Kyle Fuller (CB)

Saints Tried To Trade For Kyle Fuller

The Saints’ search for veteran cornerback help this offseason was well-documented. After making Janoris Jenkins a cap casualty in March, New Orleans was connected to free agent Richard Sherman and would-be trade candidate Xavien Howard. The club also signed Brian Poole and Ken Crawley (both now on IR), Prince Amukamara (later cut), and KeiVarae Russell (currently on the practice squad).

According to Ian Rapoport of NFL.com, the Saints also tried to pry Kyle Fuller away from the Broncos. Fuller signed with Denver this offseason after being released by the Bears, and the Broncos also added Patrick Surtain II in the first round of the draft. So New Orleans (among other clubs) believed Denver GM George Paton may have surplus depth that he would be willing to deal from, but Paton rebuffed all comers.

It’s unclear exactly what the Saints were offering, but Rapoport says the team was particularly aggressive in its pursuit. RapSheet adds that GM Mickey Loomis also had his eye on Patriots CB Stephon Gilmore, but he does not indicate if Loomis actually made an offer to the Pats. Ultimately, of course, New Orleans was able to swing a trade for Texans CB Bradley Roby, who will make his Saints debut today.

In hindsight, Paton probably did the right thing. With free agent signee Ronald Darby now on IR, the Broncos are grateful to have some CB depth.

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Bears Release CB Kyle Fuller

SATURDAY: No 11th-hour trade ended up taking place. Fuller’s release became official Saturday. The Bears will save $11MM in cap space by cutting the seven-year veteran while incurring $9MM in dead money.

THURSDAY: An All-Pro cornerback is unexpectedly hitting the open market. NFL.com’s Ian Rapoport reports (via Twitter) that the Bears are releasing veteran Kyle Fuller.

It sounds like the transaction was mostly a financial decision, with Rapoport noting that “this is Chicago’s only cut due to cap space.” ESPN’s Dianna Russini tweets that the Bears wanted Fuller to take a “very significant paycut,” but the player preferred to test the open market. The 29-year-old was due $14MM next season, and he had a pricey cap hit of $20MM.

The 2014 first-round pick became a fan favorite in Chicago, earning a pair of Pro Bowl appearances and one first-team All-Pro nod during his seven-year stint with the organization. Fuller departs the organization ranked fourth on the franchise’s all-time list in passes defended (82), and he’s ranked in the top-20 for tackles (390) and interceptions (19).

After getting his fifth-year option declined for the 2018 season, Fuller was slapped with the transition tag. He ended up inking a four-year, $56MM deal with the Packers, including $18MM guaranteed. The Bears matched the contract, keeping Fuller under contract through the 2021 season. Last offseason, the front office reworked the veteran’s contract. While the move saved the team $6.5MM at the time, it meant Fuller’s 2021 cap hit would jump from $18.5MM to $20MM.

While Fuller failed to earn his third-straight Pro Bowl nod, he still had a productive 2020 campaign. The cornerback started all 16 games for Chicago, compiling 65 tackles, eight passes defended, and one interception. He also started Chicago’s playoff loss to the Saints.

Fuller will surely be a popular target now that he’s hit free agency. William Jackson (Washington, three years, $42MM), Shaquill Griffin (Jaguars, three years, $40MM), and Patrick Peterson (Vikings, one year, $10MM) were among the top free agent cornerbacks heading into free agency. Cornerbacks like Xavier Rhodes and Kevin King remain unsigned.

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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.

Bears Adjust Kyle Fuller’s Contract

The Bears carved out some cap room, with a little help from Kyle Fuller. The team added two voidable years to the cornerback’s contract, creating some fiscal flexibility in 2020, as Brad Biggs of the Chicago Tribune writes. 

Fuller’s original contract ran through 2021 with $13MM coming in 2020 and a cap hit of $17.5MM. In the revised pact, he’ll get a $7.5MM option bonus, prorated over five years. Meanwhile, his base salary for 2020 will go down to $4.5MM, lowering his cap hit to $11.5MM. All in all, it means $6MM in additional cap room for the Bears as they retool their roster in the spring. Then, in 2021, Fuller’s cap hit will jump from $18.5MM to $20MM.

As of this writing, the Bears have about $16MM in cap space. They’ll likely shed some other veteran contracts between now and the start of free agency, giving them more room to work with.

Fuller, 28 in February, earned Pro Bowl and First-Team All-Pro nods for his work in 2018, including a league-leading seven interceptions. In 2019, he started in all 16 games and came away with three INTs.

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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.

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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.

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