James Daniels

Bears Notes: Desai, Robinson, Massie, Skrine

Earlier this week, Sean Desai met with the media for the first time since being promoted to the role of defensive coordinator. While the 37-year-old will take over a defense that has ranked as a top-10 DVOA unit in each of the past three seasons, they’ve also seen some regression since peaking in 2018. However, Desai doesn’t believe the defensive needs a significant overhaul.

“I’m not a big car guy, so my analogies may not be great, but this is like a tune up,” Desai said (via the team’s website). “We’re going to refine some things and we’re going to make sure our players are playing to their strengths on a consistent basis and they’re going to buy into the system and the whys and the hows of why we’re doing certain things. But we’ve got a good defense. We’ve got really good players here.”

“There was some regression, and we’re going to overcome that,” Desai added. “But we’re going to do it in a positive way and we’re going to do it where the players are going to be able to shine through that defense. So I think we’ll build some depth and we’ll continue with our tough, physical mindset of play and do that over a 16- to 20-week season.”

Some more notes out of Chicago…

  • CBS Sports’ Jason La Canfora writes that the Bears are “prepared” to tag wideout Allen Robinson with the hope of eventually signing him to a long-term deal. Brad Biggs of the Chicago Tribune writes that it will be difficult to fit a franchised Robinson into a reduced 2021 cap, but the writer also admits that replacing Robinson would be a more daunting task.
  • Speaking of the cap, Biggs provided some cost-cutting options for the Bears. The team could move on from right tackle Bobby Massie, although that would open a spot on the offensive line. Cornerback Buster Skrine could also lose his roster spot, especially since he has a $500K roster bonus due in March. Finally, Biggs also whether the front office will be receptive to paying tight end Jimmy Graham $7MM this season.
  • As for restructured contracts, Biggs points to pass rusher Khalil Mack and safety Eddie Jackson, and he notes that the team could also extend cornerback Kyle Fuller. Alternatively, the team could look to retain free agents like Cairo Santos and Cordarrelle Patterson on low-money pacts.
  • Kevin Fishbain of The Athletic passed along a few Bears players who have increased their 2021 salaries via proven performance escalators (Twitter links): defensive end Bilal Nichols (from $920K to $2.183MM) and guard James Daniels ($1.437MM to $2.183MM),. Their new salaries are contingent on the final 2021 cap number.

Minor NFL Transactions: 10/14/20

Here are Wednesday’s minor moves:

Chicago Bears

Cleveland Browns

New England Patriots

  • Signed off Jaguars’ practice squad: DL Carl Davis

Tennessee Titans

Washington Football Team

Bears G James Daniels Out For Season

1:10pm: Daniels did indeed suffer a torn pec last night, as Tom Pelissero of the NFL Network tweets. He will miss the rest of the season.

10:07am: The Bears improved to 4-1 by defeating the Buccaneers last night, but they may have lost a starting offensive lineman in the process. As Mike Garafolo of the NFL Network reported after the game, Chicago fears that left guard James Daniels suffered a season-ending pectoral injury (Twitter link).

As of this morning, head coach Matt Nagy did not have an update on Daniels’ condition (Twitter link via Jeff Dickerson of ESPN.com). Daniels is scheduled to have an MRI today, so we will pass along those results as soon as we have them.

Although the Bears are near the bottom of the league in terms of total offense and points-per-game, their offensive front is actually performing pretty well as far as the advanced metrics are concerned. Football Outsiders pegs Chicago’s O-line as a top-10 unit in both run-blocking and pass protection, and any disruption to the group’s continuity will be unwelcome. For what it’s worth, Pro Football Focus thinks highly of Daniels’ personal run-blocking effort through the first few weeks of the season, though it’s less fond of his pass-blocking.

Daniels has become a fixture in the Bears’ starting lineup, having started the last 31 games for the club. He has also demonstrated some versatility, playing eight games at center in 2019 before switching back to guard.

The 2018 second-round pick is currently backed up by former UDFA Alex Bars, who has yet to record a start in his pro career.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Extra Points: McCoy, Cooper, Bears

Gerald McCoy spent nearly a decade with the Buccaneers, who have not made the playoffs since 2007. As a result, he is prioritizing a certain type of team as a first-time free agent. McCoy said he plans to sign with a contender, ESPN.com’s Josina Anderson reports.

I want to win,” McCoy said. “I’m not worried about where I’m living. Wherever I got to go to win. … Everybody’s open.”

Thus far, the Browns, Ravens, Bengals, Colts and Panthers have emerged as McCoy suitors. The Browns and Ravens have received or will receive meetings, Cleveland’s occurring over the past two days and Baltimore’s set for Tuesday. The $11MM-AAV offer is believed to have come from a non-contending team. Despite the Browns’ NFL-long playoff drought (16 years), their offseason improvements have this year’s edition profiling as a playoff threat, joining the Ravens and Colts in that regard. Interestingly, the defending Super Bowl champion Patriots no longer appear to be interested in the six-time Pro Bowler.

Here is the latest from around the league:

  • Julio Jones and the Falcons are engaged in contract negotiations, and these talks may well be impacting another NFC team’s re-up discussions with a No. 1 wideout. The Cowboys look to be under the impression Amari Cooper is waiting on the Jones deal before moving forward in his negotiation, Clarence Hill of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram tweets. The Cowboys and Cooper are at a stalemate presently, and although Cooper may not have much of a case to be paid more than Jones, the Alabama alums’ age difference (Jones is 30; Cooper will turn 25 next month) may bring their next prices closer together.
  • The Bears are doing some rearranging up front. Former second-round picks Cody Whitehair and James Daniels are switching positions, with Whitehair set to slide to left guard and Daniels to center, J.J. Stankevitz of NBC Sports Chicago notes. A 2016 draftee, Whitehair has started all 48 games in his career and has spent most of that run as the Bears’ snapper. Whitehair played guard at Kansas State, while Daniels — a 2018 draft choice — was primarily a center at Iowa. Both played well last season in their old jobs, Whitehair grading as Pro Football Focus’ No. 10 center and Daniels ending his rookie year as PFF’s No. 29 guard.
  • Additionally, Bears backup running back Taquan Mizzell is now a wide receiver, Stankevitz adds. Mizzell is also in his third Bears season; he only received nine carries in 2018.

NFC Rumors: Lions, Hawks, Giants, Daniels

While the Bears and Ravens are fully underway, due to their Hall of Fame Game matchup, this coming week marks the debuts for the rest of the league. Here’s what’s new in the NFC going into training camp week.

  • Matt Cassel represents competition for Jake Rudock‘s job as the Lions‘ backup quarterback, especially considering his history with the Patriots during the respective New England tenures of Bob Quinn and Matt Patricia. And Kyle Meinke of MLive.com expects the 36-year-old veteran to beat out Rudock for the top job behind Matthew Stafford. The Lions aren’t expected to keep three quarterbacks on their roster, per Meinke, which could make Rudock a trade candidate if it looks like Cassel will take his job. Rudock drew trade interest in the past, but the Lions did not have what they determined to be another viable backup prior to signing Cassel.
  • If the Seahawks do end up trading Earl Thomas, 2017 third-rounder Delano Hill would be the top incumbent to replace him. However, Seattle could consider Eric Reid or Tre Boston in the event Thomas is dealt, however, per Bob Condotta of the Seattle Times (Twitter links). Though, Condotta adds the team believes Hill and Bradley McDougald has the makings of a chance to be a solid safety tandem. The Seahawks’ Reid fit would be interesting, given how proceedings unfolded between the franchise and Colin Kaepernick the past two offseasons. However, neither Reid nor Boston would be expensive at this stage.
  • James Daniels could well occupy a Bears starting spot in Week 1, and it’s likely the second-round pick (on whom the Bears placed a first-round grade) will be a starter this season. But for now, the Iowa product is running with the second-string offense as a guard and the third-team group as a center, according to Patrick Finley of the Chicago Sun-Times, who adds fifth-year veteran Eric Kush represents Daniels’ primary competition at guard. These early placements are interesting, given Daniels primarily played center in college. But the Bears are believed to view him as more of a guard.
  • Fifth-round pick R.J. McIntosh signed his Giants contract and ended a months-long process. But the defensive lineman will begin camp on the active/non-football illness list. McIntosh was diagnosed with a thyroid condition at the Combine and underwent an undisclosed procedure in June.

Bears Rumors: Daniels, Robinson, Helfrich

Looking to sport at least two Day 1 starters from this 2018 draft class, the Bears also believe they acquired two first-round-caliber talents in April. Chicago brass placed a Round 1 grade on Iowa center James Daniels, whom the Bears selected at No. 39 overall.

We had him as a first-round player,” Bears director of player personnel Josh Lucas said during an episode of Meet the Rookies (via Bryan Perez of NBC Sports Chicago). “You never know. Every team’s going to have different flavors with interior linemen. It’s just one of those things that you hope he’s there. But based on our grades, based on where we saw the top 32 players in the draft, we definitely weren’t anticipating him being there.”

The Warren, Ohio, native served as the Hawkeyes’ starting center for the past two seasons before declaring for the draft after his junior year. However, the Bears plan to use him at left guard to replace Josh Sitton, per Perez. Cody Whitehair will make the transition back to center full-time. He served as Chicago’s snapper in 16 games as a rookie in 2016 but saw action at both center and guard in 2017.

Here’s the latest from the Windy City:

  • In recovering from the torn ACL that ended his 2017 season and his time with the Jaguars, Allen Robinson did not take part in most of the Bears’ offseason work. However, the former Pro Bowl target is expected to be full go by the time the Bears convene for camp July 19, Jeff Dickerson of ESPN.com reports. Robinson will be playing on a $14MM-per-year contract and will be essential to Chicago’s passing attack from Day 1, provided he can shake off the knee injury.
  • On the subject of Bears receivers, Taylor Gabriel, not Robinson, will be slotted at the position that Tyreek Hill plays in this scheme, Perez notes. Although Robinson delivered dominant work on deep balls with Blake Bortles in a breakout 2015 season, Gabriel profiles as the player who more closely resembles Hill on this new-look receiving corps. He’s twice averaged more than 16 yards per reception in a four-year career.
  • Chicago’s new offense won’t just be an NFC version of Andy Reid‘s. While Chiefs viewers who find their way to Bears games on Sundays will see familiar concepts, Matt Nagy‘s attack will also contain elements from OC Mark Helfrich‘s former Oregon offenses, Mitch Trubisky said (via Tom Pelissero of NFL.com, on Twitter). The 2017 No. 2 overall pick said the Bears’ new offense is more complex than he’s accustomed to, so it will be interesting to see how the North Carolina product looks with a mostly new cast of pass-catchers. With the Chiefs using plenty of college concepts in recent years, and the Bears hiring a former college HC, Trubisky could be piloting one of the more unique offenses in the NFL this season.

Bears Sign 6 Draft Picks

Many NFL staffers responsible for hammering out rookie contracts are having a busy day Thursday. Numerous rookies are signing deals, and the Bears took care of their non-Roquan Smith draft contingent. Here’s the rundown of Chicago’s signings:

Miller adds to what’s been one of the more interesting makeovers any team’s done at the wide receiver position in recent years. The Memphis slot target follows Allen Robinson, Taylor Gabriel, Bennie Fowler and others — including the Georgia-trained Wims — to the Windy City. With Kevin White also still in the picture, the Bears will have a unique position battle behind Robinson this summer.

Daniels could step in as a Day 1 starter and relocate Cody Whitehair to guard, where he would line up opposite Kyle Long and fill Josh Sitton‘s old spot. However, the Bears view the Iowa product as a versatile player himself. While Daniels spent most of his time with the Hawkeyes as their starting center, the second-rounder began his college career as a guard.

Smith is the only Bears pick not to have signed his rookie deal yet.

NFL Draft Rumors: Sweat, Giants, Patriots

FSU pass rusher Josh Sweat is a player to keep an eye on as the NFL Draft approaches. Sweat, a five-star, top-10 overall recruit nationally coming out of high school, impressed at the draft combine and drew the attention of evaluators across the league. However, his history of knee issues including ACL, MCL, PCL injuries have teams concerned, Ian Rapoport of NFL.com tweets.

Interestingly, his 2016 knee surgery was performed by Giants team doctor Russ Warren, and that leads Rapoport to wonder aloud if that could make New York a potential landing spot for him. Sweat has been widely projected as a third round possibility, but it sounds like he could find his way into the second round based on his potential.

Here’s the latest NFL Draft buzz:

NFL Draft Rumors: Bengals, Ragnow, Browns

It increasingly sounds like Arkansas center/guard Frank Ragnow has a good chance to be drafted in Round 1, Tom Pelissero of NFL.com hears. The Bengals got a last minute meeting in with Ragnow and it’s possible that they could consider him with the No. 21 overall pick. Pelissero wonders if we could be in for a run on interior linemen towards the back of the first round, with guys like Ragnow, Iowa center James Daniels, Georgia guard Isaiah Wynn and Ohio State center Billy Price (despite his partially torn pec) coming off of the board sooner than expected.

Those guys are just safe. They’re steady. The bust factor is very low on those guys,” an AFC executive said. “Maybe they’re not the sexiest picks, but worst-case scenario, you’re going to end up with a solid player who can step in and contribute pretty early.”

Here’s the latest NFL Draft buzz:

  • Most people believe the Browns are zeroed in on a quarterback, but GM John Dorsey isn’t publicly ruling out Penn State running back Saquon Barkley at No. 1 overall (Twitter link via NFL.com’s Ian Rapoport). Of course, draft season is full of smokescreens, so we shouldn’t necessarily take Dorsey’s comments at face value. In all likelihood, the Browns will be selecting their QB of the future with the top pick while considering other players at No. 4.
  • Draft visits are officially over, but the Seahawks are still doing their homework. On Thursday night, they’ll dine with Washington defensive tackle Vita Vea, Rapoport tweets. The Seahawks pick at No. 18, so they may have to trade up if they want him. It will be interesting to see if they go in that direction since they have opted to trade down in recent drafts.

NFL Draft Rumors: Nelson, 49ers, Eagles

Good news for Wisconsin product Nick Nelson. The surgery to fix the cornerback’s torn meniscus was successful and he did not need a full repair, Ian Rapoport of NFL.com tweets. Because it was not a full repair, he is expected to recover in six weeks rather than 3-4 months and should be ready for training camp. Nelson was projected to come off the board no later than the third round before the injury and he should be in consideration for rounds 2 and 3 once again after the operation.

Here’s a look at the latest NFL Draft news:

  • The 49ers met with Georgia linebacker Roquan Smith on Tuesday, according to Matt Maiocco of NBC Sports Bay Area. Smith had 137 tackles and 6.5 sacks last season and could be a replacement for Reuben Foster, who is embroiled in serious legal trouble stemming from a domestic violence arrest.
  • Iowa center James Daniels, who is widely regarded as the top center in this year’s draft, visited with the Eagles this week, Ian Rapoport of NFL.com tweets. On Tuesday, he’ll meet with Bears before traveling to the 49ers on Wednesday. Daniel Jeremiah of NFL.com says that Daniels is one of the best center prospects he’s seen in the last five years and has him ranked as the 23rd best prospect overall in this year’s draft.
  • South Carolina tight end Hayden Hurst, met with the Lions on Tuesday, Rapoport tweets. If the Lions select Hurst in the first round, that will make three first round tight ends for them in the last ten years, following Brandon Pettigrew (2009) and Eric Ebron (2014).
  • Louisville cornerback Jaire Alexander visited the Eagles and Dolphins this week, Rapoport tweets. Alexander is widely projected to be a first round pick and may be the second CB to come off the board after Ohio State’s Denzel Ward.
  • Teams like Alabama defensive tackle Da’Ron Payne, but the belief that he is a two-down defender and not an adept pass-rusher may keep him out of the Top 10, Tony Pauline of DraftAnalyst.com hears.
  • Speaking of Payne, he visited the Redskins on Monday, a source tells ESPN.com’s John Keim (on Twitter). Washington owns the No. 13 overall pick in the draft.