It can be overwhelming to rank the personnel decisions the Bears have in front of them this offseason. There’s a $20+ million quarterback decision on Mitch Trubisky, a $13 million pass-rushing one on Leonard Floyd, and three of their four inside linebackers are unrestricted free agents when the new league year begins in mid-March. The Bears put one of those linebackers, Danny Trevathan, on IR Wednesday, further complicating an already sticky issue.
“Talking through everything with where he’s at, with where we’re at, we just felt like right now is the right time,” Matt Nagy said.
The Bears signed Danny Trevathan, who was coming off a Super Bowl title with the Denver Broncos, to a four-year, $28 million contract before the 2016 season. Since then, he’s started 45 of 46 games while logging 327 tackles (235 solo), six sacks and three forced fumbles. He’s also a highly respected leader at Halas Hall, and has been especially helpful with the development of Roquan Smith.
“You could see Danny Trevathan really take him under his wing, and that was very important,” Nagy said in the wake of Smith’s season-ending pectoral injury.
Usually, someone with Trevathan’s numbers and stature would be a likely candidate to return on a new contract. He won’t turn 30 until March, and was having one of his strongest seasons of his career until hurting his elbow against the Lions in a Week 10 win. The Bears don’t have a ton of salary space, but Ryan Pace has always shown an ability to create cap room, and that figures to be no different this offseason. If the Bears want to get something done with Trevathan, they very likely can.
Whether they want to is an entirely different issue. Trevathan himself has repeatedly said that his backup, Nick Kwiatkoski, is a starting-caliber linebacker. Since Trevathan has been sidelined, not only has Kiwatkoski filled in, but earned himself a sizeable pay raise along the way.
“I think we felt that early on with Kwit in training camp,” Trevathan said. “He came in in really good shape. You could see him flying around, you noticed it in preseason, training camp and then when he had that opportunity against the Vikings, you felt it there against a team that runs the ball a lot. We all know he can play the run game really well.”
Since taking over in Week 10, Kwiatkoski has been the 11th-best linebacker in football, according to Pro Football Focus. He's earned a reputation as a run-stopping backer, but he's also played well against the pass, which was perceived as a weakness. His coverage grade (85.4) this season is the eighth best in the NFL.
“There’s a perception about Kwit that I think, this year, he’s shown that he has coverage skills,” linebackers coach Mark Deleone said. “He’s done really well this year when we’ve put him in those situations.”
So well, in fact, that it might make the Bears wonder how much of a priority re-signing Trevathan would be. At age 26, Kwiatkoski is four years younger, and he may not command the price tag of an established name and Super Bowl champion. There’s even a bleak reality where both Trevathan and Kwiatkoski price themselves out of what the Bears are comfortable with.
Add that to the list of the team's complicated personnel decisions.
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