Kyle Fuller (CB)

Bears GM Ryan Pace On Fuller, Draft

Bears GM Ryan Pace touched on a wide range of topics in an exclusive interview with Brad Biggs of the Chicago Tribune on Thursday. Here’s a look at the highlights: 

On matching cornerback Kyle Fuller’s offer sheet:

We didn’t have a lot of heads up on it. We found out very close to receiving the offer sheet that he was in Green Bay. When he was coming back from that trip he was connecting in Chicago on a layover and he stayed in Chicago.

On announcing the plan to match the sheet hours later: 

We could have waited and dragged it out. Hey, we know we like the player. Once we understood the contract and we knew it was a fair contract, let’s just be decisive and go.

On whether he wanted Fuller to sign an offer sheet elsewhere so that another team would work out the long-term deal for him:

We talked about that and the difficulty of negotiating off the franchise tag. So with the transition tag it allowed us a greater possibility (he would sign an offer sheet) and it allowed us the flexibility with the transition tag you can negotiate all the way through the season. 

On his ideal scenario for the top seven picks in the draft:

Four quarterbacks go…I don’t know [if that’s realistic]. I think three might be realistic but you never know. We have to prepare for all of those scenarios. We’ll prepare for best case and we’ll prepare for worst case. That’s what is fun this time of year. You have all of your evaluations in. Now we prepare for all of those different things that can transpire.

On whether teams have called about the No. 8 pick:

We haven’t [received inquiries] yet. I’m not surprised. I think that will heat up as you get a little closer. When the Jets came up (from No. 6 to No. 3), they were putting themselves in a position where they know they can (get a player they want) where maybe No. 8 is a little too far back for that. It’s hard to predict.

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Packers Sign Bears’ Kyle Fuller To Offer Sheet

The Packers have signed Bears cornerback Kyle Fuller to an offer sheet, Brad Biggs of the Chicago Tribune tweets. The Bears placed the transition tag on Fuller, so Chicago will have five days to match. The Bears tried to keep Fuller in place with a one-year, $12.9MM placeholder, but they may lose the former first-round pick to a rival. 

While the franchise tag entitles the incumbent team to two first-round draft picks in the event of a player leaving, the transition tag grants a club only the right of first refusal. The upside to the transition tag is that it is slightly cheaper. The franchise tag for cornerbacks this year was nearly $15MM.

Last year, Fuller racked up 68 tackles and ranked as PFF’s No. 22 ranked cornerback over notable names like Ronald DarbyByron MaxwellJason McCourtyRichard Sherman. However, it wasn’t exactly smooth sailing over the three previous seasons. The former No. 14 overall selection did well as a rookie in 2014 and followed that up with a decent showing in 2015, but his entire 2016 campaign was lost due to a knee injury. The Bears had the option of keeping Fuller under the fifth-year option for just $8.526MM. In hindsight, it’s a move they regret.

The Packers may lose cornerback/safety Morgan Burnett and Davon House to free agency, so they’re in need of some help in the secondary. Fuller would represent a major upgrade over both and would become the team’s top cornerback with Kevin King guarding the opposition’s No. 2 wide receiver.

An unknown team also attempted to sign Fuller to an offer sheet, Ian Rapoport of NFL.com (on Twitter) hears, but one that was not accepted.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Bears Use Transition Tag On Kyle Fuller

The Bears are going to apply the transition tag to cornerback Kyle Fuller, sources tell Ian Rapoport of NFL.com (on Twitter). The transition tag will enable the Bears to match any offer presented to Fuller, though they will not receive draft compensation in the event that they do not match. 

With ample cap room, the Bears will pretty much have the ability to retain Fuller regardless of the offer sheet he signs. That doesn’t mean that the Bears will match any contract, but they have the means to retain one of their top defenders.

The transition tag for cornerbacks this year is $12.971MM. The non-exclusive franchise tag, which would have entitled the Bears to draft compensation if Fuller signed an offer sheet elsewhere, would have cost the team $14.975MM. There is one key advantage to the transition tag over the franchise tag – the Bears can negotiate a long-term deal with Fuller beyond the July deadline for franchised players.

The move comes as something of a surprise, though Brad Biggs of the Chicago Tribune reported earlier in the week that the transition tag was still a possibility for Fuller. There is reportedly interest on both sides in moving forward together, so a long-term deal seems possible.

In 2017, Fuller totaled 68 tackles and ranked as PFF’s No. 22 ranked cornerback over the likes of Ronald Darby, Byron Maxwell, Jason McCourty, Richard Sherman, and other notables. However, he had a bit of an up-and-down track record in the three previous years. The former No. 14 overall pick did well as a rookie in 2014 and followed that up with a decent showing in 2015, but his entire 2016 season was lost due to a knee injury. The Bears declined Fuller’s fifth-year option, but in hindsight, they wish they had him under contract for 2018 at the much cheaper rate of $8.526MM.

Fuller is no longer an unrestricted free agent, but other quality unencumbered cornerbacks remain. Trumaine Johnson, Malcolm Butler, Bashaud Breeland, E.J. Gaines, and Morris Claiborne currently headline this year’s CB class.

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Extra Points: Bears, Fuller, Seahawks

No surprise here, but Brad Biggs of the Chicago Tribune hears that the Bears are unlikely to use the franchise tag on Kyle Fuller. Multiple sources tell Biggs that they do not expect the franchise tag to be employed, though he is less certain about whether the transition tag could be in play. It also seems unlikely that Fuller would sign a multi-year contract with the Bears before free agency opens, but there is interest on both sides in moving forward together.

Here’s more from around the NFL on a very busy Monday:

  • The Seahawks had open ears at the draft combine last week, sources tell Charles Robinson of Yahoo Sports (on Twitter). Among those drawing interest include defensive tackle Michael Bennett and safety Earl Thomas, two players that have been the subject of trade speculation in recent weeks. Over the weekend, it was reported that the Falcons have discussed a Bennett deal with Seattle. Cornerback Richard Sherman, who has a $13.2MM cap charge in 2018, is also a trade candidate.
  • The Panthers, Jaguars, and Dolphins are heavily interested in free agent quarterback market, Ben Volin of The Boston Globe (on Twitter) hears. The Panthers obviously have a starter in Cam Newton, but they are seeking a quality backup because Newton tends to take a lot of hits. The Jaguars and Dolphins have starters in Blake Bortles and Ryan Tannehill, respectively, but both clubs want veteran backups that can push them. The Dolphins are also exploring the idea of drafting a QB at No. 11 overall.
  • Louisville quarterback Lamar Jackson has been the subject of tremendous debate in football circles, particularly due to questions about his ability to play QB at the next level. He may have another problem. Jackson did not do well in interviews and white-board work at the combine, Volin hears (Twitter link) and his decision to go without an agent may be the culprit.
  • The Bills‘ one-year contract with cornerback Vontae Davis includes an unusual wrinkle, as noted by Volin (on Twitter). Davis is slated to receive a roster bonus of nearly $47K for each game he spends on the 46-man active roster. Meanwhile, he’ll receive a lesser bonus of almost $16K per game that he spends on the 53-man roster. It’s unique for a contract to have separate bonuses for appearing on the 53 and the 46 each week, but it’s a creative structure for Buffalo given Davis’ injury history. One has to wonder if other teams could follow a similar blueprint this offseason when signing veterans with health concerns.

La Canfora On T. Johnson, Crabtree, Marshall

Cornerback Trumaine Johnson will not be back with the Rams, according a league source who spoke with Jason La Canfora of CBSSports.com. Johnson is coming off of his second straight franchise tag and there is no realistic chance of the team hitting him with a third tender for $20MM, but it appears that the team is not interested in keeping him on board altogether.

Johnson graded out as Pro Football Focus’ No. 68 corner out of 121 players at the position this past year and it’s safe to say the Rams expected more after investing $37MM in him over the past two seasons. The Rams may feel that Johnson’s reputation will drive up his cost on the open market, making a new deal untenable.

Here’s more from JLC:

  • Safety Sean Smith and wide receiver Michael Crabtree are not in the Raiders’ plans, JLC hears. If that’s the case, moving on from both players will create about $16MM in cap and cash savings. It’s no surprise to hear that Smith is likely out of the picture in Oakland – he underperformed in 2017, he is facing felony assault charges, and his entire $8.5MM cap charge can be wiped clean from the books. Crabtree’s status isn’t so cut and dry, particularly after Jon Gruden‘s recent comments indicating that he was looking forward to working with the veteran.
  • Giants wide receiver Brandon Marshall feels that he has multiple seasons left in the tank, but JLC hears that he is not in the team’s plans for 2018. Marshall, who will turn 34 in March, can be released in order to create $5.1MM in cap space with just $1MM in dead money. The veteran missed the bulk of the season after undergoing ankle surgery.
  • League sources believe that Bears quarterback Mike Glennon will not be back with the team this season. The Bears signed Glennon three-year, $45MM deal last March with the hope that he could hold down the starting job for at least one year while Mitch Trubisky learned on the sidelines. After Glennon faltered for the first month of the season, he was given the hook in favor of the team’s top draft pick. The Bears could save $11.5MM by releasing or trading Glennon with $4.5MM left on the cap.
  • JLC also hears that cornerback Kyle Fuller will not be retained by the Bears. Chicago declined Fuller’s fifth-year option last offseason which was something of a no-brainer after he spent all of 2016 on IR. This year, Fuller looked sharp as he totaled 68 tackles and placed as PFF’s No. 22 ranked cornerback over the likes of Ronald Darby, Byron Maxwell, Jason McCourty, Richard Sherman, and other notables.

Bears Decline Kyle Fuller’s Option

No surprise here, but GM Ryan Pace says the Bears will decline cornerback Kyle Fuller‘s fifth-year option (Twitter link via Adam Jahns of the Chicago Sun-Times). The Bears technically had until May 3 to make the call, but this isn’t a decision they were really struggling with. Kyle Fuller (Vertical)

[RELATED: 2018 Fifth-Year Option Tracker]

Fuller underwent arthroscopic knee surgery in August and spent the entire season on IR. At one point, the team designated him for return, but he never made it back to the field. The former first-round pick started in 30 of 32 games in 2014 and 2015 and actually intercepted six passes, but Fuller didn’t quite live up to what Chicago had in mind when selecting him No. 14 overall.

There’s still time for Fuller to get back on track, but the Bears did not want to risk being on the hook for $8.526MM in the case of an injury. While he looks to prove himself, he’ll play out the year at a reasonable $3.08MM cap number.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

NFC Notes: Panthers, Bears, Eagles, Cards

Multiple concussions have felled superstar Panthers linebacker Luke Kuechly this season, though the 25-year-old unsurprisingly told media Wednesday that he isn’t mulling retirement. “I’m holding off that retirement word for a little ways down the road,” he said (via Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk). “It’s something you appreciate everybody concerned with how you’re doing, but whenever my opportunity comes back I’ll be back out there.” Kuechly has recovered from the concussion that he suffered Nov. 17, but the Panthers haven’t cleared him to return to action. Considering they’re 6-8 and all but out of playoff contention, it would behoove the defending NFC champions to keep Kuechly out until next season.

More from the NFC:

  • The Bears designated cornerback Kyle Fuller to return from injured reserve last month, but it turns out they won’t activate him, as Brad Biggs of the Chicago Tribune writes. There’s now a belief within the organization – including from defensive coordinator Vic Fangio – that Fuller wasn’t eager to come back this season from August knee surgery, per Biggs. Head coach John Fox addressed that, saying, “That’s hard to measure. Looking inside people is not real easy.” The likelihood now is that Fuller – a 2014 first-round pick – has played his final game with the organization, suggests Biggs, who notes that the Bears would take a late-round choice for him. Fuller, who appeared in all 32 games (30 starts) in his first two years and racked up six interceptions, is under contract next season for a relative pittance ($1.74MM-plus). He’s also controllable for 2018 by way of a fifth-year option, but it’s likely his employer – whether it’s the Bears or another team – will decline to exercise it by next spring’s deadline.
  • After Eagles left tackle Jason Peters earned his ninth Pro Bowl selection Tuesday, head coach Doug Pederson spoke out against the idea that the soon-to-be 35-year-old could be an offseason cap casualty. “I love him,’’ Pederson said (per Paul Domowitch of Philly.com). “I want him on the team. I don’t want him to go anywhere. I want him to be an Eagle for the rest of his career. Once we get through these next two games, we’ll address all of that.” Notably, Howie Roseman – not Pederson – has final say when it comes to the Eagles’ roster. Further, releasing Peters in order to avail the left tackle position for well-compensated right tackle Lane Johnson would free up $9.2MM in cap space against $2MM in dead money next year. Moving on from Peters would also significantly weaken the Eagles’ line, though, evidenced by his ninth-place ranking among 79 qualifying tackles at Pro Football Focus.
  • The Cardinals have an impressive class of 2017 free agents on the horizon, and general manager Steve Keim says he’s already touched base with the agents for many of those players, a list that includes Chandler Jones, Calais Campbell, Tony Jefferson, Andre Ellington, and Jermaine Gresham, among others. “One thing public does not generally know, we have spoken to many agents regarding players whose contracts expire after the season and some whose contracts do not expire after the season that we’d just like to try to extend,” Keim told Darren Urban of AZCardinals.com. “There are several players we’d like to have back, but it takes two sides.”
  • The Packers worked out former Aggies punter Taylor Symmank on Wednesday, according to a source who spoke with Aaron Wilson of The Houston Chronicle (on Twitter).
  • The 49ers plan to sign former Texas kicker Nick Rose to a reserve-future deal in the the offseason, tweets Wilson.

Zach Links contributed to this post.

NFC North Notes: Bears, Fuller, Vikes, Peterson

The Bears announced last week that defensive back Kyle Fuller would be their IR/return player, and Fuller is practicing today for the first time since he was placed on injured reserve in late September. This opens the 21-day window for the team to evaluate the former first-round pick. Chicago head coach John Fox said last week he would be “surprised” if Fuller wasn’t participating in workouts soon, and that level of optimism could be an indication that Fuller could return to game action quickly.

Here’s more out of Chicago:

Bears’ Kyle Fuller To Return From IR

Bears cornerback Kyle Fuller is primed to come back from injured reserve, perhaps early next week, head coach John Fox said Friday.

Kyle Fuller (Vertical)

“I’d be pretty surprised depending on how it goes after [Friday] because he had a pretty brisk workout [Friday], if he’s not practicing Monday,” Fox told Adam L. Jahns of the Chicago Sun-Times.

Fuller underwent arthroscopic knee surgery in August and has been on IR since Sept. 27. Once the Bears designate him to return, they’ll have a three-week window to activate the 24-year-old. At 2-8, Chicago’s hopes for 2016 are dashed, but it would be beneficial for the team to continue evaluating Fuller in advance of the offseason. The Bears have to decide on Fuller’s fifth-year option for 2018 by the spring, though they’re unlikely to exercise it, Brad Biggs of the Chicago Tribune wrote in September. A 2014 first-round pick, Fuller has started in 30 of 32 games – including all 16 last year – and intercepted six passes.

When Fuller comes back, the season will officially end for another of the Bears’ recent first-rounders, receiver Kevin White. The second-year man landed on IR on Oct. 5 with a fractured fibula. Injuries have limited White to just four games since the Bears chose him seventh overall in 2015.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Bears To Bring CB Kyle Fuller Back?

The Bears may be looking to designated cornerback Kyle Fuller for return from injured reserve, according to Brad Biggs of the Chicago Tribune (on Twitter). Fuller will take his first step towards game action when he practices on Wednesday. If everything checks out, he may get to play again this season.Kyle Fuller (Vertical)

Teams are only permitted to bring one player back from IR during the season, but it sounds like Kevin White‘s season is through either way. From what Biggs hears (Twitter link), it sounds like it will be either Fuller returning or no one returning. The team was hoping that White could return from leg surgery, but he was not able to recover in time for this season. To date, White has only 191 NFL snaps to his credit.

It will be interesting to see how the increased uncertainty around White affects the Bears’ offseason plans. The Bears cannot reasonably give Alshon Jeffery a franchise tag for the second year in a row and a long-term deal may be ill-advised after his recent positive test for PEDs. However, White was supposed to be the heir apparent at wide receiver. If they cannot trust White to stay upright for a full season, they may have to bite the bullet and work out a new deal with Jeffery.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.