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The Layman’s Guide to Bears Free Agency: Backup QB

Have you ever gone into free agency and hear scores of names but aren’t quite sure who these players are? Well, you’re not alone.

Baltimore Ravens v New Orleans Saints
Chase Daniel
Photo by Wesley Hitt/Getty Images

If you are anything like me, then you are a Bears fan first and foremost. The rest of the NFL is there as background noise or a way to savor the sport through the coldest parts of Chicago’s brutal winters.

Every year when February rolls around, I hear scores of names being tossed around as potential targets for the Bears in free agency. But most of the time, I have no idea who these players actually are. So that is my intention with this series, to inform those fans who are just like me and you may ask yourself “well, how did I get here?” when they hear names being bandied about by talking heads.

So what I decided to do is to is ask a friend who knows very little about football how I should approach this. And She Was like, “why don’t you show your readers that This Must be the Place for Bears fans to learn about these free agents?” So join me on this Once in a Lifetime opportunity to show you how Ryan Pace is going to be Burning Down the House this off-season, and turning the Bears into a playoff team in 2018!

The first installment in this series—which will focus on the positions that are most applicable to the Bears needs heading into 2018—will be all about the backup quarterback position. If we are to believe the obvious reports, then Mike Glennon will be cut, and Mark Sanchez is a pending free agent who is mainly here as an extra quarterback coach. So that leaves Mitch Trubisky as the only quarterback under contract heading into 2018.

If the 2017 NFL season taught us anything, it’s that having a competent backup quarterback is important for any team with playoff aspirations. The Vikings and Eagles had them, the Packers and Texans did not. If you are (once again) like me, then you feel that the Bears are a good off-season away from being a playoff team. The first part of the plan has gone quite well.

The next part will be nearly as crucial. The Bears need to patch the right holes in free agency for this team to take the next step. While a backup quarterback obviously isn’t the biggest need for this team, it is the most important position on the field. So with that said, let’s get to a few options for the Bears and my reasoning behind each of these players.

Note: I am only looking at unrestricted free agents in this series. There will inevitably be players available via trade and who are cut, but we simply cannot discuss those names without a massive amount of speculation.

Tyler Bray

My thoughts on adding Bray to this list stem simply from familiarity with the offense. He has been with the Chiefs the past four seasons and not only would he be able to step right into the role, but he would also be able to help acclimate Trubisky to Nagy’s offense. Bray has only thrown one pass in a regular season NFL game, so I am showing some clips from the 2017 preseason here.

You can see Bray staying within the offense and targeting the tight end over the middle, which is a staple of this “spread coast” offense that the Bears will be running. This is a nice throw and decision.

In this clip, Bray feels the pressure and delivers a quick-strike on a slant. This is where familiarity with the offense comes into play for a backup quarterback.

This is by no means a good throw or decision. This is one of the negatives that you are going to find with players that are backups, they are second or third on the depth chart for a reason.

In addition to there simply not being a lot of film on Bray, his lack of athleticism makes him less than ideal for the Bears. Free agency, especially with a position like backup quarterback, isn’t so much about finding a great player but it’s about finding which warts you can live with. In this case, you are sacrificing athleticism, arm talent, and game experience for familiarity in the offense the Bears are installing.

Austin Davis

Davis has the most game experience of the three quarterbacks I am looking at but that experience hasn’t all been positive. After filling in admirably for Sam Bradford and the then-St. Louis Rams in 2014, he had a stinker of a year in 2015 with the Cleveland Browns. This past year, he backed-up Russel Wilson in Seattle, where he didn’t see any game action. The thing I like about Davis though is the experience and athleticism. His arm strength is lacking but in this offense, you can mange the game with his skill-set.

This is a staple of the offense we will see the Bears run in 2018. Clear out the underneath area and allow some speed to break free on a shallow crossing route. Davis’ meager arm strength is more than adequate to run the underneath passing game.

Here is a good example of how ball placement is crucial with a weaker arm. If you know your limitations and can play within yourself, you can be a successful backup in this league.

As I mentioned earlier, he has some athleticism. Honestly, I am not sure that you can win games with just his arm, but if he can still run a little bit, that changes the equation. Davis shows some good feel here and has enough speed to pick up a first down. That will be a crucial element for a backup going forward.

Davis isn’t the best backup in the league by a long shot. As I mentioned earlier though, this is about the warts you can live with. His ability to play within himself and his athleticism should be enough to get him a shot as a backup in the NFL.

Chase Daniel

This is the prize of the available backup quarterbacks that should interest the Bears. Daniel has the most well-rounded game of the bunch and has some actual NFL experience as well. Daniel has the best arm and athleticism of this group, but will also be the most sought after. This means he will probably command the highest price tag as well.

This is a nice deep ball off of play-action. As I mentioned, Daniel has the best arm of the bunch. This is the type of pass that a backup needs to be able to make in order for a playoff team to remain a playoff team after the starter goes down.

This is good awareness. Daniel knows that he has a 2-man route and is facing zone coverage. He puts the ball in the perfect spot and moves the chains.

Many times quarterbacks without a lot of experience would take a sack here. This is a well-designed and cloaked blitz by the Chargers. Daniel is able to feel this and pick up a huge gain on this play.

If I was spending the Bears money, Chase Daniel would be my guy. It might be a situation where you need to apply your monetary assets to other, more crucial positions. But I think this is an incredibly important position and Daniel is the best of the bunch. He should be able to run the Bears offense smoothly and that is precisely what you want from a backup quarterback.

Let’s face it, the Bears need to start winning more games. One of the their biggest issues for the past four season have been injuries and lack of depth. The last thing I want to see is the team completely implode if Trubisky were to miss time with an injury. From that perspective, a backup quarterback shouldn’t be overlooked.

For the sake of my sanity, the Slippery People in the Bears organization—namely Ryan Pace—needs to turn this team into a winner ... and soon.