In hectic times that have seen everyone quarantine themselves at home, sports canceled and jobs and schools across the country temporarily suspended, NFL free agency has gone on-schedule as planned, helping bring some sanity back into our lives.
For the Monsters of the Midway, what fans have seen is a reoccurring game plan by general manager Ryan Pace – signing a handful of low-cost (for the most part) veteran pieces to help fill roster needs and aiming towards the draft to plug the remaining holes.
Heading into the league’s new year with around $27 million in cap space, it was vital that Pace spent this money wisely. The release of Leonard Floyd helped clear an additional $13 million, a move that seemed like a no-brainer after the former No. 9 overall pick’s production has seen a steep decline over the past several seasons.
With the remaining cash, the Bears were able to land a handful of potentially high-impact veterans and re-sign some in-house names that’ll keep their elite-level defense intact. In addition, they managed to bring in some competition at the quarterback position for the first time since Mitchell Trubisky took over the starting job back in 2017.
Let’s dive into the top moves made thus far and break down their impact.
EDGE Robert Quinn, 5 years, $70 million
Beginning with what may be the strongest signing for the Navy and Orange this offseason, Quinn brings a skillset far superior to his predecessor Floyd that should strike fear into opposing offenses – rushing the passer.
He’s coming off a superb season for the Dallas Cowboys, where he notched 11.5 sacks. While Quinn is set to turn 30 this season, he hasn’t missed a beat and possesses a rare combination of speed and flexibility that will require ample attention from opposing O-lines.
More importantly, this signing should elevate Khalil Mack’s game on the opposite side of the defensive line, as teams won’t be able to key-in on him as they did a season ago. Bring a healthy Akiem Hicks back into the equation, and you’ve got an utterly dominant pass rush whose numbers should creep back towards the league-leading 50 sacks this unit accomplished back in 2018.
Quinn’s contract only has $30 million in guarantees, giving the Bears more flexibility with him down the road depending on his performance.
QB Nick Foles, traded to Bears for fourth-round pick
With Cam Newton and Teddy Bridgewater both rumored to have ties to Chicago prior to this trade, Nick Foles might not have been Bears fans’ first choice … or second, but for the first time in years, Pace has maybe, just maybe, landed himself a quarterback competent enough to lead this organization to a deep postseason run.
This was certainly a high-risk, high-reward type of move, as they traded some of their limited draft capital to acquire him, but Foles has already agreed to a restructured contract that will guarantee him only $21 over the next three years.
The biggest question that remains is will Matt Nagy stick to his guns and make Foles beat out Trubisky for the starting spot or will it be Foles’ job to lose? While only time will tell, most signs point to Foles being under center down the stretch of next season.
With one Pro Bowl nod and a Super Bowl ring already under his belt, he’s shown the ability to play at a high level when healthy. Foles has plenty of experience in a similar scheme to Nagy’s West Coast offense in Philly that stemmed from the Andy Reid coaching tree.
ILB Danny Trevathan, 3 years, $21.75 million
Instead of re-signing 26-year-old Nick Kwiatkoski or looking to the open market to fill what would’ve been a giant void in the middle of the Bears’ front seven, Pace opted to double-down on 30-year-old Danny Trevathan. Although his 2019 season was cut short due to a left elbow injury and he’s now on the wrong side of 30, Trevathan hasn’t shown any signs of slowing down as he has been an integral part of Chicago’s top-ranked defense.
When on the field, Trevathan has been phenomenal.
Over the past three seasons, he’s amassed an impressive 261 combined tackles, five sacks and 12 passes defensed in just 37 starts. His impact goes beyond the gridiron, as he’s also been a key locker room leader and added a key veteran presence for a team that will hope to contend for a title in 2020.
TE Jimmy Graham, 2 years, $16 million
Arguably the biggest question mark of the Bears’ offseason has been the signing of veteran tight end Jimmy Graham to a rather lofty contract at this point in his career. This was seen by many as a complete head-scratcher.
At age 33, Graham is hardly a shell of his former self. In 2019 as a member of the Packers, the five-time Pro Bowler caught just 38 passes for 447 yards and three touchdowns while appearing in all 16 games.
There’s no question that the tight end spot was an immense need, but it’s tough to see how Graham fixes this issue. As the very least, he’s an upgrade over what the team possessed a season ago (although that’s not saying much). As it stands, however, it’s hard to justify paying Graham $16 million when the Steelers were able to lure 26-year-old Eric Ebron (16 touchdowns over the past two seasons) to a two-year, $12 million deal just a few days later, someone who would’ve been a far superior addition to Nagy’s offense.
CB Artie Burns, 1 year
A former first-round pick of the Steelers in 2016, Artie Burns never really lived up to the hype in Pittsburgh. Burns nabbed three interceptions and showed promise as a rookie, earning himself the starting gig for the entire 2017 season.
However, 2018 was the beginning of a downward spiral for him, as he’s managed just one pass defensed in the last two seasons, zero interceptions and was benched in 2019 before missing the final six games with a knee injury.
With Amukamara gone and only the inexperienced Kevin Toliver left to compete for the spot, Burns adds some competition for the starting CB position heading into camp, but doesn’t completely address the need. While this is a nice low-cost, high upside type of signing, Burns is a reclamation project at best that will take time, something the Bears may not be able to afford in win-now mode.
Although … he is still just 24 years old.