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Bears mailbag: Draft week, Robbie Gould demands a trade and more

Will the Bears make another draft day trade? How realistic is Robbie Gould? Could Ryan Nall be in the team’s 2019 plans and beyond? All that and more in this week’s mailbag.

Seattle Seahawks v San Francisco 49ers Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images
NFL: Kansas City Chiefs at Chicago Bears Dennis Wierzbicki-USA TODAY Sports

We’ve made it, Bears fans! Draft week is here and by the end of the weekend, we should be staring at a complete 90-man roster. Despite all of that, the focus seems to be on a different player that is currently not in a Chicago Bears uniform.

On Tuesday afternoon, ESPN’s Adam Schefter reported that Robbie Gould and his agent have backed out of all contract talks and are demanding a trade from the San Francisco 49ers. This comes on the heals of general manager John Lynch saying that Gould will indeed play for the team in 2019.

Needless to say, this is going to be an active and fun week. Whether it’s following the NFL draft as a pure football fan, rooting for chaos on Thursday night, or having your eyes glued on your phone and the TV all weekend long in anticipation for what general manager Ryan Pace and the Bears might do.

With all this in mind, let’s dive into this week’s pre-draft mailbag.

If the Bears find a way to land Gould, I don’t see there being any way that there will still be any sort of kicking competition. You’d have to think that not only will Pace have to give up some sort of late round draft pick, but he’ll also be paying Gould more than $4 million per year with around two years guaranteed.

It’s possible that they could opt to bring an extra leg to camp with them in that situation. Simply for wear and tear issues of a 36-year-old kicker, but make no mistake, if the Bears find a way to land Gould, the job will be his for the foreseeable future.

Gould has said on multiple occasions that he wants a long-term deal and that he prefers it to be somewhere closer to his family in Chicago. I would absolutely have to believe that somehow, some way, in order for Gould to come back, he likely wouldn’t see a huge jump in pay from what the top kickers are making now, but I would guess, he’d still be looking at around $4 million per year.

How big of a “discount” that would be is hard to guess, but here are a few recently signed contracts to keep in mind:

  • Will Lutz (Saints) 5 years, $20.25 million ($9.2 million guaranteed)
  • Josh Lambo (Jaguars) 3 years, $15.5 million ($6.5 million guaranteed)
  • Jason Myers (Seahawks) 4 years, $15.45 million ($7 million guaranteed)
  • Stephen Gostkowski (Patriots) 2 years, $8.5 million ($3.7 million guaranteed)

All four of these kickers signed this offseason and all four were ranked within the top 10 for kickers in 2018. Obvious Lutz and Gostkowski are the most proven of the four, but Gostkowski is right around the same age as Gould and command the highest annual-average-value at ($4.25 million).

If I had to guess what type of contract Gould could be looking for if he found his way to Chicago, it would be around 4 years, $16 million with roughly $7.5-$8 million guaranteed. So, take that for what it’s worth.

I think that would be an extremely poor choice from Pace. I understand some like Ryan Nall and want to see what he has to offer, but I don’t think you can justify trading Jordan Howard and simply not doing anything after.

Keep in mind, the Bears are looking for more speed and athleticism out of the back field. I know that Pace mentioned Nall specifically in his pre-draft presser, but what else would you expect a general manager to say just days before the draft?

The team met with 17 total running backs in this draft class. Within those meetings, they met with multiple mid-round targets in a large capacity. Those included private visits to Halas Hall and flying out for private workouts.

I have no issue if they decide to move into the season with Nall slotted in as their fourth running back, but I think it would be an unneeded gamble not to draft one. Especially with minimal needs heading in.

Did you know that Pace has made a total of eight draft day trades since taking over as general manager? That means, he’s averaged two trades per draft. It’s also even more impressive when you account for the fact that he did not make a single trade in his first draft.

Within those trades, five of the eight have been trade ups. The thing to keep in mind with that is simple, though. He had plenty of ammo to move up and down at will, on top of having more needs than picks. This year is obviously different.

Not only is this a team with minimal needs (no starting spots up for grabs), he only has five picks and none before No. 87 overall.

Since the team went (12-4), they will obviously be picking lower in each round as well. This means that because of their minimal draft capital, they’ll have to trade more to get less. That’s why it makes much more sense, at least to me, for them to deal down at some point. There are multiple teams that have third rounders in the compensation section of that round. This could help if the Bears want to move down less than 10 slots, while also picking up another fourth rounder in the process.

If I had to put money down on any draft day trades, my money is firmly on them dealing down. Because at some point, the bill will come due in regards to Pace’s lack of picks after the Khalil Mack trade.

I’m glad someone brought it up because there can never be enough reminders that this week is full of lies. Hence why many call it “lying season.” Teams are trying to deceive and that’s the design of this week, leading up to the draft.

Pace met with the media on Tuesday and he made it sound like they are completely comfortable at running back. I simply don’t buy that, but I wouldn’t expect him to say anything else. The draft meetings speak for themselves, though.

With that in mind, I would absolutely be floored if the Bears don’t take a running back with one of their first three picks. As I said earlier in the week, the more I’ve seen things play out, the less surprised I would be if they waited a round. But even so, they didn’t meet with 17 running backs (mostly in that range), not to select one. Outside of kicker, I’d argue running back is still their most pressing need for 2019 and beyond.

For the first time in a while, it feels like the Bears are tight against the cap. Obviously, we saw the amount of space they created this year, but things don’t really loosen up for 2020, which will continue to make Pace’s job tougher than he experienced in his first few years.

I’ve had an eye on 2020 for a few reasons. Not only are the Bears expected to pick up Leonard Floyd’s fifth-year option, they are expected to extend Cody Whitehair at some point this summer.

Here’s a few “cut candidates” for next year:

  • CB Prince Amukamara ($9 million savings)
  • OL Kyle Long ($8.1 million savings)
  • WR Cordarrelle Patterson ($4.75 million savings)
  • WR Taylor Gabriel ($4.5 million savings)

There’s also a few players the team could look to either extend or restructure:

  • WR Allen Robinson (1 year, $15 million remaining)
  • CB Kyle Fuller (2 years, $36 million remaining)

Either way, 2020 is yet another year where Pace is going to have to get creative in the offseason in order to create enough space to maintain or improve his roster. I would also imagine we’ll see them rollover close to $10 million in space, barring any expected moves like Gould.

I was in the camp of them doing this last year, actually.

Obviously I get why they didn’t want James Daniels in his rookie year at center, but I truly believe his best position is at center where his athleticism can shine. I also believe that Whitehair is versatile and his strength should help him transition over to guard easier.

My only preference at this point is that they’ll do it early in their offseason programs, which appears to be the case, according to Pace on Tuesday. The one thing to monitor with this situation- How does this impact Whitehair’s contract talks? Traditionally, guards make slightly more.

As a detailed a few questions back, I think the Bears moved money around for the sake of flexibility. My first reaction when I saw that they had converted Mack’s 2019 base salary into a signing bonus was that they’d make a big move or two. But as we’ve seen, that simply hasn’t been the case.

Even so, it doesn’t have to be a “wasted” situation. If they don’t use the bulk of that money this year. They can always roll it over into next year, which is exactly what I expect them to do at this point in time. An extra $10 million for next year isn’t the worst thing in the world and doesn’t preclude them from making similar moves next year to create enough cap space to work with.

They appear snug against the cap, but as teams have proven time and time again, the cap is easy to get around and manipulate, at least in the short-term.

I would imagine that Pace wants for nothing more than to be able to sign him to a long-term deal, if the money is right. The problem? Not only has Floyd been inconsistent but he played his first 16-game season in 2018.

While they haven’t officially done it yet, Pace has said they will give Floyd the fifth-year option, which means he’ll be under contract for the next two years. The option won’t be cheap (slightly over $13 million) and I can’t imagine they want to invest that type of money at outside linebacker in the long-term, especially with Mack.

If I had to guess, I would assume the Bears will try to work with Floyd and see if they can get some sort of team friendly extension done, but I don’t think his future in Chicago is nearly as much of a given as some do.

There’s been a lot of smoke around the team drafting another tight end, despite having all three tight ends on their roster under contract for at least two more years.

If they do end up taking a tight end (which I think is a real possibility), it’s best to keep in mind that Trey Burton’s contract keeps him under contract for at least two more seasons due to the structure (only a $1 million savings in 2020) and Adam Shaheen’s rookie deal is cheap enough to keep him around for his final two years (just under $3.5 million combined).

Ben Braunecker is also more of a special teams and depth piece, so there’s no reason why they couldn’t add another tight end and choose to develop him for the next year or two before taking over for someone like Burton or Shaheen. That will be one of the most interesting positions to watch for this weekend.