NFL free agency

Top 30 free agents of the 2020 NFL offseason

Top 30 free agents of the 2020 NFL offseason

The first phase of the 2020 NFL offseason will kick off on March 18 when the signing period for free agency officially begins. Teams can negotiate with free agents beginning on March 16, and the Bears are expected to be among the cluster of clubs searching for upgrades at several key positions.

GM Ryan Pace is likely to focus his free-agent budget on a veteran quarterback, help along the offensive line, and the secondary where players like Ha Ha Clinton-Dix and Prince Amukamara face uncertain futures. There's also the tight end problem, which Pace can use free agency to land a quick fix.

This year's free-agent class his headlined by high-upside yet risky players. Many of the top names are coming off of breakout seasons but have resumes of underwhelming production.

Here's a look at the top 30 free agents scheduled to hit the open market.

Top 30 free agents of the 2020 NFL offseason

These PFF stats prove it's time for Bears to move on from Mitch Trubisky

These PFF stats prove it's time for Bears to move on from Mitch Trubisky

Like it or not, analytics have become an integral part of pro football. It's especially true in the assessment of player performance. So when an analytics giant like Pro Football Focus outlines the Bears' biggest offseason needs, it's worth paying attention to.

According to PFF, Chicago's No. 1 need area this offseason — you guessed it — is at quarterback.

We’re going into Year 4 of Trubisky as the Bears' starting quarterback, and he has still failed to crack a 70.0 PFF overall grade. He just isn’t going to develop into the guy the Bears were hoping for when they took him as the second overall pick in the 2017 NFL Draft. With plenty of intriguing quarterback options available to the Bears via free agency this offseason, they should attack the position to get back to contending in 2020.

It's hard (if not impossible) to argue with PFF's summary of Trubisky through three seasons in the NFL. The Trubisky faithful will argue that his shortcomings in 2019 were a result of a combination of factors, ranging from the offensive line to the playcalling. But isn't a franchise quarterback supposed to rise above all that and provide at least glimpses of those special qualities inherent in the best leaders like Deshaun Watson, Patrick Mahomes and Russell Wilson, to name a few?

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Trubisky isn't that guy. And after 41 regular-season starts, it's safe to say he won't be that guy. At best, he'll develop into an Alex Smith-type game-manager who can enjoy moderate moments of success. And if that level of play is buried somewhere deep within Trubisky's right arm, great! But the Bears can't enter the 2020 season assuming it's there. They have to put an action plan together to make sure the depth chart is secured with a strong QB2 who can quickly become QB1 if (and when) Trubisky fails.

Ironically, Pro Football Focus lists Chicago's offensive line and tight end as their other big needs this offseason, once again giving Trubisky truthers ammunition to back their argument that more protection and better weapons will bring the best out of the former second-overall pick.

The sooner the Bears (and the fanbase) realize Trubisky isn't the guy, the sooner this team will return to true contender status. Otherwise, it'll be more of the same in 2020.

Criticizing Trubisky isn't fun. Suggesting he's a bust isn't pleasant. It stings; it burns the core of every Bears fan. 

But sometimes, the truth hurts. And if the Bears want to move forward with a team that has a Super Bowl-caliber defense, they have to be honest with their assessment of the quarterback situation. And that honest approach has to start in free agency, where several quality veterans will be available.

Failing to do so will be the equivalent of football negligence. 

Will Andy Dalton follow offensive coordinator Bill Lazor to the Bears?

Will Andy Dalton follow offensive coordinator Bill Lazor to the Bears?

The Chicago Bears filled their offensive coordinator vacancy Monday with the hiring of Bill Lazor, who served in the same capacity with the Dolphins (2014-15) and Bengals (2017-18) before being out of football last season. Naturally, his addition will add fuel to the speculation that Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton may be high on GM Ryan Pace's offseason wish list.

Regardless of what the Bears decision-makers say about their confidence in Mitch Trubisky, there's no doubt they're going to add a viable threat to his starting job over the next few months. Whether it's via a highly-rated NFL draft prospect or a veteran with starter's experience in free agency, the days of Chase Daniel as backup/coach are over.

Enter Dalton, who isn't the winningest or most physically gifted of quarterbacks likely to be available this offseason, but he certainly has the kind of established resume to at least project a higher degree of success than what Trubisky's put on tape over his first three seasons in the league.

This time of year is spent trying to connect as many logical dots as possible, and there's no connection easier to make than Dalton and Lazor.

Lazor served as Dalton's quarterback coach in 2016 and kept that title after being promoted to Cincinnati's offensive coordinator in 2017, a position he held through the 2018 season. If the Bears are looking for any edge, any inside intel on quarterbacks who can not only challenge Trubisky in 2020 but potentially salvage the season too, having Lazor on staff will certainly give them that with Dalton.

It's worth noting that Dalton threw for the second-most yards of his career under Lazor's tutelage in 2016 (4,206) and had a quarterback rating of 91.8 that year. His numbers dipped in 2017 and 18 after Lazor moved up to offensive coordinator, but it's clear the two worked well together while in one of the most closely-knit coach-player relationships.

It's also important to remember that Dalton isn't a free agent this offseason. He has one year remaining on his contract at a team-friendly $17.7 million cap hit; his salary is a bargain in today's starting quarterback market. If the Bears want him, they have to trade for him.

The Bengals can cut Dalton without any salary cap penalty, but if he's the guy Chicago is targeting, they'd be wise to avoid the inflated payday he'd generate in free agency and get a trade done.

Cincinnati's asking price for Dalton is likely to be quite low. It's obvious he isn't in their plans for 2020 and they won't have much leverage in negotiations. The Bears can benefit from this; a day-three pick is probably all it will take. It's highly unlikely Chicago can land a player that late in the draft with as much upside to help them win in 2020 as Dalton, so it would be foolish to not at least consider it.

Assuming the price to trade for Dalton is right, his salary and resume of production warrants serious consideration.

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