INDIANAPOLIS — With optimism growing that a new collective bargaining agreement will be reached before the start of the new league year, the NFL is planning to give teams a crash course on parameters of the deal before the week is over.
The Bears, as reported last month from the Senior Bowl, are preparing two plans for free agency — one that includes a new CBA (and an anticipated bump in the salary cap) and one without a completed deal.
It appears the Bears will be able to put Plan A into play, and with a new deal is expected to be a salary-cap hike of about $20 million, according to one league source. If that happens, the Bears (and the 31 other teams) will have more flexibility just before the league’s shopping season opens March 18.
Keep that in mind when wondering about the moves the Bears made last week. Cutting wide receiver Taylor Gabriel and cornerback Prince Amukamara were not simply cap-related decisions.
Also keep that in mind when wondering what the team will do at quarterback. A higher salary cap would give the Bears room to be more aggressive in free agency and perhaps devote more money to add a passer to the mix with Mitch Trubisky.
Some have chalked up the recent comments from general manager Ryan Pace and coach Matt Nagy as cover for a neatly designed operation that ultimately will replace the 2017 first-round pick. They reason that Pace and Nagy are saying Trubisky is the Bears starter for 2020 because he’s the only quarterback under contract for next season, as if it’s a convenient part of the ruse to change starters as soon as possible.
I tend to believe Pace and Nagy and consider their comments sincere about giving Trubisky a shot at the start of the season with the amount of leeway given to him directly related to the level of confidence in whoever is No. 2 on the depth chart. Pace has so much invested in Trubisky that I don’t believe the GM is ready to reboot at the position, even though the optics of the 2017 draft — see Patrick Mahomes and Deshaun Watson — are torturous for the franchise.
If that is the case, the quarterback they bring in has to be comfortable knowing an opportunity could arise but also willing to bide his time without making waves.
Is that Andy Dalton, 32, who could be acquired via trade or signed if the Bengals wind up releasing him? New Bears offensive coordinator Bill Lazor had success with him.
Is that Nate Sudfeld, 26, who is heading into free agency a year after the Eagles secured him with a second-round tender as a restricted free agent? New Bears quarterbacks coach John DeFilippo was credited with helping develop Sudfeld in Philadelphia, and he could be viewed as a quarterback with upside.
“I’m telling you there is a reason why the Eagles held on to Nate, and that’s because he’s going to be a really, really good football player,” DeFilippo told phillyvoice.com two years ago after leaving to become the Vikings offensive coordinator. “Why do you think other teams wanted him? Against the Dallas (starters), Nate played fantastic. That kid is going to be a really, really good football player. He’s a really good football player right now. But I am telling you, that kid has a chance to be a really good football player.”
Is that Case Keenum, 32, whom the Bears missed out on in 2017, when they signed Mike Glennon and Keenum went to the Vikings and rescued their season?
Other options remain as well, and Pace will have the chance to consider a wide range of moves if the CBA indeed is completed.
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