No plan in the NFL goes 100 percent as planned. Even after the most careful of planning White Roquan Smith Jerseys
, setbacks can be guaranteed. This brings us to the Chicago Bears and their current outside linebacker situation.Their edge depth has been scrutinized long before the 2018 off-season even began, despite seeing a complete overhaul dating back to 2015. With the expected emergence of the young Leonard Floyd, came the departure of several veterans. Gone are the likes of formerly prized free agent signings in Pernell McPhee, Lamarr Houston, and Willie Young. Questions have increased recently with the latest injury to Floyd. Where the current expectation is for him to be ready and available by Week 1 of the regular season, he’ll certainly have an uphill battle ahead of him as a few broken fingers on his hand heal from a surgical procedure. What’s more important is seeing how the rest of the Bears’ position group responds to the situation. How do the Bears plan on addressing their edge rush position? That, as of right now, is anyone’s guess. Here are possible scenarios that could take place between now and the 2018 regular season. Adjusting strategyEarlier this off season, Bears defensive coordinator Vic Fangio expressed a preference for improving his defense from within. Instead of throwing new players into the mix, Fangio could elect to roll with different coverages, alignments, and stunts that are aimed to ease the workload for his outside linebackers. The Bears have recently developed a glut of talent along the defensive line, and when healthy, their secondary has been producing plays throughout the preseason.Plus, there’s the Roquan Smith factor: the defensive playbook has likely been vanilla in an attempt to mask his true intentions with both Smith and fellow inside linebacker Danny Trevathan. When Smith and Trevathan are finally on the field together, they’ll represent Chicago’s best tandem of inside linebackers in terms of athleticism, instincts, and versatility. From there, I’m sure Fangio looks to involve both players in different looks and pressure packages. We’ve likely never seen Fangio unleash his full playbook in Chicago. After all, it’s taken a few years to rebuild a defense from scratch in terms of techniques and philosophies. Now he has arguably more talent than he’s ever had up to this point in his stay with Chicago. That could lead to him mixing it up aplenty.Fangio shuffles the depth charts at various positionsSometimes having a deep amount of talent at various positions can result in players having roles redefined. Fangio has already done before. For instance, he converted Roy Robertson-Harris from outside linebacker to defensive end. Another example is Deiondre’ Hall being moved from cornerback to safety. It’s happened before, and it could happen again. It’s been rumored that Nick Kwiatkoski would see time at outside linebacker this season. During the Bears’ preseason, we haven’t seen that look yet, although we’ve seen plenty of blitzes called with Kwiatkoski as the added rusher. To his credit, he’s also flashed as a pass rusher when provided the opportunities, as he’s previously been ranked in the top ten among inside linebackers in pressures and pass-rush productivity.Perhaps the Bears are waiting for Smith to take the field before experimenting with that pressure look. Though, I feel Kwiatkoski has more value as a super sub at inside linebacker, as opposed to trying him at a position he’s not familiar with. Then, there’s an option that hasn’t been discussed much..As previously mentioned Roquan Smith Jerseys 2019
, Robertson-Harris has moved once in his career. And I can see the line of reasoning why Fangio decided to do this: he’s taken a developmental player at outside linebacker and transformed him into a potentially dominant defensive lineman. He currently leads the NFL with 3.5 sacks registered during this preseason. Hypothetically, the competition at the open defensive end position has been so close, that Fangio could elect to maximize Robertson-Harris’ talents by flexing him as a jumbo outside linebacker. He’s proven that he can set the edge fairly well, and he’s versatile enough to play from any technique up front. I’m intrigued with the idea of Jonathan Bullard being at Chicago’s five-tech along with Eddie Goldman and Akiem Hicks in the base alignment. That leaves Robertson-Harris and Floyd as the outside linebackers. Plus, the Bears have what looks to be adequate depth in rookie Bilal Nichols and John Jenkins. Adding Robertson-Harris into the rotations at both outside linebacker and defensive end would create headaches for offenses to counter. What Fangio and his staff see is likely different, and he’ll do what he feels is best as the Grand Poobah of the Bears’ defense. Pace scouts the bargain binsThere’s also the chance that Bears general manager Ryan Pace looks hard at the waiver wire for potential upgrades. September 1st marks “Black Saturday” for front offices across the NFL. That date is the league’s deadline for teams to whittle their rosters down to 53 players. In the case of the Bears, I wouldn’t rule out the possibility that Pace monitors the transaction line closely to upgrade Chicago’s defensive edge. In fact, their joint practices and preseason game against the Denver Broncos gave the Bears a close insight to targets once cuts start being announced. The last time the Bears had joint practice sessions was with the New England Patriots in 2016. Pace plucked Cre’von LeBlanc from the wires shortly after his release was made official. He could easily do this again with players like the Broncos’ Shane Ray — a former 1st round pick in 2015 — speculated as a potential roster casualty. Then, there’s the idea of bringing back familiar faces who are available as free agents. I’d consider this a long shot, but veteran Lamarr Houston would make for a good signing. Yes, he was one of the more notorious free agent busts initially reeled in by former Bears general manager Phil Emery. Yet, in 23 career games under Fangio after that, Houston recorded 12 sacks. What’s more eye-opening is his impressive return in 2017, when he recorded four sacks in the final five games of the regular season. Houston was originally signed by the Houston Texans in 2017 as a free agent, before being waived and later reclaimed by the Bears. If a deal gets done, I wouldn’t expect anything more than a one-year prove-it deal. This type of move isn’t the most exciting, but it would be an upgrade.Pace goes for broke Could he be the newest member of the Bears’ defense? Photo by Don Feria/Getty ImagesThere’s always the white whale option. It’s also the least likely, considering the sheer amount of wealth required in any trade offer. This is, of course, talking about Khalil Mack, the All-Pro pass rusher of the Oakland Raiders: because he’s the only player I would consider worthy of any franchise-altering trade for the Bears. Dante Fowler Jr. of the Jacksonville Jaguars has been another name tossed around from time to time as a trade prospect. But let’s be frank: adding Mack to the Bears defense would be the greatest way to upgrade their lacking pass rush. Likewise, it’s going to cost the figurative king’s ransom to secure Mack’s contractual rights. The last time a trade of a star pass rusher was made was in March of 2016 between the Arizona Cardinals and New England Patriots. All-Pro defender Chandler Jones was traded to the Cardinals in exchange for a second round pick and a player; in this case Jonathan Cooper. I see Mack’s value being the same if not more than what the Patriots ended up with in their haul. Two things that’ll potentially hurt Mack’s value, however, are him not practicing since the 2017 season ended (football shape), and his demands for a new contract (having to get him to sign an extension in a trade). It’s not entirely impossible for such a trade to happen. Rather, as Mack’s holdout continues, the probabilities for any trade increase. Lately, it’s been reported over twelve teams have reached out to Oakland for a potential trade of the disgruntled star defender. It’s definitely a situation that the Raiders would rather get out of instead of allowing it to fester. Whether that results in a trade, or their front office gives in to Mack’s demands White Khalil Mack Jerseys
, is completely up for debate.What helps the Bears’ odds in getting Mack is that they have more than enough immediate cap space to give him a respectable deal if his rights are traded to Chicago. They’re also in a comfortable situation long term, with most of their core players locked up under team-friendly deals. Additionally, and completely in my opinion, Raiders coach Jon Gruden has a history of making questionable moves (Christian Hackenberg says hello.)If it’s worth anything — and it’s not worth much — the Bears are currently one of the favorites in terms of odds on the good old betting lines. Hey, something is better than nothing.Chances are, not only will Chicago not trade for Mack, but there’s a possibility they weren’t even among those NFL teams who seriously inquired about Mack’s availability. What’s more, is the Bears are already at a disadvantage in terms of available resources to make a deal. They utilized their second round pick of the 2019 draft in a trade to eventually claim the right to draft Anthony Miller. Their goal should be to string successful drafts together, as opposed to mortgaging their future on high-risk deals. Besides, they also have a few players deserving of long-term extensions in waiting with Eddie Goldman and Adrian Amos in line.Anything can happen, though, and I wouldn’t be surprised if Pace eventually sniffs around the trade market for potential upgrades. If the Bears did land Mack, it’d make their defense elite. It’s just such a huge risk in terms of the likely cost and competition they’ll face for his services. The first week of the 2019 NFL free agency period has come and gone. What can the Bears still do to improve their roster? All of this and more in this week’s mailbag."Each year I somehow forget how quickly the first wave of NFL free agency comes and goes. It goes from millions of dollars flying around in a three-to-four day span, to everything slowing down in the blink of an eye. For the first time in a while, the Chicago Bears and general manager Ryan Pace weren’t in on the top end market. Yet, I think because of their disciplined spending, they are better off for it in the long run.Make no mistake, there’s still plenty of work to be done. There are 26 open roster spots and still enough cap room to work with, should they come across a veteran that fits their price point. For more on that, let’s go ahead and dive right into this week’s mailbag, which will be mixed with free agency, overall roster construction and even some draft talk.According to Over The Cap, the Bears are sitting right around $17.5 million below the cap. That does not count Patrick O’Donnell, Nick Williams, Marvin Hall or Tyler Bray. With that in mind and using the rule of 51, a safer cap projection is likely closer to $15.5 million.Even so, that’s plenty of money to work with, considering where their roster is at.The Rams gave Clay Matthews a two-year deal for a maximum of $16.5 million over those two years. Now, I know there was some thought that that may hurt the Bears in their quest for a third outside linebacker Khalil Mack Jerseys 2019
, but also keep in mind, those numbers include every possible incentive and bonus, which are not likely reachable. My guess is that Matthews’ overall money probably comes in closer to $12 million over those two years, with $6-7 million guaranteed. Also with that in mind, I’m not sure that changes anything in terms of Justin Houston. At least as of Monday night, Ian Rapoport of the NFL Network had reported that Houston’s market was down to three teams, but money wasn’t going to be a determining factor due to how much he has already made in his career. The situation will be more important, which could either help or hurt the Bears.If he wants the best place to chase a ring, the Bears would likely fit perfectly, if the money makes sense. If he wants to be an unquestioned starter, the Bears may not be a good fit. The Bears still have cap flexibility, but don’t count on them spending anything more than $6-7 million per year for a guy like Houston, which may not be enough.For many people, including myself, edge depth is my main point of focus right now. Aaron Lynch has visited with three different teams, including the Raiders, Seahawks and Colts, but it has been reported that the Bears want him back, maybe just at a certain price. As many have asked, Houston could also be an option, but with a veteran like him in demand, he’ll have his choice of where he wants to go. Which makes it a little harder to predict.There are other veterans like Nick Perry, who was cut from the Packers and could also be an option. Maybe even Shane Ray.Either way, I find it hard to believe they will head into the draft with Isaiah Irving as their primary man off the bench at one of the most important positions on the field.Both general managers have done a very good job building their rosters, but in some ways, they’ve done it differently.Make no mistake, if Pace had the money and the need to spend on the open market, he would have. With Chris Ballard, we’ve seen a more calculated approach in free agency and I’m not sure we’ll see that change down the line. He’s done a good job building through the draft and rewarding his cheaper free agents with long-term contacts. Overall White Jordan Howard Jerseys
, I think the situations are different and will continue to be that way, but both are seeing success. The Colts had well over $100 million in free space heading into the offseason, while the Bears have had to clear space and play things in a frugal manner. I’d be shocked if Zach Miller ever plays football again. With that in mind, he is still currently under contract and on the Bears roster. I’m not overly sure on the specifics of it all, but I’m assuming it has something to do with the two-way contract he signed last week and him being moved to the PUP list shortly after.Ultimately, I think the Bears will keep him around long-term in some capacity. Whether that’s as a coach or as some sort of ambassador for the team, we’ll find out sooner rather than later. For him, it’s a benefit to still be under contract because he can still work with the medical staff in his rehab and be around the team like he would as a player.Either way, I’d be shocked if he ever plays again.When looking to the draft and what they could do, I think it’s always worth keeping in mind that developmental depth is key at almost every position.I think when looking at potential needs over the next year or two, defensive back (both Ha Ha Clinton-Dix and Prince Amukamara aren’t long term options due to price tag), interior offensive line (Kyle Long), outside linebacker (because you can never have enough) and even receiver to a certain extent. Once again, Pace has set them up very well in terms of starters and solid depth for 2019 already, but I’d imagine that to a certain extent, they are going to have the future in mind at certain positions when making their selections.I would say defensive back and outside linebacker are going to be focuses, but don’t be surprised if they take a tight end somewhat high. It’s a deep class and tight end is becoming more and more valuable on the open market.I still think odds are high that Jordan Howard will be dealt before or during the NFL draft next month.It’s pretty evident that he’s not in the future plans and it does him very little good to be second or third on the depth chart in a contract year. At least from what I’ve gathered, the Bears haven’t had their price met, but they have suitors. Whether or not a team decides to meet those expectations or the team simply decides to “settle” has yet to be seen. I wouldn’t expect a great return, but I also wouldn’t be surprised to see them package a pick with Howard in order to land a higher pick.I know patience with situations like these are hard to find sometimes, but this is something that could be weeks from playing out. Regardless, I don’t see him on the roster for Week 1 in early September.I have absolutely zero clue who the Bears Week 1 kicker will be, but I do know that this is a long way from being determined. My guess is that they’ll spend a seven round pick on one. One thing to keep in mind- Since 2010, an average of two kickers have been taken each year. Usually one goes in the first six rounds, but there’s always one that goes in the seventh round. With that information, I would assume the Bears will be looking at the second kicker taken. At least to my understanding there are three main draftable kickers: Oklahoma’s Austin Seibert, Utah’s Matt Gay and LSU’s Cole Tracy. Evaluating kickers is hard and I’m not going to pretend to have this nailed down. But I do agree that Gay is my favorite kicker in this class. Yes, he kicked at altitude, but he’s got a big leg and seems to have everything Pace described he’s looking for at the combine. Free agency always comes with a cautionary tale. Yes Jordan Howard Jerseys 2019
, you can improve talent, but at some point if you continue to spend big, it’ll burn you. For the first time in a while, the Packers spend and at least according to recent reports, they may have spent a little too much. They sunk big (short-term) money into the defense by adding Za’Darius Smith, Preston Smith and Adrian Amos. On paper, you can absolutely assume they got better, especially with a defensive coordinator like Mike Pettine. How much better remains to be seen, but as far as I’m concerned the Packers are the Bears’ main competition heading into the season because of Aaron Rodgers.The Lions also spend big on the defensive side adding Trey Flowers and Justin Coleman. With their approach, I can help, but question how much they paid for two good, but not great players. Especially with Flowers, paying former Patriots rarely works out. I’m also not sure that Coleman is worth anywhere near what he got.For the Vikings, I actually think they’ve gotten worse and have very little cap space to work with. On top of question Kirk Cousins, their offensive line is in shambles, even with the addition of Josh Kline. With them, I can’t help, but wonder why they paid so much to retain Anthony Barr, especially when they continue to keep him out of place as an off-the-ball linebacker, instead of a pass rusher that stays closer to the line of scrimmage.All in all, it’s always easy to overreact in free agency, but as we’ve seen with the Bears over the years, spending big in free agency can produce mixed results. Let’s revisit after the draft.