Ten Thoughts on the NFL: Chicago Bears and beyond

Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

The anticipation of NFL Free Agency is really more exciting than it should be for Chicago Bears fans. I wonder what this time of year is like for fans of perennial championship contenders? Hopefully I'll find out at some point. Here are my NFL Thoughts...

1) First glance at the big five-year, $42.5 million deal with $20 million guaranteed that Everson Griffen signed to stay in Minnesota made me shake my head, but the more I looked at it, the more it made sense for them. Griffen is only 26 years old, he can play all up and down the line in the Vikes 4-3 scheme and his pass rush numbers were better than you'd think.

In a reserve role the last couple years, Griffen has racked up 13.5 sacks and 62 quarterback hurries. I still think the deal is on the high side, but it's better to overpay for what you know, than what you don't know.

2) Speaking of big money deals, the Green Bay Packers re-upped with corner Sam Shields for 4 years and $39 million. This keeps him paired up him with Tramon Williams who has a $9.5 million cap hit in 2014. Between the two of them they have 1 Pro Bowl appearance (Williams in 2010) in their careers.

Both are very good players, and with so many good wide outs in the NFC North, the Pack had to bring Shields back.

3) In what could be a major smokescreen, it's being reported that the Cleveland Browns, who could desperately use a legit quarterback, didn't interview any QBs at the NFL combine. There's still time for them to talk with a prospect, but for now all those mock drafters that have them taking a quarterback at 4th overall must know something no one else knows.

I think they may look to shore up their offensive line in the 1st, and look for a quarterback in the 2nd or 3rd.

4) This is one of the oddest things to pop up over the weekend.

Some people say we all have a twin out there somewhere and the side by side comparison of Aaron Rodgers and Tom Wrigglesworth is unbelievably close.

What makes the doppelganger story even more interesting is Matt Forte tweeting Aaron Rodgers to "cut your hair bro lol"

5) Why would any team trade for Tennessee Titans running back Chris Johnson and the near $30 million he's owed for the next three years? I think he has a few years left in the tank, but it's not worth it at that kind of money.

6) A few days ago I stumbled upon this article about grading offense linemen from the MMQB, and was pleasantly surprised to find that the grading system I use when grading the o-line, is basically the same used throughout the NFL.

All offensive linemen have stats, but they're largely a matter of interpretation. Like pop quizzes taken in a classroom, the grades are often reflected in percentages, such as 82% or 93%. Although variations exist across all 32 teams, the gist is simple: a lineman gets a plus (+) for completing his assignment and a minus (-) when he fails. If a team runs 100 plays and a lineman gets 90 plusses his mark will be 90%-a solid game.

7) Greg Gabriel, former Director of College scouting with the Chicago Bears, calls the free agent / draft period the "lying season" because of all the "bullshit" agents feed NFL writers. He says only about 20% of what is written is accurate.

8) The secondary free agent market will be just as exciting as the frenzy we're sure to see in the next couple days. There are a lot of players looking for homes and even more once the cap casualty cuts start going down. As of the time I was writing this, there were already 11 veterans cut around the NFL today.

Much like the Bears did last off season, I can see them plucking one vet after the other to fill up their roster with smaller "prove it" type deals.

9) With DE Michael Bennett off the market, reportedly for 4 years and around $34 million $28.5 million (less than Chicago offered), I wonder if the Bears will turn their attention to the safety position? Maybe they'll ready an offer to one of the other top DEs on the market?

I still believe they'll make at least one big time splash tomorrow in free agency.

10) Last month Rotoworld ranked all 32 NFL head coaches and the Chicago Bears' Marc Trestman came in at number thirteen. Yesterday they ranked all the general managers, and Chicago's Phil Emery came in 11th. Here's what they had to say about Emery.

The first thing you notice about Emery is his footwear. He rarely goes anywhere without his signature cowboy boots. There's your first sign that this is no ordinary GM. Emery fired a coach after a 10-6 season and replaced him with somebody from Canada. This is not a man who's constrained by "the way things have always been done." He's also not a man who's gotten many things wrong in his two years on the job. That erstwhile CFLer Marc Trestman turned out to be just the man for the job in a city that's more used to defensive touchdowns than offensive ones.

Emery's broad strokes have been genius. He paid a pittance for all-world receiver Brandon Marshall, found the next Brandon Marshall in the second round of his first draft and made the difficult, but correct, decision to avoid Greatest Hits tours with declining veterans Brian Urlacher and Devin Hester. The only problem is, while Emery has built the Bears offense up from the ashes of the Mike Tice "era," some of Chicago's signature defense has gone out the door. Emery doesn't need to restore the unit to its Monsters of Midway-era glory, but he does need to restore order. Judging by his track record, it's a challenge he'll be up to.

I think Emery is unfairly criticized for trying to outsmart the room on draft day, because he's basically just sticking to his board. We, as fans, may not agree with his board, but he and his scouts have a method they trust.

Year one brought the head-scratching Shea McClellin pick, and year two the equally befuddling Kyle Long selection. One paid immediate dividends while the other is changing positions before the 2014 season. I think the way this draft is shaping up, we're all going to have some familiarity with the player he takes at 14.

What are your thoughts on the NFL?

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