Chicago Bears Rumors & News

Bears Shopping Jay Cutler

The Bears are “actively” looking to trade quarterback Jay Cutler, according to Jeff Darlington of ESPN.com (Twitter link). Cutler was informed of Chicago’s plan when it began in mid-January, tweets Ian Rapoport of NFL.com.Jay Cutler (vertical)

[RELATED: Top 3 Offseason Needs — Chicago Bears]

Chicago is expected to move on from Cutler this offseason, and while a release still looks like the expected outcome, a trade is certainly possible given the dearth of signal-callers around the league. Cutler, 33, is signed for four more seasons with cap charges between $16MM and $21.7MM each year. Nearly all of those figures are tied up in base salary, so while an acquiring club would be responsible for those totals, none of that money is guaranteed, meaning Cutler would essentially be a year-to-year proposition.

In the past month, Cutler has been loosely linked to a couple of quarterback-needy teams, including the 49ers and Jets, though no club has expressed solid interest (the Cardinals, for one, are decidedly not interested). That no team has begun strong negotiations for Cutler is unsurprising given both his salary and the results of his 2016 campaign, during which he was hampered by injuries and managed a Total Quarterback Rating of just 78.1 in five starts.

Dealing Cutler would allow the Bears to not only clear $14MM in cap space (vaulting them into the top-five in terms of NFL room), but signify the official start of Chicago’s hunt for a new quarterback. Matt Barkley remains on the roster as a restricted free agent, while veteran Brian Hoyer is unrestricted but could be retained. However, the Bears will likely explore all avenues as it searches for a franchise passer, undertaking a lengthy exercise by scouring both the draft and trade market.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Opinion: Cards, Jay Cutler Could Fit

An offseason union between quarterback Jay Cutler and the Cardinals wouldn’t be “shocking,” opines Peter King of TheMMQB.com, who adds that a multi-year deal with incentives would make some sense for both sides. At first glance, Cutler signing — and presumably becoming a backup to Carson Palmer — appears unlikely, but as King notes, Arizona head coach Bruce Arians isn’t afraid to take chances on certain veteran players. Still, King is probably speculating rather than reporting, and Cutler is likely to target a starting job after (almost assuredly) being released by the Bears.

  • Although one recent report indicated agent Don Yee would lead the hunt for a Jimmy Garoppolo trade partner, Yee is planning to let the Patriots and Bill Belichick handle such negotiations, as Tony Grossi of ESPN.com writes. “I don’t really have any information at this moment of time about that,” Yee said. “Everybody’s getting ready for the combine as well as preparing for free agency. I don’t know anything at all about what the Patriots plan to do, nor would I even presume to have any suggestion as to what they should do.” Garoppolo is expected to be the top target for a number of clubs this offseason, including the Browns, Bears, and 49ers.

Bears Gaining Steam In Tony Romo Derby?

  • The Bears have infiltrated a Las Vegas sports book’s top picks for Tony Romo‘s landing spot. Sportsbook.ag’s R.J. Bell (via the Dallas Morning News) projects the Bears as Romo’s fourth-most likely 2017 employer — behind the Texans, Broncos and Cowboys. Houston’s emerged as the favorite despite the organization’s known stance being to avoid getting involved for Romo. Interestingly, the Chiefs are down at No. 5 after being viewed as a primary destination. ESPN.com also projected a Bears/Romo partnership as being more likely than many believe.

Bears To Hire Derius Swinton As Assistant Special Teams Coach

  • The Bears are expected to hire Derius Swinton as the club’s assistant special teams coach, as Brad Biggs of the Chicago Tribune tweets. Swinton previously served in that capacity with Chicago in 2015 but became the 49ers’ special teams coordinator last season.

Will Bears Franchise Alshon Jeffery?

“Those things will pick up as we get further down the road,” Bears general manager Ryan Pace said of contract negotiations with free agent receiver Alshon Jeffery. However, as Adam L. Jahns of the Chicago Sun Times writes, those decisions will start to “pick up” next week. Wednesday is the first day teams can assign the franchise tag to their impending free agents, and Jefferey could surely be in line to be slapped with the designation.

Jeffery also received the franchise tag last offseason, meaning his projected tag value for this season would be around $17MM. Jefferey didn’t necessarily have a “prove-it” season thanks in part to a four-game suspension, so the organization may not want to make the 27-year-old one of the highest paid wideouts for a second-straight year. Additionally, the Bears may not want to invest in the receiver long-term.

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Bears Notes: Bicknell, Curry, McDonald, Willis

  • The Bears have interviewed Bob Bicknell, Ronald Curry, and George McDonald as part of their effort to find a new wide receivers coach, reports Brad Biggs of the Chicago Tribune. Bicknell has coached wideouts at the NFL level since 2012, spending time with Buffalo, Philadelphia, and San Francisco. Curry, a former NFL wide receiver himself, has worked on the Raiders’ and 49ers’ staffs, while McDonald has spent the past several years in the coaching ranks.
  • Ex-Saints defensive assistant James Willis is a candidate for the Bears‘ assistant defensive line coach position and will interview this week, tweets Adam Caplan of ESPN.com. New Orleans relieved Willis of his duties last month after he’d spent two years with the club. Willis previously coached in the NCAA with Alabama, Auburn, and Texas Tech.

Bears Sign OL Eric Kush To Two-Year Deal

The Bears announced that they’ve reached agreement on a two-year deal with offensive lineman Eric Kush. Kush, who had been scheduled to become an unrestricted free agent next month, is now locked up through the 2018 campaign.Eric Kush (Vertical)

[RELATED: Bears To Make Push For Jimmy Garoppolo]

The 27-year-old Kush just wrapped his first season with the Bears after the club claimed off waivers before last season began. Originally slated to serve as a reserve interior lineman, Kush ended up starting four games and appearing in eight total contests after injuries hit Chicago’s front five. Overall, Kush played on 279 offensive snaps for the Bears in 2016, and even chipped in with 27 special teams snaps.

Kush, a sixth-round pick in the 2013 draft, has bounced around during his NFL career, spending time with the Chiefs, Buccaneers, Panthers, Texans, and Rams before landing with the Bears. All told, Kush has played in 18 games and picked up five starts.

Chicago has 26 other free agents on its board this offseason, but only one of those players is another offensive lineman like Kush: veteran guard/center Ted Larsen.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

2017 NFL Franchise Tag Candidates

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Starting today, NFL teams will be able to place franchise and transition tags on potential free agents for the first time. While the window for franchise tags is open, most clubs won’t actually tag any players right away.

As our list of important dates for the 2017 offseason shows, the deadline for teams to assign those tags doesn’t come until Wednesday, March 1st. Usually, when it comes to NFL contract discussions, deadlines spur action, so teams will wait until that deadline approaches to officially use franchise tags, once it becomes clear that they won’t be able to strike a longer-term deal yet with their respective free-agents-to-be.

Even though the action might not heat up for a couple more weeks, it’s worth taking a closer look at what to expect during 2017’s franchise tag period. The NFL hasn’t officially announced the salary cap figure for 2017, but former agent Joel Corry of CBSSports.com recently projected the 2017 franchise tag salaries based on a presumed $168MM cap. Here are the expected non-exclusive franchise tag amounts:

  • Quarterback: $21.395MM
  • Running back: $12.377MM
  • Wide receiver: $15.826MM
  • Tight end: $9.894MM
  • Offensive line: $14.444MM
  • Defensive end: $16.955MM
  • Defensive tackle: $13.468MM
  • Linebacker: $14.754MM
  • Cornerback: $14.297MM
  • Safety: $10.961MM
  • Punter/kicker: $4.863MM

(For a refresher on the characteristics of the exclusive and non-exclusive franchise tags, as well as the transition tag, be sure to check out PFR’s glossary entry on the subject.)

Here’s our look at the most likely candidates to be tagged, along with several more outside possibilities:

Virtual Locks:

Chandler Jones, DE, Cardinals: Maybe Jones should headline a category titled “Super Duper Virtual Locks.” In January, coach Bruce "<strongArians said that the Cards would apply the franchise tag to Jones if they were unable to immediately lock him up to a long-term deal. Then, just this week, Cardinals president Michael Bidwill offered additional confirmation of that plan. The $16.955MM tag will be applied to Jones in the next couple of weeks and the two sides will then have until the summer to work out a long-term deal. The odds of a longer pact coming together seem pretty good, considering the Cardinals knew what they were getting themselves into when they traded for Jones last year.

Kawann Short, DT, Panthers: Panthers head coach Ron Rivera admits that Short will “probably” be tagged and, unlike ex-teammate Josh Norman, Short doesn’t have a problem with it. The 28-year-old was the third-best defensive tackle in the NFL last year, according to Pro Football Focus, and the Panthers will gladly pay him ~$13.5MM on a one-year deal. A multi-year agreement could require an average annual value of $17MM, so our early guess is that Short will wind up actually playing on the tender.


Le’Veon Bell
, RB, Steelers: We’ve known for a while now that the Steelers will use the franchise tag on Bell. For all of his off-the-field headaches, Bell still stands as one of the league’s most dynamic running backs and a one-year, $12.3MM deal would suit Pittsburgh just fine. Sometime after the tag is in place, we’re expecting the two sides to agree on a long-term deal. As I wrote in our most recent edition of the Free Agent Power Rankings, Bell will top LeSean McCoy‘s ~$8MM AAV and Doug Martin‘s $15MM in guarantees on a new multiyear pact. Of course, other factors such as cash flow will be pivotal in talks, particularly given the limited shelf life of running backs.
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Jay Cutler Contract Came With Staff Dissent

  • Speaking of Cutler, the Bears extending the polarizing talent in 2014 came against the preference of members of the then-Marc Trestman-led coaching staff, but then-GM Phil Emery made the move anyway, John Mullen of CSNChicago.com writes. The Bears are now likely to move on from Cutler after eight seasons since the aforementioned seven-year, $126MM contract leaves them a 2017 escape hatch.
  • Mullen adds the conventional sense is Brian Hoyer will return to the Bears as a stopgap solution. Hoyer threw for 300 yards in four of five starts before going down with a broken arm, completing 67 percent of his passes and not throwing an interception. The UFA passer could have options as a backup plan for other teams, however, forcing the Bears to up the ante if they want to keep the 31-year-old passer. Bringing Hoyer back as a mentor-type player for a to-be-determined draft pick — and short-term starter — strikes Mullen as a reasonable idea due to the team’s positive view of him as a veteran leader.

Daniel Braverman Changes Agent

  • Bears wide receiver Daniel Braverman has signed Jason Katz of CSE Talent as his new agent, tweets Mullen, who adds Braverman was previously represented by Rosenhaus Sports. Braverman, a 2016 seventh-round pick, was active for three games during his rookie season but didn’t record a reception.