The initial free agent frenzy in the National Football League has died down, and so far, the Chicago Bears have given out the 3rd most money in new contracts. As of earlier today, Spotrac has the Bears down for dropping $115 million. Tops in the spending spree was the Jacksonville Jaguars, followed by the San Francisco 49ers. Fourth on the list is the Cleveland Browns, and I don’t think it’s a coincidence that those four teams will be picking 1-4 in the 2017 NFL Draft.
Bad teams need to bolster their roster with better players.
But, teams that consistently spend in free agency tend to stay bad. All four franchises are undergoing a rebuild, and until these four awful teams start to see their draft picks become stars, they’ll be forced to turn to free agency to plug holes.
We’ve asked you guys your thoughts on the Bears moves in 2017, and your initial response skewed towards the negative, with 83% giving the Bears a C, D or F. But the last poll we shared flipped around, with 86% giving the Bears a C, B, or A.
While Bears’ fans may have come around on general manager Ryan Pace’s moves, the national perspective remains pessimistic. SB Nation put it bluntly, asking, “What, exactly, are the Bears trying to accomplish?”
Is Chicago rebuilding, or trying to reload and contend? Everybody knew Jay Cutler was gone, and the QB market is a barren wasteland, but the Mike Glennon contract is a true headscratcher. $15 million guaranteed for a guy who hasn’t started in two years? Glennon had stretches of competence in Tampa, but that is a massive leap of faith. Did we learn nothing from the Brock Osweiler fiasco?
I feel Glennon’s money has been hammered to death, but the contract is essentially a 1 year deal. If he plays good football, then he sticks around, if not, the Bears can cut him with very little dead money.
The questionable moves don’t stop there. $10 million guaranteed for Dion Sims is a lot for someone with a career 9.4 yards per catch. Markus Wheaton essentially got the same contract as Brandon Marshall did with the New York Giants. These signings feel scattershot, like John Fox and GM Ryan Pace are trying to save their jobs after a disastrous 3-13 year. The Bears should be better in 2017, but these are some pricey gambles for a team that’s nowhere close to the Green Bay Packers in the NFC North.
Wheaton’s is another front loaded deal, if he comes back from his injury and plays like the guy that averaged 48 receptions and 696 yards form 2014-15, the Bears will be OK with it.
NFL.com calls Wheaton’s contract on of the worst handed out in free agency, and they double down by questioning the contract given to Dion Sims.
As Chris Wesseling sagely noted on the "Around the NFL" podcast Monday, corporations sometimes allocate money to be spent, and that money gets spent, no matter what. That's what appeared to happen in Chicago after the Bears struck out on cornerback Stephon Gilmore (who signed in New England) and let receiver Alshon Jeffery get away.
How else can they explain giving Wheaton, a role player who missed most of 2016 with the Steelers, nearly the same contract that six-time Pro Bowler Brandon Marshall received with the Giants? Wheaton will get the same amount of money in 2017 as Terrelle Pryor. The Bears also had to overpay to get blocking tight end Dion Sims to leave Miami on a three-year, $18 million contract.
Again with the Brandon Marshall contract comparison? I think most intelligent football fans know why Marshall didn’t get more money on the open market.
And I keep hearing how Sims is a just a blocking tight end. I disagree. I’ve got news for you, the Bears will make Sims their featured tight end. All you have to do is look at the money they have allocated to the position. Sims more than doubles the 2017 salary of Zach Miller. I’ll bet that Sims leads Bears’ TE in playing time in 2017, with the 32 year old Miller, who is more of a move tight end anyway, playing as the #2.
Not one to miss a chance to pile on the Bears, Jason La Canfora, of CBSSports.com, shared his thoughts on Chicago’s free agency so far.
The Bears have left some teams in the league a little baffled by some of their moves. The Mike Glennon contract, worth a legit $15 million a year, is viewed as being much higher than it needed to be, with the Jets and some others having lukewarm interest at best. Giving $7.5 million to corner Prince Amukamura for one year -- after he was relatively ineffective last year on a one-year, $5 million contract in Jacksonville in a prove-it scenario -- raised some eyebrows.
And the Bears paying oft-injured ex-Steeler Markus Wheaton the same money in 2017 as receivers like Brandon Marshall, Terrelle Pryor and Torrey Smith got on the open market is a head-scratcher as well. The Steelers, who evaluate receivers as well as any franchise in the game, are still very much in the market for receiving depth even after the Antonio Brown signing, but they wouldn’t pay Wheaton close to that money and they think he’s a great kid and all.
The Bears could counter that most of these deals are only a one-year commitment, but I’d counter that with so many jobs on the line there given the struggles of the John Fox-Ryan Pace regime, one year might be all they have.
That Wheaton / Marshall talking point must have gone out in a National Football Writers memo or something.
Time will tell if Ryan Pace’s third free agent class will amount to anything. And while we didn’t get any sexy acquisitions — in fact some were outright boring — there’s no question, the Bears have upgraded their roster.
It just may not have been by as much as you were expecting.