We’re officially at the height of the NFL’s whirlwind “lying season.” Given the Chicago Bears’ potential projected cap space (with cuts of Jay Cutler and Eddie Royal they will rise to approximately $70 million) - along with the expectation they’ll be quite active in general - they’ll be rumored on what seems like most every free agent in the next few days. Whether the Bears are being used as leverage, general manager Ryan Pace is putting out smoke screens, or something different altogether, parse through information at your own peril.
According to sources, the Bears have signed every single free agent. Free agency is now over.— Nathan Jahnke (@PFF_NateJahnke) March 7, 2017
Just remember that most nothing truly of substance will happen until someone officially signs on the dotted line, or until you see verbal agreements come into place. Obviously, we’re a ways away from that for most of the available free agents. The start of the league year feels like a daunting road in distance with every report that will come to light until Thursday.
On that note, let’s take a look at where the Bears made camp on Tuesday as we see what rumors gain more traction.
Stephon Gilmore to the Bears gets heat
Multiple sources, including Alex Marvez of SiriusXM NFL, ESPN’s Josina Anderson, and NFL Networks’s Stacy Dales - who actually reported from Halas Hall on Tuesday - have all confirmed the Bears are making a big push on the 26-year-old lockdown cornerback. This of course comes on the heels of Brad Biggs of the Chicago Tribune’s original report that Chicago would strongly go after Gilmore.
With all of this smoke, there’s definitely fire.
Take into account the Bears’ secondary needs and it’s no surprise either. Gilmore is the top available experienced cornerback on the market so it makes sense Chicago would invest in his services. That key caveat is the experience as it appears Pace and company prefer a track record like Gilmore’s as opposed to the potential one-year wonder the Texans’ A.J. Bouye might be.
The Bears’ apprehensiveness in that regard is understandable, but they still can’t go wrong.
Now, what Gilmore’s price tag will be in the is where it gets interesting. Since Aaron Wilson of the Houston Chronicle is reporting that Bouye’s contract proposals have averaged around $12 million, you can expect the Bills cover man to come in just a little higher at around $13 million or so with his more extensive background.
And Gilmore did enjoy a career high in interceptions last season with five so also keep this in mind.
Fun fact...— Kevin Fishbain (@kfishbain) March 7, 2017
Stephon Gilmore 2016 INTs: 5
Chicago Bears 2016 INTs: 8
Cornerbacks are always “overpaid” on the market but for Chicago, it’s not like they have much choice. You’re fixing a dire need and filling a hole with a premium player. As long as this progresses well and as expected, expect Gilmore to be in a Bears uniform very early on Thursday.
“To Mike Glennon or not to Glennon”
It was an interesting turn of events for the 27-year-old veteran back-up quarterback on Tuesday. After teams such as the Jets and 49ers were rumored to be interested in his services early, over the course of the day as Glennon’s price rose, so did interest dwindle.
By the end of it all, it seems the Bears are the only one’s left standing in the Glennon sweepstakes, which could bold well for them in negotiations. That said price is what’s interesting here. Numerous affiliates have been placing his value at around $15 million.
That seems extremely pricey but considering quarterback’s might as well get their own pay scale, and of course, how the NFL over thinks everything, it’s not. It would currently make Glennon just the 23rd highest paid passer in the league.
And if the Bears do indeed ink Glennon to a deal, the key will be about structure i.e. term and guaranteed money. This whole scenario makes it appear that the Bears are indeed keen on making him the bridge quarterback while drafting a young passer in the first or second round in April, as reported by NFL Network’s, Ian Rapoport.
So while Glennon’s price tag seems a bit high for now (it could come down with the Bears holding leverage), at least Chicago has an idea of what they want to do at quarterback: Sign a short-term starter and develop a highly touted prospect until he’s ready. You can’t complain much about that ideal.
Adopting a model of shooting darts at a board while fine-tuning a younger guy isn’t the worst idea.
Rick Wagner and the Bears offensive line
In another original Biggs report, the Bears’ original interest in Wagner was made formally known on Tuesday as reported again by Marvez of SiriusXM NFL. A welcome asset for a Chicago offensive line that is potentially one upgrade away from consistent dominance. Wagner is considered an elite pass protecting right tackle while oddly enough, below average in the run game.
The top available tackle on the market is drawing interest from a variety of teams not limited to the Bears including the Texans, Vikings, and Lions, though, so we could have a bidding war on our hands per NFL Network’s Mike Garafolo. According to Garafolo, Wagner may sign for more than $8 million per season, so the interest and pseudo-auction on hand can only make the 27-year-old big man very pleased.
If the Bears are indeed to able to pry away Wagner from his other suitors, it could mean the end of current starting right tackle Bobby Massie - as he has little guaranteed money left on his contract. A cut of Massie saving $5 million, would make it easier to stomach a luxury addition such as Wagner.
Though if the Bears make this move in conjunction with signing Wagner, it will likely come very soon, as Massie is due a roster bonus of $1 million if he is still on Chicago’s roster come Saturday.
And really, who doesn’t want the opportunity to play with a Pro Bowl guard like Kyle Long on the right side? That’s an appealing factor next to the money.
Other rumblings around Halas Hall
- Marvez also reports that the Bears are expected to pursue 25-year-old wide receiver and 2017 Pro Bowl kick returner, Cordarrelle Patterson. Patterson led the NFL in average kick-off return at 31.7 last season and was third in the NFL in overall yardage at 792. While never living up to his 2013 first round status as a receiver: With 52 receptions, 453 yards, and two touchdowns last year, he would also be an adequate fourth or fifth target capable of the occasional big play for whomever’s under center.
- Cardinals safety D.J. Swearinger is supposedly in the Bears’ crosshairs according to Biggs. Swearinger, who will be 26-years-old come next season, is an under the radar type ascending player that fits the Pace profile. Swearinger had 66 tackles last season to go with three interceptions and is more of a box safety who occasionally displays good range. After paying up for someone like Gilmore though, the Bears may want to find their free safety in a deep draft class.
- Adam Jahns of the Chicago Sun-Times reports that the Bears are in on Raiders receiver, Andre Holmes. The 49ers, Oakland, and Lions are suitors for the 28-year-old. The 6-foot-4 Holmes, who has just 28 receptions total in the last two seasons, once caught 47 passes in 2014. Another quality depth receiving option for Chicago should they move forward.
- Finally, two of the top free agent tight ends are off the free agent board after verbally agreeing to deals to stay with their respective teams.
- Stephen Holder of the Indy Star reports that the rising Jack Doyle - who was one of Colts quarterback Andrew Luck’s favorite targets last season - has agreed to terms with Indianapolis. Multiple sources indicate it is a three-year deal $21 million dollar deal with incentives. Doyle would’ve been an ideal for the Bears, but they likely wouldn’t have paid that price for the veteran.
- On the other end, Jermaine Gresham is staying with the Cardinals on a four-year deal. This is the third time the 28-year-old has re-signed with Arizona and the first where he gets legitimate term to cap his career. While he also could’ve added another dimension to Chicago’s offense, this contract is well-deserved. Nevertheless, the Bears still have some options at tight end in free agency as well as in a deep draft class.
As the week unfolds, we’ll see just where else the Bears look to invest in a turnaround from one of the worst seasons in franchise history at 3-13. This is one of the most important free agent periods for the organization in recent memory. It certainly seems like Pace and company, for the moment, are leaving no stone unturned.
Robert Zeglinski is the Bears beat writer for the Rock River Times and is a staff writer for Windy City Gridiron and Second City Hockey. You can follow him on Twitter @RobertZeglinski.