Alexander Mattison

NFC North Notes: Bears, Vikings, Flowers

The Bears have made some splashy trades since Ryan Pace replaced Phil Emery as GM in 2015. Deals that brought Khalil Mack and Mitch Trubisky to Chicago required major assets to complete. Fourth-year starter Cody Whitehair and second-round tight end Adam Shaheen also forced the Bears to surrender multiple mid-round picks. In a detailed piece by The Athletic’s Adam Jahns (subscription required), Pace summarized his aggressiveness on these fronts.

I think if you sit on your hands and you say, ‘Oh, this player is definitely going to get to us,’ and he goes right before you and you had conviction on him — not just you but the scouts and the coaches – and you wait on it, you don’t know what’s going to happen,” Pace said. “If you have a guy or a group of guys, be aggressive and make it happen.

I don’t want to undervalue any of these mid-round picks. We’ve shown a lot examples of us hitting on those players. But I know if we’re ever in a situation where, ‘Hey, we’re doing a little too much here,’ we can police ourselves on that. But as long as it’s a fair deal and we’re getting a player that we all have conviction on, then we’ll do it.”

As teams break for camp, here is more from the NFC North:

  • A knee injury Ha Ha Clinton-Dix suffered during Chicago’s offseason program resulted in the recently signed safety beginning his first Bears camp on the active/PUP list. The former Packers and Redskins defender has not missed a game since the 2014 season.
  • However, the Bears received good news on Trey Burton. The team’s second-year tight end starter has been cleared for camp work. The “Philly Special” quarterback underwent sports hernia surgery this offseason.
  • Although Alexander Mattison is the assumed next man up if Dalvin Cook again goes down with an injury, Mike Zimmer cautioned about anointing the third-round pick too soon. The sixth-year Vikings coach (via the Minneapolis Star Tribune’s Ben Goessling) singled out third-year UDFA C.J. Ham as a player who stands to play more on passing downs, in front of Mattison, due to pass-protection skills. Backs often begin their NFL careers limited at this skill, so the 26-year-old Ham (31 touches in two seasons, when Latavius Murray played behind Cook) may function as a stopgap while Mattison is groomed.
  • The Lions‘ top offseason expense, Trey Flowers will not begin camp with the bulk of his teammates. The four-year Patriots pass rusher will start his first Lions camp on their active/PUP list. Flowers underwent shoulder surgery before signing with the Lions, but Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press notes the $18MM-per-year defensive end is expected to be ready by Week 1.

Vikings Sign Five Draft Picks

The Vikings made more selections (12) than any other team in the 2019 NFL draft, but they’re nearly done signing their entire rookie class. Only first-round center Garrett Bradbury and seventh-round long-snapper Austin Cutting remain unsigned after Minnesota recently announced the following first-year players have inked their rookie deals:

Mattison was considered something of an over-draft at the end of the third round, but he could see a path to playing time during his rookie campaign, as he’ll compete with Mike Boone, Ameer Abdullah, and Roc Thomas for work behind starting running back Dalvin Cook. Mattison, who stands 5’11” and 211 pounds, surpasses 1,000 rushing yards in each of the past two seasons, scoring a combined 29 touchdowns on the ground during that time. His four-year contract should be worth $3.342MM and come with a signing bonus of ~$822K.

Samia was one of four Oklahoma offensive lineman selected in last month’s draft. The four-year starter was named the Big 12 Offensive Lineman of the Year in 2018, and also earned first-team All-Big 12 and second-team All-American nods. Lance Zierlein of NFL.com calls Samia a “very able zone blocker,” which could help him adjust to the NFL as the Vikings implement some form of new offensive consultant Gary Kubiak‘s zone-based scheme. Samia probably isn’t in line for starting work immediately, as Pat Elflein, Bradbury, and Josh Kline will handle Minnesota’s interior, but he’s likely penciled as the club’s top guard/center reserve.

First-round contracts often take a bit longer to work out, so it’s perhaps no surprise that Bradbury is still unsigned. But Cutting’s situations is tied to his status as an alum of the Air Force Academy. He hasn’t signed his rookie deal as he waits for the Air Force to decide if he’ll first need to fulfill his service requirement before playing in the NFL. President Trump is reportedly considering a waiver to allow service academy prospects to immediately play professional sports and delay their military obligations.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.