The security the Bears had hoped for with their secondary is set in stone. After matching a late afternoon offer sheet by the rival Packers, Chicago has officially re-signed Kyle Fuller to a four-year deal worth $56 million with only $18 million guaranteed, reports NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport.
The Bears had originally hoped to use the transition tag on Fuller to help facilitate a long term deal they were comfortable in giving to the star cornerback. By that measure, the Packers worked that strategy to perfection for Chicago as Fuller’s four-year deal is essentially just 1.5 years guaranteed. Based on current cap projections, Fuller is the 18th highest paid cornerback in the NFL. That’s a deal Chicago and general manager Ryan Pace will take every time.
Fuller, 26, is coming off a career season in tackles with 69 and passes defended with 22, which was second in the league only to the Lions' Darius Slay. He was the most targeted cornerback in 2017 and he passed the repeated tests with flying colors in a breakout year that entrenches him as Chicago's No. 1 corner.
Fuller's rise came at the right time after he had missed the entirety of the 2016 season due to unfortunate injury recovery from arthroscopic knee surgery. Injury recovery of which he was criticized publicly by his own defensive coordinator Vic Fangio in not playing through. That same injury led the Bears to not pick up his rookie contract fifth-year option and essentially leave his future in Chicago in limbo. But Fuller never let any of the outside noise or skepticism bother him. If anything, he used it as motivation to realize his potential.
Instead of pouting and or getting down in the dumps, Fuller finally lived up to his draft status of being selected No. 14 overall in the 2014 Draft last season. He came out and put together his finest professional season with a clean bill of health in playing all 16 games. He came out and proved he could be a star cornerback that can be reliably counted on in the grand scheme of things. He evolved into a true defensive weapon.
Ultimately, when general manager Ryan Pace called Fuller "a player we value" after transition tagging him, this is what his words were in reference to. That type of tag was always the Bears' clear best move because it facilitated a contract with a franchise player. A homegrown and young player coming into his own at that. Getting this deal done in the exact way Pace intended, and in a manner that Fuller appreciated by signing Green Bay’s offer sheet, is undoubtedly a breath of relief for all parties to focus on contending football.
The mission for the Bears and Fuller together will now turn to consistency. As they're paying him handsomely as such, Fuller will be counted on to maintain the same level of performance from his breakout 2017. No excuses are warranted. A major fabric of the success of the Bears' hopeful rising defense can't afford a drop off in play from it's stud cornerback. Seeing as how he's hitting his physical prime at 26, and how his high confidence has been worked in in tandem recently, there shouldn't be anything to worry about.
The sky's the limit for Fuller, a locked-in Bear both in mind and on the dotted line, through the best football playing years of his career.
Robert Zeglinski is the Bears beat writer for The Rock River Times, an editor for Windy City Gridiron and Inside The Pylon, and is a contributor to Pro Football Weekly and The Athletic Chicago. You can follow him on Twitter @RobertZeglinski.