Chicago Bears Off-Season: Deception or Desperation

The Chicago Bears off-season began with deception but has since reeked of desperation. Some things in the NFL are still going on. Teams are no longer meeting with prospects or convening, they have still been active trying to get their respective cap situations under control. In that vein, it’s odd seeing the Bears committing new money for older players while others shed such obligations.

Friday was like a news dump as teams shed the salaries of big names in efforts to get their financials in order. Names like Cameron Wake and Delanie Walker of the Tennessee Titans and Xavier Rhodes and Linval Joseph of the Minnesota Vikings, to name a few. The free agency legal tampering period opened and the Bears seemed auspiciously absent. Boy would that change.

Chicago Bears Ink Vets Over Younger Free Agents

Proven Over Potential

Danny Trevathan has been a Bear for the past four seasons. He joined his former Denver Broncos head coach, John Fox, to Chicago after spending his first four seasons in the Mile High City. Trevathan became a fan-favorite and a leader on defense almost immediately for his instinctual play and infectious energy; even outlasting Fox.

Over his Bears career, Trevathan logged 235 solo stops, putting him 33rd in the NFL over that span. That number would likely be higher, but the former Kentucky Wildcat only made through a full 16-game season once (2018).

Trevathan’s deal is inevitably linked with the one Nick Kwiatkoski signed with the Oakland Raiders. The deals are strikingly similar with Trevathan coming out about $750,000 richer. Kwiatkoski, a reserve in his time in Chicago, is viewed as a two-down linebacker. That had to play into the decision. But choosing the older, pricier, less healthy option doesn’t seem wise.

Back in the Day

Jimmy Graham was once the toast of the NFL world among tight ends. 6’7 with a basketball background, he was the perfect archetype of the modern tight end. The former All-Pro and four-time Pro Bowler set franchise records with the Seattle Seahawks and even his modest production last season was more than all Bears tight ends combined.

Still, he’ll be 34 when the season starts and has seen his production drop in consecutive seasons. He’s been breaking receiving records since his second year in the league with the New Orleans Saints, but that was two franchises ago.

His contract, two years and $16 million, puts him at 17th in annual salary. That is more in line with his production of years past than anything recent. Combined with Trey Burton, who is still on the roster (and all the other warm bodies taking up cap space) Chicago now leads the league in money tied up at the position. That’s ahead of even the Philadelphia Eagles.

In the Bag

Robert Quinn was a highly sought after this off-season. After being traded by the Los Angeles Rams (with whom he enjoyed three consecutive double-digit sack seasons from 2012-14), Quinn toiled away on South Beach. He still led the Miami Dolphins with 6.5 sacks on a depleted defense and found himself again traded to the Dallas Cowboys.

His 11.5 sacks last season was good for top-10 in the NFL last season. That earned him a very lucrative five-year, $70 million deal with $30 million in guarantees. The structure should keep him in navy and burnt orange through at least 2022.

It’s a hefty price tag for a player who’ll be 30 when the season (hopefully eventually) begins. But the two-time Pro Bowler and former All-Pro showed well playing off of DeMarcus Lawrence in Dallas. The hope is similar production with him bookending Khalil Mack. Something Leonard Floyd (now with the Rams) never could do.

Lightning in a Bottle

The Bears are trying to recreate some magic. 2019 saw the Titans ride Ryan Tannehill to a playoff berth and got two quarters away from reaching the Super Bowl. Tannehill took that to the bank this offseason with a lucrative extension. Chicago went and traded with the Jacksonville Jaguars for failed 2018 free-agent signee Nick Foles.

His deal was reworked and the Jaguars are taking the dead cap hit this season. But Chicago is still paying him $15 million per season on a deal many said was overpriced when he signed it before 2019. Does reworking his contract to add a couple of out clauses make up for committing draft and financial capital (both of which the Bears were already light on)?

The best-case scenario is obviously that Foles marries that special 2013 regular season with his special 2018 Super Bowl run. If anyone could guarantee his production will come even close to those this wouldn’t be a discussion. The problem is he’s been that guy far less than the one Gardner Minshew (a sixth-round rookie) started over. At worst, well, you know how that ends.

Deception or Desperation

So far, Chicago’s moves can be viewed through one of two lenses. The first sees the team securing a defensive leader, landing a huge red-zone target, and trading a former Super Bowl MVP. To pessimists, they passed on a younger (and healthier) defensive player, overpaid for a washed-up tight end, and got fleeced (again) in a trade for a mediocre-to-bad quarterback.

These moves screams “all in” on this current group. A group that still has glaring holes at cornerback, safety, and along the offensive line. We just have to wait to find out if they’re right.

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