A tighter salary cap than usual means the Chicago Bears and general manager Ryan Pace have to make tough financial decisions during this free agency period. The first major hit came on Thursday, as Chicago has officially released Kyle Fuller, according to NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport.
The 29-year-old Fuller was set to have a $20 million cap hit in the 2021 season. Even with recent major restructures for other players, the Bears were still (somehow) in no position to keep Fuller on his current contract. Speculation was abound that Akiem Hicks would instead be a casualty, or someone surrendered in a mega-trade (cough). It’s now evident that a decision has been made between the pair.
Fuller’s release will go through the wire on Friday, at which time he’ll be an unrestricted free agent. Technically, the Bears could try to work a trade for him before that time. Something similar happened with the Las Vegas Raiders when they were planning to release Rodney Hudson and Gabe Jackson.
EDIT: The paperwork was never processed by the Bears to the NFL. Fuller is still a Bear and they are trying to trade him.
In his six-year career, Fuller had blossomed of late. Ever since a breakout 2017 campaign, he’s morphed into one of professional football’s finest cornerbacks. A Pro Bowler in two of the last four seasons and a First-Team All-Pro in 2018, Fuller’s been a lynchpin on the left boundary side of the Bears’ defense. For a franchise with an illustrious history on the defensive side of the ball, Fuller was no slouch. He leaves the Bears fourth all-time in passes defensed (82), 15th in solo tackles (328, as a cornerback, mind you), and 19th in interceptions (19).
The next step for the Bears will no doubt be creating more cap space, but also figuring out whether it’s wise to have your No. 1 boundary cornerback be a sophomore player with rampant shoulder issues. The hole left behind by Fuller might as well be an abyss at this stage in the process. It leaves a roster with far more pressing needs elsewhere (quarterback, offensive tackle, to name a couple) scrambling around.
As for Fuller, he surely immediately leaps to the top of many teams’ free agency wish lists. Being a complete cornerback, both as a ballhawk and surefire run supporter, will be very attractive to any number of secondary needy squads. Fuller potentially moves onto greener pastures, and the Bears bite the bullet on a “plan” that will maybe, perhaps, someday materialize into genuine success.