Andy Dalton

Matt Nagy: Andy Dalton Is Our Starter

A couple of weeks ago there was a report that the Bears were planning to enter Week 1 with Andy Dalton as their starter, which a lot of people dismissed.

Now, Bears head coach Matt Nagy has more or less confirmed that report publicly in a recent appearance on Cris Collinsworth’s podcast (Twitter video link). When asked by Collinsworth if there was any possible scenario where rookie Justin Fields is under center come Week 1, Nagy said “No.” Fields, of course, was just drafted 11th overall by Chicago.

 “I mean Andy is our starter. And again, I can’t predict anything, you know how it goes. I mean there’s so many things that could happen between today and that Week 1. But Andy is our starter and Justin is our number two, and we’re going to stick to this plan,” he continued.

It sounds like the team wants to do right by Dalton, as he was publicly anointed as the starter after signing a one-year, $10MM deal back in March.

It’s worth keeping in mind that only four quarterbacks chosen in Round 1 since 2011 — when that year’s CBA changed first-rounders’ earnings and timelines — did not become a primary starter in Year 1. They were Patrick MahomesJake Locker (2011), Johnny Manziel (2014) and Paxton Lynch (2016).

Both Nagy and GM Ryan Pace are on very thin ice. If the Bears struggle this season, they’ll almost certainly both be fired. As such, it’s hard to believe they’ll have too much patience. Unless Dalton comes in and immediately catches fire and leads the team to victories, it’s hard to see them waiting more than a few weeks to pull the trigger.

If Dalton is anything other than excellent, the pressure from fans and the media will be intense to unleash Fields, the former Ohio State star. We should learn a lot more about the situation in training camp and the preseason.

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Bears Plan To Start Andy Dalton In Week 1

While early June is generally far too early for these sort of proclamations, the Bears continue to throw support behind their stopgap quarterback. Despite Chicago’s quarterback plans changing in late April, the team intends to honor a promise it made in March.

The Justin Fields draft choice notwithstanding, the Bears plan to keep the promise of starting Andy Dalton in Week 1, Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk notes. The Bears will play the Rams in Los Angeles in Week 1, opening the Sunday Night Football slate.

First-round quarterbacks generally take over quickly as rookies. The Bears did not waste much time giving the keys to Mitchell Trubisky four years ago, with the one-year North Carolina starter usurping free agency addition Mike Glennon by Week 5. This year, Bears GM Ryan Pace pledged Dalton — signed to a one-year, $10MM deal — would be the team’s starter. Of course, the team’s depth chart consisted of Dalton and Nick Foles at that point. Fields certainly throws a wrench into a lengthy Dalton stay atop the depth chart.

Matt Nagy said after the Fields pick he would like the Bears to use the Chiefs’ most recent QB-transition model, when Alex Smith started throughout Patrick Mahomes‘ rookie year. Nagy was Kansas City’s offensive coordinator that season. Comparing Fields and Mahomes is unwarranted at this point, but it would be surprising if the Ohio State standout remained on the bench for too long. The Kansas City model is quite rare, despite teams hoping to follow suit. Pace and Nagy entered the draft on scorching-hot seats. Their trade-up for Fields may have bought them some time, but the high-end prospect will almost certainly play early.

Only four quarterbacks chosen in Round 1 since 2011 — when that year’s CBA changed first-rounders’ earnings and timelines — did not become a primary starter in Year 1: Mahomes, Jake Locker (2011), Johnny Manziel (2014) and Paxton Lynch (2016). All but Locker started at least one game as rookies. The 27 other first-round QBs from 2011-20 started at least six games, with 22 of those starting at least 10. Although Dalton has nine-plus seasons as a starter and is reuniting with Bears OC Bill Lazor, recent history shows the 33-year-old passer does not figure to be long for the Bears’ QB1 post.

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NFC North Notes: Bears, Sewell, Bateman

In a comprehensive piece, Adam Jahns of The Athletic details how Bears GM Ryan Pace, head coach Matt Nagy, and the rest of Chicago’s brain trust approached their quarterback situation this offseason. These types of behind-the-scenes stories are always worth a read, especially for fans of the team in question, and particularly notable here is that the club identified the No. 8 through No. 12 overall selections as the “sweet spot” to target a collegiate QB. Pace’s predraft research indicated that trying to acquire the Falcons’ No. 4 overall pick would require too much draft capital, but he didn’t want to start calling teams holding picks eight through 12 too early for fear of tipping his hand.

So he waited until the day of the draft to start making those calls, and while the early run on QBs pushed down quality players at other positions, Pace identified Ohio State QB Justin Fields as his top target. 11 Bears staffers filed reports on Fields, and all of them had very similar grades on him. Pace and Giants GM Dave Gettleman had worked out the parameters of a trade earlier in the day, and when Fields was still on the board after the Eagles leapfrogged the Giants — Pace feared Philadelphia might have been targeting Fields — Chicago and New York were able to swing a trade that brought the former Buckeye to the Windy City. Now, Pace and Nagy will hope that the bold maneuver will help them keep their jobs.

Here’s more from the NFC North:

  • Even though the Bears just signed Andy Dalton this offseason, they extended him a courtesy that the Packers did not extend to Aaron Rodgers when they drafted Jordan Love last year: they told Dalton that they might pick a QB. “I talked to [Dalton] earlier in the day on [the day of the draft], and we were just catching up,” Nagy said (via Albert Breer of SI.com). “And at the same time I said, ‘Hey, listen man, I have no idea which way this thing may go, you never know, but all positions are open and we can do a lot of different things, including at quarterback. So I just want you to understand that and be aware for that.'” Of course, the news couldn’t have come as a surprise to Dalton, who was signed to a one-year contract and who presumably has no delusions that the Bears acquired him as their quarterback of the future, but it’s the type of gesture that might have helped ease the strain on the Packers’ relationship with Rodgers.
  • The Lions‘ first-round pick, No. 7 overall selection Penei Sewell, has tested positive for COVID-19, as Sewell himself tweeted several days ago. He will therefore miss this weekend’s rookie minicamp, but at this point it sounds like he is either asymptomatic or else has mild symptoms, so there shouldn’t be any cause for concern.
  • The Packers selected Georgia CB Eric Stokes with the No. 29 overall pick of the draft, but if Minnesota WR Rashod Bateman had still been around, execs around the league believe he would have been the choice, as Jeremy Fowler of ESPN.com writes (subscription required). Of course, taking a first-round receiver this year after selecting Love in the first round in 2020 might not have been enough to placate Rodgers. The Ravens took Bateman off the board with the No. 27 overall selection.
  • The Vikings have been busy over the past couple of days, trading cornerback Mike Hughes to the Chiefs and signing first-round pick Christian Darrisaw.

NFC Notes: Bears, Fields, Winston, Sherman

The Bears made the biggest splash of the draft by trading up for Justin Fields. When they did so, it couldn’t have been welcome news to Andy Dalton. Dalton signed with Chicago this offseason hoping to be their starter in 2021, and obviously the Fields pick put that plan in jeopardy. But Bears head coach Matt Nagy talked to Ian Rapoport of NFL Network shortly after the pick and told Rapoport he “wants the Kansas City model” that the Chiefs did with Alex Smith and Patrick Mahomes (Twitter video link).Smith, of course, played the entire 2017 season before Mahomes took over in 2018.

Nagy was the offensive coordinator in Kansas City for that ’17 season before getting hired by the Bears. Rapoport says “their goal is to have Andy Dalton play the entire year, have Fields develop under the radar, and then pass the torch the following year.” Despite Nagy’s contentions, that’s almost certainly unrealistic. Nagy is coaching for his job this season, and both he and GM Ryan Pace are on the hottest of seats. They need to win in 2021, and they know it. It’s far from guaranteed Dalton even makes it to Week 1 as the starter, and assuming he does he’ll be on a very short leash. For what it’s worth, Rapsheet notes the Bears did call and talk to Dalton about moving up for a quarterback prior to making the trade. As he points out, that’s more than Aaron Rodgers got from the Packers with Jordan Love.

Here’s more from around the NFC on a quiet Sunday night:

  • The Saints just drafted Notre Dame passer Ian Book in the fourth-round, but he’s not likely to be involved in the competition between Jameis Winston and Taysom Hill to become Drew Brees‘ successor. We heard when Winston re-upped with the Saints on a one-year deal with $5.5MM guaranteed worth “up to” $12MM that he had significant incentives, and now we have the details on those incentives. They come courtesy of Nick Underhill from NewOrleans.Football (Twitter link). There are too many to list here, but Winston will get $62.5K for every game where he plays more than 50 percent of the snaps up to $1MM. He’ll get $500K if he throws 20 touchdown passes ($1MM if he hits 25). He’s got an incentive for pretty much everything, including another $500K if the Saints make the playoffs and he plays 70 percent of the snaps.
  • We heard earlier this weekend that Richard Sherman was talking with a handful of teams, including the Seahawks about a potential reunion. The 49ers, Saints, and Raiders are apparently also in the mix, but it sounds more and more like a return to Seattle is a distinct possibility. Seahawks head coach Pete Carroll told the media on Saturday that he had talked to Sherman “quite a few times” this offseason about coming back to where he started his career, via Michael David Smith of ProFootballTalk.com. Sherman, now 33, only played in five games last season but was a second-team All-Pro in 2019. He was with Seattle from 2011-17, making four Pro Bowls and four All-Pro teams as part of their legendary ‘Legion of Boom’ defenses. Sherman has said previously he’d sign after the draft, so something could materialize here soon.

Bears Looking To Move Up In Draft For Quarterback?

While the Bears may have promised Andy Dalton the starting gig, they’re still in the market for a rookie quarterback. Tony Pauline of Pro Football Network (on Twitter) reports that Chicago is looking to move up in the draft in pursuit of one of the top quarterback prospects.

One of the teams I’m told is a realistic possibility to trade up is the Chicago Bears, who want to trade up to get a QB,” Pauline said during a recent episode of his podcast.

Pauline specifically points to the Cowboys at No. 10 as a potential trade partner, which would take Chicago out of the running for (presumably) Trevor Lawrence, Zach Wilson, and at least one of Justin Fields, Mac Jones, and Trey Lance. The Bears are currently armed with the No. 20 pick in the first round, along with a second- and third-round pick.

While the Bears may be set atop their depth chart with Dalton and Nick Foles, there have been continued whispers that they could look to the draft (including the first round) for another quarterback. Head coach Matt Nagy even seemed to acknowledge that the organization has been eyeing a handful of rookies QBs during a recent meeting with reporters.

As everybody knows, we’ve been to a few pro days with some of these quarterbacks and it definitely helps, but there is only so many of those you can do and see. What’s fair is every other team is doing the same thing. Ryan and I are super excited about going through that evaluation process together and how we do it. It’s a challenge, but we look forward to it. There are a lot of good quarterbacks in this draft class.

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Bears’ HC, GM On Andy Dalton, Draft QBs

The Bears’ quarterback hunt didn’t end with the splash that some fans were hoping for. When their push for Russell Wilson went nowhere, they pivoted to longtime Bengals starter Andy Dalton, who just finished a so-so year as the Cowboys’ fill-in QB. For now, GM Ryan Pace plans to build the offense around the 33-year-old.

With Dalton, the things we like as you look at it, obviously his experience — he’s a nine-year starter, he’s been to three Pro Bowls, a lot of leadership with Dalton, decision making, his decision making, he’s won a lot of games in this league,” Pace said (via Jeff Dickerson of ESPN.com).

Still, with Dalton backstopped by 32-year-old Nick Foles, the Bears need to think beyond 2021. They currently hold the No. 20 overall pick, which takes them out of the mix for this year’s elite prospects. In theory, they could explore trades for the Jets’ Sam Darnold, or the 49ers’ Jimmy Garoppolo, but they already seem set on experienced signal callers. So, where do the Bears go from here?

Over the weekend, Pace and head coach Matt Nagy discussed their decision to sign Dalton and their mindset heading into the draft.

Pace on Dalton’s fit: 

Andy’s been a durable player. I think that is something that is understated. And I think, really, Andy fits our style of offense. When you go through it with our scouts and coaches, he can handle the drop-back game, he can handle the RPOs, the play actions, the movements. And we just felt, as we went through those free-agent quarterbacks, he’s one of the more complete quarterbacks that we evaluated in free agency, and we’re excited to have him.”

Nagy on the draft’s QB depth:

As everybody knows, we’ve been to a few pro days with some of these quarterbacks and it definitely helps, but there is only so many of those you can do and see. What’s fair is every other team is doing the same thing. Ryan and I are super excited about going through that evaluation process together and how we do it. It’s a challenge, but we look forward to it. There are a lot of good quarterbacks in this draft class.

Nagy on the QB evaluation process:

It is more difficult because you just don’t have the luxury of being at the combine and seeing these guys throw and see the ball come out of their hands and their footwork. You get to see every one of those guys from the top guy to the bottom guy. Right now you just don’t have the luxury of doing that.”

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Bears To Start Andy Dalton

On Monday, Bears GM Ryan Pace anointed Andy Dalton as his starting quarterback for 2021 (Twitter link via ESPN.com’s Jeff Dickerson). Dalton, who inked a one-year deal with Chicago earlier this year, is years removed from his best work. Still, Pace believes that Dalton can turn things around for the Bears, who have turned in two straight .500 seasons. 

Dalton’s one-year, $10MM deal was a solid indicator that he’d be starting, or at least considered for the starting role. Still, it wasn’t the splashiest choice for a team that watched Mitchell Trubisky decline over the last couple of years. For what it’s worth — the 49ers and Broncos were keenly interested in Dalton, so the Bears aren’t the only club that believes in the 33-year-old.

Both Pace and head coach Matt Nagy are on the hot seat, so there’s a lot riding on Dalton’s arm. For now, he’s slated to be backstopped by Nick Foles, though no one would be surprised to see him traded in the coming months.

Dalton enjoyed success during his run as the Bengals’ starter, earning three Pro Bowl nods and five straight postseason berths. But, after his tenure from 2011-19, the Bengals let him walk. After Dak Prescott‘s season-ending injury, he took over under center for the Cowboys. In eleven games and nine starts, the veteran finished with 14 touchdowns against eight interceptions while averaging 6.5 yards per attempt.

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Broncos, 49ers Showed Interest In QB Andy Dalton

Andy Dalton had multiple suitors before joining the Bears. Both the Broncos and 49ers expressed interest in the veteran quarterback before he signed with Chicago, writes Dan Pompei of The Athletic.

Dalton ultimately inked a one-year, $10MM deal with the Bears, a contract the other reported suitors were unwilling to match. Per Pompei, the Bears also promised the 33-year-old that he’d have the inside track at the starting gig, a commitment that neither the Broncos nor 49ers could offer.

Still, Denver’s interest in Dalton isn’t that surprising, as the organization has seemingly been connected to every available quarterback (except, reportedly, Sam Darnold). The team made an offer for Matthew Stafford, and they were planning to pursue Deshaun Watson before his off-field conduct began to surface. Dalton presumably would have competed with Drew Lock, the league-leader in interceptions this past season, for the starting gig.

The 49ers’ interest is more of a surprise, and it could be a bit telling. San Francisco has since traded for the third-overall pick, and considering the draft capital that they surrendered, they’ll presumably select a rookie quarterback at that spot. The front office has since committed to incumbent Jimmy Garoppolo as their starter in 2021 and their stopgap until the rookie QB is ready to step in, and it sounds like the veteran has yet to hit the trade block. The 49ers’ interest in Dalton could be a sign that the team was indeed considering trades for Garoppolo, as three (somewhat) starting-caliber quarterbacks would have been redundant.

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NFL Contract Details: Jones, Floyd, Williams, QBs

Some assorted contract details from around the NFL:

  • RB Aaron Jones, Packers: Four years, $48MM, including $20MM over first two years. $7MM roster bonus in 2023. Owed $16MM in 2023 and $12MM in 2024. Via NFL.com’s Tom Pelissero on Twitter.
  • LB Leonard Floyd, Rams: Four years, $64MM, including $32.5MM guaranteed. $14MM signing bonus. Salaries: $2MM (2021, fully guaranteed), $16.5MM (2022, fully guaranteed), $15.5MM (2023), $16MM (2024). Via Pelissero on Twitter.
  • DE Leonard Williams, Giants: Three years, $63MM, including $45MM. $22.5MM signing bonus. Salaries: $3.5MM (2021, fully guaranteed), $19MM (2022, fully guaranteed), $18MM (2023). Cap charges: $11MM (2021), $26.5MM (2022), $25.5MM (2023). Via Manish Mehta on Twitter.
  • QB Ryan Fitzpatrick, Washington: One year, $10MM, including $6MM guaranteed. Max value of $12MM. $6MM signing bonus. $3MM base salary, $1MM per-game roster bonuses. Up to $2MM in incentives. Via Nicki Jhabvala of the Washington Post on Twitter.
  • QB Jacoby Brissett, Dolphins: One year, $5MM, including $2.5MM guaranteed. $2.5MM signing bonus, up to $2.5MM in incentives. Via Pelissero on Twitter.
  • QB Andy Dalton, Bears: One year, $10MM. $7MM signing bonus, $3MM base salary, up to $3MM in incentives. Via Aaron Wilson of the Houston Chronicle on Twitter.
  • LB Carl Lawson, Jets: Three years, $45MM, including $30MM guaranteed. $1MM signing bonus. Salaries: $6.2MM (2021, plus $7.8MM roster bonus), $15MM (2022), $15MM (2023). Cap charges: $14.3MM (2021), $15.3MM (2022), $15.3MM (2023). Up to $800K in sack incentives each year. Via Mehta on Twitter.

Bears Showed Interest In Ryan Fitzpatrick

The Bears landed their post-Mitchell Trubisky quarterback, with recent acquisition Andy Dalton indicating Thursday he was told he would be the team’s starter next season (Twitter link via The Athletic’s Adam Jahns). But they held discussions with at least one other option as well.

Ryan Fitzpatrick said Thursday more than three teams expressed interest in him this offseason, via Pro Football Talk, and Sirius XM Radio’s Adam Caplan notes the Bears were one of those teams (Twitter link). The Broncos were also connected to Fitz, though reports of the team having conversations with the ex-Dolphins passer before the legal tampering period would indeed constitute tampering. So it is uncertain if any talks between the Broncos and the 16-year veteran passer transpired.

Washington signed Fitzpatrick, agreeing to terms with him a day before Dalton committed to the Bears. Dalton has a key connection with the Bears, with the team employing ex-Bengals offensive coordinator Bill Lazor as its OC. But Fitz has shown over the past three seasons he still has some intriguing capabilities left, despite being 38.

Chicago still has Nick Foles on its roster as well, with his reworked contract now expiring after the 2021 season. While it perhaps should not be ruled out the Bears will load up again for another round of Russell Wilson trade talks, the organization had multiple fallback options this week. Dalton will be the one to suit up for the team next season.

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