Bears' Early Report Card for Most Impactful Offseason Decisions
The Chicago Bears only won eight games in 2020, but they did manage to squeak into the playoffs. This was enough of a success to earn head coach Matt Nagy and general manager Ryan Pace another opportunity to helm the franchise.
However, an 8-8 season should not be the goal of any NFL team, so Chicago has taken some significant steps to change its roster this offseason. A reduced salary cap made for some difficult decisions, and the Bears have had to include some subtractions along with their free-agent additions.
Here we will examine some of the most significant moves that Chicago has made this offseason and grade them based on factors like salary-cap implications, potential short- and long-term impacts, team needs and roster makeup.
Tagging Allen Robinson II
Before the start of free agency, the Bears made a move to retain star wide receiver Allen Robinson II, giving him the franchise tag. That put the team in a tough cap situation. Even after some cap-saving moves (more on those shortly), the Bears are still nearly $4 million over the cap.
This is a bit of an issue, but it does ensure that one of the league's best wideouts—Robinson had 1,250 receiving yards this past season—will remain in Chicago.
Robinson could also be around for the long term. While he initially wasn't keen on signing his franchise tender, a soft receiver market may have caused Robinson to reverse course. He has signed and will play in 2021.
"Robinson took note of the fact WRs are not breaking the bank in free agency," Brad Biggs of the Chicago Tribune tweeted. "He does not believe agreeing to tag affects his leverage for a multiyear deal."
The cap implications prevent this decision from being a home run, but if it leads to a long-term contract with Robinson, it will have to be viewed more positively than it currently is.
Releasing Kyle Fuller
In a bid to improve their cap situation, the Bears released longtime starting cornerback Kyle Fuller.
On a positive note, Alyssa Barbieri of Bears Wire reports the decision saves the team $11 million in cap space, which is valuable. On a down note, it leaves the team without a two-time Pro Bowler at cornerback and may have negatively affected free agents' desire to join the team.
"Stop using the 'CAP' space as an excuse!!!!" receiver/returner Cordarrelle Patterson tweeted after Fuller was released.
Patterson, who spent the past two seasons in Chicago, remains a free agent.
The decision to release Fuller rather than work out an extension or a trade is puzzling—it's not like Chicago didn't know it would be in a tight cap position this offseason. The cap implications keep this decision from being a full-on failure, but it's difficult to view it favorably.
Fuller remains a quality starter. He is set to spend the 2021 season starting for the Denver Broncos.
Signing Andy Dalton
The Bears made a play for Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson but were rebuffed. With the future Hall of Famer off the table, Chicago turned its attention to veteran Andy Dalton, inking him to a one-year, $10 million contract.
It's a fair price for a fair signal-caller, but this decision isn't likely to significantly improve Chicago's offense. While Dalton is a former Pro Bowler, he's also struggled to string together wins over the past two seasons. He is not a clear upgrade over Nick Foles or the departed Mitchell Trubisky.
Chicago didn't have a ton of enticing options on the open market, and Dalton is still a starting-caliber quarterback. Given the price involved, this move is far from a disaster. It also provides the Bears with options in the draft.
If the opportunity to draft a new franchise signal-caller presents itself, the Bears won't be hamstrung by a long-term quarterback deal. If it doesn't, Dalton should be able to guide the offense as well as Trubisky did a year ago.
Whether that's good enough to push the Bears back into the playoffs or to save the jobs of Nagy and Pace remains to be seen.
Contract and cap information via Spotrac.