Ten Thoughts on the NFL: Chicago Bears and beyond

Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

By the time you're reading this, the franchise deadline will have passed. The next big NFL date is March 11th when free agency starts. We're only a week and a day away from finding out if all the hopes and dreams you have for your franchise come to fruition.

1) There appears to be some truth rooted in the leaks last week about the San Francisco 49ers looking to move on from head coach Jim Harbaugh. Reports that Harbaugh's "act has worn thin" with the locker room as well as the front office. It's hard to have a power struggle with a coach that wins, but every organization has a breaking point.

I wonder how this very real distraction will affect free agency?

2) The Tampa Bay Buccaneers have new unis...

Looks like something Oliver Stone would have come up with for Any Given Sunday 2.

3) The Buffalo Bills offered to make Jairus Byrd the highest paid safety in the NFL for a portion his their latest offer, but he declined. I get the feeling that Byrd simply wants out of Buffalo.

4) In case you missed it, the NFL salary cap will be even higher than expected at $133 million. This is the largest increase in the history of the NFL's salary cap and reports have the cap raising up to $150 million by 2016.

The league's salary cap is calculated by taking a percentage of all projected NFL revenues, subtracting projected benefits for the season, and dividing by 32 teams.

Business is good.

* Would you care to guess what the salary cap was in 1994, the 1st year the NFL instituted a cap?

5) New Orleans tight end Jimmy Graham has a legitimate gripe about his tight end franchise tag. He doesn't play like an inline tight end, so his tag should reflect that. He's a "Move" TE or a "Joker" TE, and his tag should reflect how the Saints use him and his skill set.

A quick peek at the franchise tag numbers shows a system that doesn't reflect the nature of today's NFL. Only one number for the offensive line, when tackles are clearly the top earners in the trenches. The punters and kickers are grouped together. There's only one linebacker tag number, when 3-4 outside linebackers perform much differently than do 4-3 middle linebacker. A 3-4 OLB is more like a 4-3 DE and the DE number is higher than the linebacker number.

Jimmy Graham will end up getting paid what he's worth, and what he's worth is closer to what the top wide outs make.

6) Speaking of contracts, the 5 years, $32 million contract with $16 million guaranteed that Baltimore Ravens tight end Dennis Pitta just signed seems rather large for a guy with 122 receptions in his four year career. Pitta also has 11 touchdowns and 1,244 receiving yards since 2010.

Over the same four year period, Jimmy Graham has 301 receptions, 3,863 yards, and 41 TDs.

For comparisons sake, Chicago Bears tight end Martellus Bennett who signed a four year deal worth $20.4 million and $9.215 million guaranteed last March, has 170 catches, 1,789 receiving yards and 10 TDs since 2010.

7) Former All Pro safety Darren Sharper was fired over the weekend by the NFL Network because he's accused of being a serial rapist.

Sharper has been investigated for nine alleged rapes in five states, including alleged incidents in Los Angeles, Tempe, Ariz., New Orleans, Las Vegas and Miami Beach.

What the hell is wrong with some people?

8) The NFL owner's meetings is coming up March 23-26 and there are a number of rule changes on the docket. SB Nation runs down all of the proposals, but here are the two that I've changed my thinking on.

I was against the elimination of the extra point, but the more I think about it, I really don't care either way. Make it an automatic seven, unless you want to go for two, then it's a two-point conversion or back to six for you.

After I wrote that sentence, it felt kind of Dr. Seuss-ish, which is fitting since yesterday was his birthday.

The other rule change I'm on board with is the adding of an extra playoff team. One more per conference, and only the top seed will receive a bye. Yeah, we'll get the occasional .500 team in the playoffs, but that's OK, it'll just add to the underdog drama.

9) The Green Bay Packers will allow cornerback Sam Shields to test free agency. There are a few quality corners available, so once the market shakes out, we'll see how much the 26 year old Shields could command.

The Miami Dolphins just re-signed two time Pro Bowl corner Brent Grimes to a deal that is worth up to $32 million with $16 million guaranteed to get the corner market a baseline.

I wonder if the Chicago Bears will be interested in any of the veteran corners on the market?

I'm still holding out hopes for a Charles Tillman return myself... (fingers crossed)

10) The latest SB Nation mock draft is out and they have the Bears taking Missouri defensive end Kony Ealy over the recently buzzed about Aaron Donald. They have the athletic Pittsburgh DT falling all the way down to the 31st pick.

Here's what they had to say about Ealy.

Kony Ealy had a successful trip to Indianapolis for the combine, mostly due to his 6.83 time in the three-cone drill. He has the versatility the Bears seem to value in defensive players and could fit in nicely in the team's 4-3 scheme at end. Ealy wins with his quickness as a pass rusher, and his upside will be an obvious selling point during the pre-draft process.

Ealy is a tremendous prospect, but with the way Donald has been talked up of late, I think Bears fans would be upset with this selection.

SBN took their mock draft through the second round, and here's who they have the Bears taking in the 2nd.

51. Chicago Bears - Kyle Fuller, CB, Virginia Tech

Cornerback is one of the biggest needs for Chicago this offseason. If not for injuries, Kyle Fuller would be a first-round pick, so he's a nice value at this spot.

Fuller is 6', 190 pounds and his zone coverage ability is listed as one of his strengths. Some scouts believe that his 4.49 40 could push him near the 1st round.

There are a lot of high rated corners still available in their mock, so is Fuller is best fit for the Bears here?

What are your thoughts on the NFL this week?

Also if you missed out on our Introduce yourself to Windy City Gridiron thread, be sure to click here and tell us all about yourself.

* In 1994 the NFL salary cap was $34.6 million. Business is good indeed...

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