For those of you who didn't know, I had the privilege of spending last week in Arizona mingling with many media and NFL-types at Super Bowl Radio Row.
For those of you who want to hear about that week in more detail, you can check it out here.
If you are someone that gets into meeting celebrities and athletes, that's definitely the best part of the week, but if you are more someone that just wants to hear interesting nuggets about teams, there's plenty of that during Super Bowl week as well.
When there are NFL events, that's when people get together and talk. Senior Bowl is one. The Super Bowl is another. The combine is arguably the best rumor mill of the year.
With the Chicago Bears being the big player this NFL offseason, there were some rumbles about what may happen. Here's what some Chicago Bears were saying, and here's what some other NFL-types were saying about the Monsters of the Midway last week in Arizona.
There aren't many names popping up for contract extensions right now. Cole Kmet, Jaylon Johnson and Darnell Mooney were the only names that surfaced in this regard and really are the only ones that should (David Montgomery is a free agent and doesn't count).
I spoke with Cole Kmet personally, and he expressed his desire to return to the Chicago Bears and receive a contract extension. Ryan Poles has also publicly expressed the importance of Cole Kmet to this team moving forward. Kmet wasn't firm if contract talks had already begun but did tell me, "I'm sure they have." Kmet's extension isn't going to be cheap. His could be north of Dawson Knox's contract (4 years, $52 million).
I did hear that a Darnell Mooney extension is also something the Bears would like to get done but didn't hear much on parameters. Mooney is a tricky contract to figure out. Bears fans know how valuable he is to this offense and the connection he has with Justin Fields, but from a statistical standpoint, his numbers certainly don't scream WR1. Mooney has only had one season above 1,000 receiving yards, and he only has 10 career touchdowns. That may mean Mooney and the Bears may be pretty far apart on parameters. It'll be interesting to see if Mooney wants something close to $20 million annually and how far the Bears are willing to come up to meet him.
Jaylon Johnson, I think, is going to be interesting. It was very telling that Poles failed to mention Johnson as a blue-chip player moving forward at his year-end press conference. Johnson was also at radio row and did a couple of interviews saying that he not only wants an extension in Chicago, but his team has already engaged with the Bears on a contract extension. I think, currently these two sides are pretty far off. I don't think Johnson will accept a discount to get an extension done, but I'm not sure the Bears are willing to pay Johnson like a lockdown CB1. Johnson has missed 11 games in 3 seasons, he only has one career interception, and while his completion % against is pretty low, according to Pro Football Reference, he has given up 11 career touchdowns, and his passer rating against is above 100. This will be one to watch.
The best free agency rumors start leaking out at the NFL combine, but there was already some chatter in Arizona. I spoke with Bobby Okereke, and I get the feeling that the Bears are definitely going to be in the mix here. He expressed an interest in being comfortable with coaches and scheme, and when he spoke about Matt Eberflus and Justin Fields, he had a pretty big smile on his face. I could see the Bears go into next year with Okereke and Jack Sanborn as the WILL and the MIKE.
I think the one thing everyone agrees on is that the Bears are going to sign a right tackle. Which one was up for debate, but a right tackle might be number one on their priority board. Plenty of names surfaced: Mike McGlinchey, Caleb McGary, Juwaan Taylor, and even Orlando Brown (I can't see that one personally). I think we will definitely see some movement there early in free agency.
I didn't hear anything specific tying the Bears to defensive line, but there was plenty of talk about Daron Payne and his future. There is no consensus as to what's going to happen here. Plenty think that Washington will figure out a way to give him the franchise tag, but many don't see a path for Washington to pay both him and Jonathan Allen (I'm one of them). If Payne is allowed to hit free agency, he's going to have plenty of suitors. If Payne wants to go to a winner (Micah Parsons is already recruiting him to come to Dallas), he won't be looking at the Bears, but if the Bears want to pay Payne north of $20 million annually, when the dust settles, they'll be able to offer him more money than anyone else. It'll be curious if Payne will want to take the big contract now and worry about winning later in his career.
If the Bears make a trade this offseason, it's most likely going to be for a wide receiver. At this point, no one really knows what wide receivers are going to become available, but the one name that came up a few times is Tee Higgins. Higgins has over 3,000 yards receiving in his 3 NFL seasons, and the Cincinnati Bengals are in a tough spot knowing that they need to pay the farm to Joe Burrow, and Ja'Marr Chase is also probably going to cost them $30 million a year. The Bengals could do some creative accounting and use the franchise tag and keep that trio together for a couple more seasons, but if they do that, they will eventually lose Higgins for nothing. If they want to get something solid in return for Higgins, this is the offseason to move him.
Contrary to what Jason LaCanfora has tweeted, I didn't hear one, and I mean, not one person, even suggest that the Bears might still be willing to trade Justin Fields. The Bears are not drafting a quarterback, and the Bears definitely want to trade down from number one. The market for the number one pick is interesting. Some think the Bears won't be able to get the king's ransom like some are hoping, but others, like Adam Schefter, told Bears fans to dream big about how much they can get in return for the pick.
If the Bears stay in the top 4 or 5, the lean seems to be Jalen Carter over Will Anderson, but obviously, that's really early in the draft process. I think many people are circling the Indianapolis Colts as the biggest potential trade partner, but I think that's more connecting the dots than it is any verifiable information.
If Bryce Young was about 3 inches taller and about 30 pounds heavier, I think that pick would be really juicy, but right now, teams know that Young is the best quarterback on tape, but there are going to be concerns about giving up multiple picks for a quarterback some feel is too small to succeed at the NFL level. Will Levis and Anthony Richardson are going to be guys that are going to climb boards after the combine, and CJ Stroud seems to be the "highest floor, lowest ceiling" guy of the group (a safe pick).
NFL free agency is just a month away. The Bears are going to be right in the thick of it. It's going to be a fun ride, Bears fans, so buckle up.
Be sure to follow Bill on Twitter @ZimmermanSXM for any other news or rumors he hears.