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Bears mailbag: End of the year presser, Jordan Howard, Kareem Hunt, and the off-season

The Bears season may be over but the off-season is just beginning. It’s time to dive into the possibilities in the coming months.

Wild Card Round - Philadelphia Eagles v Chicago Bears Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

The Chicago Bears season may be over, but the off-season is just starting. On Monday, general manager Ryan Pace and head coach Matt Nagy did their annual season ending press conference. Normally, there’s not much substance to these, but this time a few things were revealed.

Among those topics was Cody Parkey’s future, or lack there of, the possibility of Kareem Hunt being added, and Leonard Floyd’s fifth-year option being exercised.

Long story short, there’s plenty to cover in this week’s mailbag as we transition from the season into the off-season.

I’m right there with you, Caleb. It took me until Sunday night to truly get over the Bears loss. Maybe it was watching Philadelphia lose in the final minutes of the game or maybe it was just finally accepting the fact that the Bears incredible season had come to an end.

It was a rough ending, but I truly believe the future for this team is bright and their window is just opening. Now we just have to hope they have another strong off-season and learn from their mistakes to make a Los Angeles Rams like jump in 2019.

One of the surprise topics in Monday’s presser was Hunt. For those who don’t know, Hunt was recently cut from the Kansas City Chiefs after a video of him pushing down a woman and kicker her, surfaced.

Now, let’s be clear here. Yes, Hunt is an All-Pro talent and in a normal situation, I would be ALL OVER the Bears signing Hunt. The problem? There’s absolutely no way I can support a signing like this, considering the circumstances.

In the past, the Bears have acquired players with questionable histories. Those include Brandon Marshall and of course, Ray McDonald. One of those ended up paying off and the other one blew up in their face before McDonald could even play a down.

In these types of situations, it’s best to keep in mind that any of these high-profile moves have to go through ownership, including Virginia McCaskey. In this case, I find it very hard to believe that she’d sign off on this type of thing again. Despite Nagy and Mitchell Trubisky’s previous relationships with Hunt.

So in short, it’s a hard no for me.

I still maintain that the Bears top internal priority should be Bryce Callahan. I’m aware that his health has been an issue and I’d assume his overall price tag will reflect that.

Even so, he’s the most valuable of the group and simply the one I feel they need to keep around. I’d fully expect a two-to-three year deal around $4-5 million per year with a low guarantee. That’s something they can not only afford, but should do.

On a list of importance, this is how I’d rank their top free agents:

  1. Callahan
  2. Adrian Amos
  3. Bobby Massie
  4. Aaron Lynch

To start off, I think it’s not overly likely that the Bears will be able to retain all three pending free agents.

Callahan and Amos are looking at around $5 million per year and Massie could be looking for a slight raise after two pretty solid years in Chicago.

But for this exercise, assuming they can re-sign all three, the focus in the draft needs to move to depth. I think that starts with these positions:

  1. Outside Linebacker
  2. Running Back
  3. Offensive Line
  4. Cornerback
  5. Kicker/Punter

Here’s how I view things. If those three are re-signed, you’ve got mainly depth needs, but those are also important. The Bears cannot continue to pay top end free agents, and they’ll eventually reach a point where they must let drafted talent walk and replace them with draft picks or cheaper free agents.

The Bears also will be lacking their first and second round picks this year, which makes this a bit tougher. Outside linebacker is first because I can’t see them keeping Lynch if they spend that much on other internal free agents. Next would be running back, because I continue to believe that Jordan Howard is not a long-term fit. The good news? You can find good value in the third and fourth rounds at that position.

The rest is simply preparing for life without current veterans like Kyle Long, Massie and even Prince Amukamara.

Make no mistake, the Bears are going to have to get very creative this off-season.

This is an interesting question for a few reasons.

Firstly, I think most Bears fans are in the same court in terms of Howard and his questionable future in Chicago. To be fair, not even Nagy was willing to give much insight on Howard’s future on Monday.

Secondly, if they do opt to trade him, they probably won’t get much in return for a running back on the last year of his rookie deal coming off a career worst year. If they can get a fourth rounder for him, I think they’d be in good shape.

Lastly, I’m not sure that replacing Howard in free agency is the smartest move. One, most free agent running backs don’t work out and two, it’s much easier to find a good mid-round replacement than it is to spend limited cap resources on one.

Some names that could be in play in free agency would be Tevin Coleman (looking around $7-8 million per year), Mark Ingram (who will see at least $6 million annually and has said he wants to return to New Orleans) or maybe a veteran like Latavius Murray.

All in all, I’m not sure any of those are a great option for a team like the Bears.

I’d be lying if I said I still wasn’t extremely confused on what happened with Trey Burton in the playoffs.

We all know the story by now. He woke up Saturday morning with a “locked up” groin and simply missed their lone playoff game. This coming off the heels of him admitting he’s had serious anxiety issues in the past.

I’m not going to make assumptions, but I will say this - His story and how the team have handled it has been very fishy. With that being said, the Bears have absolutely no choice but to move forward with him for at least 2019.

Adam Shaheen is another player that simply hasn’t shown up yet. Obviously, he missed over half the season after seriously spraining his foot and ankle, but even when he came back, he simply wasn’t the pass catching weapon that most had hoped for.

The problem is, they’ve got plenty invested in the position and are heading into Year 2 of Nagy’s offensive system. They don’t really have the resources to keep pouring into the tight end spot, so I’d assume they’ll still be the top two guys heading into next season.

I do think they have a lot more to give, but it’ll come down to them actually consistently producing over the course of the season and that has yet to be seen.

Obviously it’s still a little early to be talking potential draft picks, but someone like Bryce Love could make some sense.

The one thing to keep in mind with Love is that he tore his ACL in early December, which means he may not be ready for the start of training camp. I’d also say it’s safe to say at this point that he’s moved himself into day three territory due to this.

Only time will tell how they deal with the running back position, but there are plenty of mid-round targets I like for the Bears and Love is one of them, even though I’m not sure he could be counted on much in Year 1.

As some know by now, the Bears are set to lose the majority of their defensive staff, with Vic Fangio departing for Denver.

Among those names that have already left, has been both outside linebackers coach Brandon Staley and inside linebackers coach Glenn Pires. Naturally, that leaves multiple positions open in terms of assistants to new defensive coordinator Chuck Pagano.

Within those options to replace some of these guys is Tom Monachino and Rob Ryan. Ryan’s name may look familiar because of both he and his brother’s (Rex Ryan) time in the league. Both have aggressive mindsets, but very abrasive personalities, which could make for a complicated situation with a laid back coordinator like Pagano, and even to a certain extent, Nagy.

Monachino just took the defensive coordinator job at Kansas State, but has a history with Pagano, dating back years ago. Due to name value and past results, I prefer Ryan, but it appears (due to multiple reports) that Monachino will be taking one of the two openings coaching the linebackers.

Another name that could be intriguing is Chuck’s brother, John Pagano. He is currently the outside linebackers coach in Houston, but he has a very good reputation and is someone that could make a lot of sense, if Houston allows him to leave that is.

Either way, the Bears will have some good names to choose from and most importantly, change isn’t always a bad thing. We’ll just have to see how this all plays out.