Bears Rumors

NFL Distributes Performance-Based Payouts

Since 2002, the NFL’s performance-based pay system has rewarded low-salary players who exceed their expected playing time. This year, due to the pandemic, the league and the players’ union negotiated a gradual payout schedule, one that will meter out the money between now and 2024.

All in all, the league divested $8.5MM per club. This year’s top earner is Buccaneers guard Alex Cappa, a 2018 third-round pick who played every single snap for the eventual champs. Cappa will now receive an extra $622K on top of his $750K base salary for 2021. Per the union’s records, 25 other players also topped $500K, including Cardinals tackle Kelvin Beachum ($604K), Bills cornerback Taron Johnson ($579K), Rams guard Austin Corbett ($573K), Lions cornerback Amani Oruwariye ($572K), Bears tackle Germain Ifedi ($571K), Steelers offensive lineman Chukwuma Okorafor ($568K), Vikings offensive lineman Dakota Dozier ($561K), Ravens safety DeShon Elliott ($557K) and Bucs safety Jordan Whitehead ($555K).

The full list, going team-by-team, can be found here, courtesy of the NFLPA.

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Bears Re-Sign CB Michael Joseph

The Bears have re-signed defensive back Michael Joseph to a one-year contract. Financial terms of the deal were not disclosed.

Joseph went undrafted in 2018 out of Division III Dubuque but found a home with the Bears. After spending most of his early career on the practice squad, he was promoted to the 53-man roster towards the end of 2019. Last year, things were put on pause — Joseph was placed on IR in late August, then parked on the reserve/COVID-19 list in October.

It’s been an unusual journey for Joseph, who has been under the radar since his high school days. In fact, he didn’t even start for his high school football team.

Junior year, I didn’t play at all and senior year, if the team was up big I’d get in, but the last seven games I don’t think I played,” said Joseph, who was 5’2″ as a frosh (via the Chicago Tribune). “It was definitely frustrating. I kept it to myself, but football was my No. 1 thing. I wanted to play big-time football.”

This year, he’ll fight for a steady role in the CB group — one that will likely see the arrival of an early-draft talent.

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Bears Discussing Anthony Miller Trade

A potential big trade could be in the works. The Bears have been discussing a deal involving receiver Anthony Miller with a “number of teams,” Ian Rapoport of NFL Network tweets.

We heard a few weeks ago that the team was shopping him, and it sounds like they’re receiving some real interest. Chicago has franchise tagged Allen Robinson, and they had Darnell Mooney breakout last season, making Miller expendable. He’s heading into the final year of his rookie deal, and the team clearly wants to get something for him before he’d presumably walk in free agency.

The 51st overall pick of the 2018 draft, Miller has flashed plenty of big-time potential but has never been able to fully deliver on it. He’s only missed one pro game, but has dealt with serious shoulder issues that have limited him in the past. He caught seven touchdowns as a rookie, then had 52 catches for 652 yards in 2019.

This past season his production dipped, as he had 49 receptions for 485 yards and two touchdowns. The less than 10 yards a reception isn’t great, and his stock likely took a hit. Still he’s only 26, and signed very cheaply for 2021, so it’s not surprising that teams are engaging in discussions. He could be an intriguing flyer with some real upside for a team in need of pass-catching help.

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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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Contract Details: Dunlap, Bills, Texans, Burns

Let’s catch up on some of the latest contract details from around the league:

  • Seahawks DE Carlos Dunlap: Two-years, $13.6MM. This had previously been reported as $16.6MM, but it turns out Seattle got Dunlap back for a few million cheaper than that, as Aaron Wilson of the Houston Chronicle tweets. It’s actually a five-year pact with three years that automatically void for cap spreading purposes. As previously reported, it has $8.5MM in guaranteed money. Dunlap was set to have a $14.1MM cap charge for 2021 before the Seahawks cut him and then re-signed him to this less expensive deal.
  • Bills LB Tyler Matakevich: One-year extension. Buffalo gave their special teams ace a one-year extension through the 2022 season, which lowered his 2021 cap number to $2.95MM from $3.7MM, Matthew Fairburn of The Athletic tweets. His base salary for 2021 is now fully guaranteed. He’ll count for $3.25MM against the 2022 cap, but there will only be $750K in dead money if he’s released.
  • Texans CB Tavierre Thomas: Two-years, $4MM. We now have details on this contract, as Thomas will be getting $2MM in guaranteed money, Wilson tweets. Not bad for a player who prior to 2020 was mostly a special teams guy. He ended up playing almost 20 percent of the defensive snaps for the Browns last year as they dealt with injuries in their secondary. He got a $1MM signing bonus, a $1MM guaranteed salary for 2021, and a non-guaranteed $1.5MM salary for 2022 with $250K in per game active roster bonuses for each season.
  • Bears CB Artie Burns: One-year, $990K. The financial terms on this one were previously not reported, and it turns out the former first-round pick only got the veteran’s minimum from Chicago, Wilson tweets. The 25th pick of the 2016 draft by the Steelers got over $1MM to sign with the Bears last offseason, but then tore his ACL in August before playing a down for the team.

Matt Nagy To Resume Play-Calling Duties

With the Bears midway through what became a six-game losing streak last season, Matt Nagy relinquished play-calling duties. But the fourth-year Bears head coach will take back the play sheet come September.

Nagy said Friday he will call plays next season. This comes after the Bears signed ex-Bill Lazor pupil Andy Dalton. Lazor called the Bears’ offensive plays beginning in Week 10. Despite Lazor having been Dalton’s position coach in 2016 and his offensive coordinator for the next two seasons, he will return to his initial Bears role as a non-play-calling OC.

Nagy’s play-calling acumen played a key role in his 2018 Coach of the Year award, with the former Chiefs OC elevating Mitchell Trubisky during a season that nearly ended with the Bears advancing to the divisional round. However, Trubisky regressed considerably in 2019 and was benched early in the 2020 season. While Trubisky returned to his QB1 role late in the season and led the Bears to three straight wins in Nagy’s second playoff bid, Chicago proved no match for Green Bay and New Orleans in one-sided defeats to close the season. The Bears ranked 25th in offensive DVOA last season and have not ranked above 20th in Nagy’s three seasons in charge.

The Bears promised Dalton he would be the starter and followed through on that pledge Friday, slotting the 10-year veteran above Nick Foles at quarterback. Nagy, who will enter the season on one of the NFL’s hottest seats, will be running the show during Dalton’s Chicago debut.

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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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Bears Re-Sign Artie Burns

The Bears have re-signed Artie Burns on a one-year deal, per a club announcement. The cornerback joined Chicago last year, but never made it to the field. 

Burns, 26 in May, spent his first four NFL seasons with the Steelers. Expectations were high for the first-round pick, but his role in the Steelers’ defense dwindled over time. With 32 starts to his credit, he joined the Bears last year, but wound up tearing his ACL in August.

Burns played on just 6% of Pittsburgh’s defensive snaps in 2019, so he’s really two years removed from standard safety play. He’ll look to bounce back this year and add to his career totals of 149 tackles, four interceptions and 27 pass breakups. Playing alongside old University of Miami pal Deon Bush may help as he gets reacquainted.

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