Late on Tuesday evening, ESPN NFL Insider Adam Schefter reported that free agent running back Le’Veon Bell would sign with the New York Jets, ending any more speculation of the Bears going after the All-Pro RB.
Le’Veon Bell: 4 years, $52.5 million with the Jets, per source.
With the big free agency splash, the Jets now have a dangerous offensive force to pair with young quarterback Sam Darnold. Bell’s yearly salary of $13.25 million places him second among NFL RBs behind Los Angeles Rams RB Todd Gurley.
Bell sat out the whole 2018 season after he received the franchise tag and couldn’t reach a contract agreement with the Steelers. In his last season--2017--he gained 1,946 yards from scrimmage and scored 11 total touchdowns (9 rushing and 2 receiving).
In 2018 the Jets had an ineffective offense, finishing 23rd in total points and 29th in total yards. New York of course hopes that Bell will boost their backfield production, after finishing 26th in rushing last season led by Isaiah Crowell and Bilal Powell.
The Jets have improved their roster quite a bit of this season with their plethora of big-name free agent moves. But the Bears--who have been in rumors but seemingly never interested in Bell--have followed a different philosophy. The Bears--coming off their 1st place finish in the NFC North-- have cleared some cap space and focused on low-risk deals to improve their young and steadily improving roster.
So though big names like Bell and Antonio Brown are off the market, look for the Bears to make some intriguing moves as NFL free agency officially begins on March 13 at 4 pm ET.
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Pro Football Focus recently named the top free agents still available who can help teams in need, and they were a couple of intriguing players linked to the Bears.
There has been a lot of chatter this offseason about the potential of the Chicago defense, but mostly about what appears to be a steadily improving secondary. On the flip side, the Bears pass rush is a chief area of concern, with PFF ranking them as one of the league’s worst units. But there is expected to be a decent amount of internal development from former No. 9 overall pick Leonard Floyd, who has missed at least four games each season. But outside of Floyd, Akiem Hicks will again be expected to be a force and Aaron Lynch will be hoping to regain his 2015 form. Here are the best options to improve the pass rush via PFF:
Junior Galette: For starters, it is likely the team would stay away from Galette because of his off-the-field issues, but his production makes him at least worth a look. Last season he had three sacks, recorded 37 total pressures (via PFF) and was available for all 16 games. Galette recorded a total of 22 sacks between the 2013 and 2014, before last year’s relatively quiet year in Washington. He has had experience at both defensive end and linebacker, so he could plug-in wherever needed in Vic Fangio’s 3-4 D. If he was to regain his double-digit sack form, he could be a force. But even if he was simply able to replicate his 37 total pressures from last season, he would make life a lot easier on Hicks, who could be in for a huge season if he isn’t constantly double-teamed.
Robert Ayers: There are two things that Ayers does consistently: pressure the QB and rack up tackles. And according to PFF, he amassed 45 QB pressures on 204 pass-rush attempts last year. At 32 years old—and 33 by the time the season is in full swing—his age is likely playing a factor in him being available at this time, but for a Bears team looking to take a leap, Ayers could be a good short-term investment. He would serve as a great backup to Jonathan Bullard, who PFF gave a solid grade of 77.9 for his performance in the Hall of Fame Game. But despite being a young, up-and-coming player, Bullard has only started four games over his two seasons. Ayers would be a great veteran presence with at least 10 starts per season in the past three years. He is an effective stop-gap DE, with the potential to have a big year in terms of sacks under Fangio's watch.
New Bears wideout Allen Robinson appears on the latest episode of 'Big Guys in a Benz' hosted by Anthony Adams. In the episode, Robinson touches on a number of topics from growing up rooting for the Minnesota Vikings despite being from Detroit, his favorite Chicago baseball team and how he went about free agency.
When asked where the Bears were ranked when looking at teams in free agency, Robinson said the Bears were No. 1 on his list.
...especially once they hired coach Nagy, you know, I had been watching his work over the past couple of years and I know it's a system that I would definitely fit into and flourish in.
As far as growing up a Vikings fan?
Bears fans can forgive Robinson as he grew up idolizing Hall of Fame wide receiver Randy Moss. He went on to explain that once a year for his birthday he would get to go see the Vikings play in Detroit. Things came full-circle for Robinson when he was able to train for four weeks straight with Moss last summer, which Robinson said "took his game to the next level".
When pressed to choose White Sox or Cubs, Robinson quickly responded "Cubs", making his allegiance to the North Siders known.
And though the interview didn't touch on Robinson's ACL rehab, it did show how Robinson is quickly endearing himself to Bears fans as he prepares for a bounce-back season.