained it during last year's draft season:

"Teams are awarded compensatory draft picks between Rounds 3 and 7 based upon a formula, which is not released by the league, that takes into account a player's average salary per year (APY), snap count and postseason awards," Zierlein wrote. "While there is an expected level of compensation for a player based on the amount he has signed for, his playing time (or lack thereof) in the upcoming season could alter the expectation."

Basically, the NFL weighs a team's losses against their additions and award comp picks to those clubs that lost more in free agency than they gained. Got it? Great. 

The fact that the Bears signed Davis, as of now, hurts their chances for that fourth-round pick, even though it's still unclear whether he's played enough to be taken into consideration. If Pace wants to completely eliminate Davis from the compensatory pick calculation, he'll have to release him before Sunday's game against the Lions. The NFL does not factor into their calculation those free-agent signings who don't last until Week 10 with their new team. If Davis is gone, he's out of the compensatory pick conversation.

At this point, it seems like there's little reason to keep Davis on the roster and risk losing a valuable Day 3 pick. This is especially true for a team like the Bears and a general manager like Pace, who's had a high level of success drafting players on Day 3. He's added Bilal Nichols, Javon Wims, Eddie Jackson, Tarik Cohen, Jordan Howard and Arian Amos all within that range of draft pick.

All of those players offer (or at one time offered) more to the Bears than Davis has shown through eight games. 

Chicago's offense has been putrid this year. It hit rock bottom in the first half of the Eagles game when Matt Nagy and Mitch Trubisky managed to muster just nine yards, the lowest total the Bears have produced in 40 years. Davis isn't the guy who will (or can) turn that around, and an argument can be made that he'd actually stunt the development of Montgomery, who needs more carries and as many reps as possible as he continues to adjust to the NFL game.

Pace isn't playing fantasy football, and it isn't as simple as just dropping a player from the roster. There will be ramifications in the locker room and there are personal relationships involved. But the NFL is all about winning, and at this point in the Bears' rebuild-turned-contender-turned-rebuild, securing a fourth round pick makes a lot more sense than hanging onto Davis.