Cordarrelle Patterson Jersey

At the very least, Cordarrelle Patterson looks like a solution to the Bears’ league-worst kickoff return unit from a year ago. But that’s not how Matt Nagy is viewing the speedy former first-round pick who signed a two-year deal earlier this month.

“If we were bringing him here just to return kicks … I mean, I’d be lying to you,” Nagy said last week at the NFL Annual Meeting in Phoenix. “He’s going to play with the offense and he’s going to have a role. From now until Week 1 we’ve got to figure out, how do we maximize what he does best? I don’t know that yet but when I see him get in here and we talk to him and see what he can do, then we as an offensive staff are going to find some good stuff for him.”

The Bears aren’t asking Patterson to be a No. 1, 2 or 3 receiver, roles firmly in the grasp of Allen Robinson, Taylor Gabriel and Anthony Miller. Tight end Trey Burton and running back Tarik Cohen should be locks to get more targets and/or touches than him. But as a versatile weapon who can do a few different things within the offense, Nagy likes where Patterson can fit.

The Bears are Patterson’s fourth team in seven years, though, and that kind of frequent movement rarely is found in good, top-tier players. Patterson only played 22 percent of the New England Patriots’ offensive snaps in his 15 games last year, though he did set a career high in touches (63). The challenge for Nagy will be to not overload Patterson, though as long as guys like Cohen and Burton and Robinson stay healthy, that shouldn’t be much of a problem.

“When Ryan (Pace) and I were watching tape and the other guys in our room were watching tape on him, we saw a role for him,” Nagy said. “You see what he did in New England with the jet sweeps, the arounds, the screens, and I think that that’s a good fit for him. But for me it’s kind of like a kid in a candy store. You get to kind of pick which candy you like best, put it together and figure out what he does best.”

Consider the signing of Patterson as another marker of the strong collaboration between Nagy and Pace when it comes to roster additions, then. That relationship was the first thing Pace pointed to when he discussed Patterson last week at the Arizona Biltmore, with the coach and general manager not only targeting the player, but targeting how he can be deployed in a number of different ways.

“He’s kind of a Swiss army knife,” Pace said. “He’s a very versatile player. But to maximize his talent, you have to be using him in a versatile manner, so not just on offense but on special teams and everything that we do. So there was a ton of discussion going into how are we going to use this guy, what’s his play time going to look like, are we going to maximize his skill set. We spent a ton of time on that. I know we were both excited at the end of it with a vision of how he’ll be used.”

Patterson, too, is a good representation of the shift in roster building the Bears have undergone in the last 12 months. A year ago, they were able to pick off some of the better free agents available — Robinson, Gabriel, Burton, etc. — while adding premiums talent through the draft like Miller and Roquan Smith (“In a lot of ways that’s sometimes easier,” Pace said).

For the Bears in free agency earlier this month, and next month in the draft, the shift to complementary pieces was out of necessity. Patterson is one of those guys, someone the Bears envision fitting in a role on a team that’s already established itself as a legitimate Super Bowl contender.

Eddie Goldman Jersey

As Eddie Jackson has ascended to league-wide stardom, winning deserved awards and directing viral celebrations, the Bears’ “other” Eddie continues to operate as the biggest under-the-radar reason for this team’s defensive success in 2018.

Eddie Goldman doesn’t make plays that get clipped off and spread around social media, like Khalil Mack planting an offensive lineman on his back or Jackson conducting an orchestra after a pick-six. But ask around the Bears locker room, and Goldman’s teammates will tell you they wouldn’t be the defense they are without the work put in by their three-technique defensive tackle.

“No way possible,” inside linebacker Danny Trevathan said, when asked if a 3-4 defense can be successful without the kind of things Goldman does. “I have not seen it, and I don’t think I want to.”

There’s a reason why Trevathan said Goldman is his “best bud, best pal, best bro forever.” What Goldman is so good at, either in a 3-4 base or with two down linemen in nickel, is absorb double teams of interior offensive linemen. And that’s critical to a 3-4 defense’s chances of stopping the run, as center Cody Whitehair explained.

“A guy like Eddie is vital to having a 3-4 defense against the run, because he eats up the double team,” Whitehair said. “He doesn’t let the other guy get off and get the linebacker.”

With Goldman anchoring two offensive linemen, it’s freed up Trevathan (58 tackles) and Roquan Smith (63 tackles) to play fast without having to worry about a guy 60-80 pounds heavier than then barreling upfield to block them. This is also why Vic Fangio’s defense thrives with “undersized” inside linebackers — Smith is listed at 225 pounds, while Trevathan is 239 pounds.

So when Smith or Trevathan get a tackle for a loss — they’ve combined for 11 this year — or a big-time run stop, often times that play started with Goldman doing the dirty work up front.

“I love when he celebrates for other people,” Trevathan said. “Because I know he did something that play to help the other person get there. And it just goes to show that Eddie, he’s a staple in this defense.”

It’s not just that Goldman is a big body in the middle, standing at 6-foot-4 and 320 pounds. He has the athleticism to mesh with his frame and make him an interior force.

“He may not seem like it, but he’s super shifty,” guard James Daniels said. “I think that’s why he’s so hard to block because how shifty he is. And sometimes it doesn’t look like that but when you’re out there blocking him, you can tell how quick he is.”

Goldman is ninth on the Bears with 26 tackles, sixth with 16 pressures and fourth with 21 stops (defined by Pro Football Focus as tackles that constitute a loss for the defense). He only has one sack — the same as Jackson, Sherrick McManis and Deon Bush, among others — but does want to get more.

And Goldman has only played a little over 50 percent of the Bears’ defensive plays, with Fangio and position coach Jay Rodgers effectively rotating him, Akiem Hicks (who’s playing at a Pro Bowl level), Bilal Nichols, Jonathan Bullard and Roy Robertson-Harris in and out of games from a deep defensive line unit. The Bears were in nickel or dime on 69 percent of their defensive snaps in 2017; that usage remains high in 2018, meaning the Bears frequently only play two defensive linemen at a time.

“It just takes two guys in there who have to be able to control the inside in nickel,” Fangio said. “And he’s one of the main two for us.”

The Bears have limited opponents to a league-best 3.6 yards per rush, and have only allowed an average of 80.8 rushing yards per game, good for second in the NFL. Their standout run defense will be tested in the coming weeks, with the Giants’ Saquon Barkley, the Rams’ Todd Gurley and the Packers’ Aaron Jones looming as difficult challenges.

But with Goldman playing at a high level, the Bears’ defense should be up for the challenge.

“A lot of people don’t see it,” Trevathan said. “But I see it.”

And really, that’s the way Goldman likes it. He signed a four-year, $42.04 million extension in September in which the Bears guaranteed him $25 million. The front office recognized his work, as do his coaches, teammates and opposition. And that’s more than enough for him.

“I know I play a certain position where I don’t get a lot of recognition, and I’m cool with that,” Goldman said. “That’s my type of personality. Those who see me play know. Those who know football know.

Cody Whitehair Jersey

Bears could have James Daniels and Cody Whitehair swap positions on the interior of their offensive line, moving Daniels to center and Whitehair to left guard.

It was a noticeable change in tone from Nagy about where both those players may best fit on the offensive line. In the days and weeks after the Bears drafted Daniels in the second round of 2018’s NFL Draft, Nagy was adamant Whitehair would stay at center despite Daniels starring at that position while in college at Iowa. Whitehair, while being a steady presence at center for the last three seasons, began his pro career as a guard before a last-minute switch to center after the Bears signed Josh Sitton a few days before the 2016 season began.

“We’re kind of in the middle of that right now looking at how they played at those particular positions — not just those two, but everybody,” Nagy said. “And so we’re going to stay open to that and if we feel like it’s going to be better to switch somebody we’ll do that, and if we don’t then we’ll stick with where we’re at.”

If the Bears do execute that switch, it would represent the only change to their starting offensive line from 2018. All five regular starters are returning this year, with Daniels and Whitehair being joined by tackles Charles Leno and Bobby Massie and guard Kyle Long.

Harry Hiestand’s group was one of the league’s best pass-protecting offensive lines, though the Bears frequently struggled to run the ball with any consistent success. Perhaps swapping Daniels and Whitehair could be a way to help generate improvements on the ground.

Leonard Floyd Jersey

When the Bears drafted Leonard Floyd in 2016, they expected him to become a centerpiece of their rebuild. An eminently talented outside linebacker that won the 2015 Butkus Award as the nation’s best linebacker, the Bears had visions of grandeur of what the lanky kid from Eastman, Georgia could accomplish at the professional level. The Bears wanted to go with the “Flo,” as the talented outside linebacker is colloquially named.

The important positions on a football team are quarterback, edge rusher, and offensive tackle. Giving Floyd the vaunted title of premier edge rusher meant the Bears thought the world of his maturation and God-given gifts. If he could hold his own in multiple spots against the gauntlet known as the SEC, what realistic challenge would the NFC North provide? It couldn’t. It wouldn’t.

Three years since his life transformed for the better, the 26-year-old Floyd has comfortably settled in as a Bears starter. He’s no longer expected to be the one-man pass rushing dynamo the Bears thought he could be: That’s why human bulldozer Khalil Mack plays opposite him. Instead, Floyd is the jack-of-all-trades man who covers running backs and tight ends alike, comes on selective and creative pass rushes, and uses his natural gifts of leverage to act as one of Chicago’s best run defenders. It’s not quite the role the Bears necessarily drafted him for – though, it is an added bonus he’s capable in a variety of areas – but it’s effective.

The question for Floyd as he enters the fourth year of his rookie contract is how much he’s worth to the Bears in the long-term. General manager Ryan Pace and company are already cap-strapped and have other future contract extension considerations to make in the form of Cody Whitehair, Eddie Jackson, and eventually in an ideal world … Mitchell Trubisky. If Floyd’s going to stick around at Halas Hall, it might be high time to have his individual role evolve more in new defensive coordinator Chuck Pagano’s scheme.

At this stage in his career, it doesn’t appear Floyd will morph into a prototypical pass rusher like the Mack’s of the world. Though health issues have precluded a better look at what Floyd’s capable of full-time (he missed at least four starts in each of his first two seasons and was held back some by a broken hand to start 2018), his game isn’t supernaturally bending the edge with uncommon balance and power. Floyd is a Swiss Army Knife deployable in all situations. He possesses many desirable and useful defensive skills that make it difficult to take him off the field. Unfortunately, he isn’t particularly great in any one niche. Versatile players of his mold aren’t always a dime a dozen, but they’re not compensated as such because they don’t do anything special.

The problem with Floyd becoming a terrific feared pass rusher is his limited repertoire of moves. Despite his length and size at 6-foot-6, 250 pounds, and despite his obvious speed that attracted the Bears to his services in the first place, he’s a one-trick pony as an edge rusher. Most good to elite pass rushers have a ready-made arsenal of moves they can lean on against offensive linemen. When the man in front of them successfully counters one attack, they can rip out another without hesitation. It’s rare you see a great pass rusher always win on his first move. When Floyd is countered after his trademark loose speed rush, his individual battles too often end in a stalemate.

On a Bears defense loaded with other terrific pass rushers like Mack and Akiem Hicks, Floyd’s relative struggles on the edge are acceptable. He doesn’t have to take over a game. He doesn’t have to win one-on-one tussles. When you have to start considering paying him appropriately alongside superstars, that’s when the Bears’ underlying issue with Floyd comes into focus.

By their own account, the Bears are going to pick up the fifth-year option on Floyd’s rookie contract come May. That means he has at least two seasons left on the lakefront. Two years to prove he’s unique in one specific skill-set as to carve out a long career in Chicago. The first season, 2019, will stick out as his main proving ground.

As the Bears enter the middle of a Super Bowl window, the onus is going to be on Floyd to produce more as a pass rusher. He’s capable in setting the edge against the run. He can hold his own in coverage. But he hasn’t proven to be a dominant force you have to game-plan for, a matchup problem who tilts the field in favor of his defense. To become that kind of player, Floyd will again have to stay healthy for all 16 games – 2018 was the first season of his career he made every start – and he’ll have to do it without any sort of handicap.

New Chicago outside linebackers coach Ted Monachino has a reputation of bringing out the best in his players – he helped Terrell Suggs to a 2011 Defensive Player of the Year Award in Baltimore – and he can do much of the same for Floyd’s status. In terms of players Monachino has coached (or will coach) over the course of his career, it isn’t a stretch to say Floyd is the third-most talented behind Mack and Suggs. It’s a nice mentoring platform Floyd would do well to take advantage of in a make-or-break season.

Eddie Jackson Jersey

Bears safety Eddie Jackson went to his first Pro Bowl and received his first all-pro honor in 2018.

Also, he made a lot of extra money.

Jackson was awarded $323,451 in extra performance-based pay, the NFL announced Thursday, ranking him 11th among all NFL players. Add in the $111,573 he received through the league’s veteran pool, and Jackson’s $435,024 total almost matches his $555,000 base salary from 2018.

Bears center Cody Whitehair received an extra $118,320 as part of the league’s veteran performance-based pay pool.

Performance-based pay is distributed annually through an NFL program and rewards players who received an outsized amount of playing time relative to their base salaries. The league’s veteran pool is calculated similarly.

The financial awards do not count against the Bears’ salary cap.

Tarik Cohen Jersey

The Bears’ focus, along with the rest of the league’s, now turns to the draft, which represents an opportunity for Pace to acquire the kind of long-term, cheap assets that kickstarted this rebuild all those years ago. They’re needed. All those cheap assets that have morphed into the kind of players that pushed the Bears to the postseason aren’t going to be cheap much longer.

If Trubisky’s ascent continues — a big if — he’ll need a new contract in a couple years. Other key contributors on their rookie deals like safety Eddie Jackson, running back Tarik Cohen, and pass rusher Leonard Floyd will need new and pricier contracts in the years to come. In a pure football sense unrelated to money, the Bears need to hit on their draft picks to improve their team from a talent standpoint. They were a very good team in 2018. But they still fell short of capturing a playoff win. They need to get better.

The three remaining players should be key players again in 2019. One reason the Bears moved on from Howard and Amos? Cohen and Jackson play the same position as them, but they play those positions in entirely different and more valuable ways. Plus, they’re just a whole lot better than their former teammates.

Jackson is among the league’s best free safeties, getting named First Team All-Pro after his second season as a pro. In two seasons, he’s already registered eight interceptions and three touchdowns. Cohen, a 5-foot-6 running back, has tallied 1,892 yards and 11 touchdowns from scrimmage in two seasons. He’s averaging 6.1 yards per touch. He’s a near-perfect fit for the modern NFL and more specifically, Matt Nagy’s creative offense that (rightfully) places an emphasis on pass-catching running backs.

And then there’s Nichols, a defensive tackle who played in 14 games with six starts and recorded 28 combined tackles, three sacks, five tackles for a loss, and seven quarterback hits as a fifth-round rookie. Because he plays on the same defensive front as Mack and Akiem Hicks, Nichols’ production this past season was often overlooked. But if you turn on the film, he immediately jumps off the screen. He doesn’t just look like a future starter. He looks like a potential star in the making.

The Bears got significant production out of Amos, Howard, Nichols, Jackson, and Cohen last season for a combined cap hit of $4,647,308. That’s what gave them the freedom to commit $13.8 million in cap space to Mack after already committing more than $11.8 million in cap space to Robinson. Hitting on draft picks results in cheap rookies resulting in the financial flexibility to commit dollars and resources elsewhere.

Mitchell Trubisky Jersey

Ethan Asofsky isn’t Mitch Trubisky’s buddy. The 2013 University of Illinois graduate and second year UCLA law school student was on Thursday’s telecast of “The Price Is Right” and as he was spinning the game show’s big wheel, he name-checked the Bears quarterback, among others.

He thanked “my fiancee, Hillary, my pal Matt from law school who’s here with me and Mitchell Trubisky, my buddy.”

Moments later Asofsky tweeted in response: “Hey Dan, Ethan here from the price is right. Thanks for posting! I don’t actually know Mitchell Trubisky.”

Asofsky, who grew up in Highland Park, told the Tribune that he and his real buddy Matt O’Donnell, a fellow law school student, decided to take a break from the books and attend a taping of “The Price Is Right” last month at CBS studios near his apartment. It was their first time going to the show.

While in line, Asofsky and O’Donnell, both Bears fans, hatched the idea to call out Trubisky’s name if they defied the odds and got on stage. “We thought it would be picture-perfect hilarious,” he said.

Remarkably, Asofsky, 27, not only was summoned to play but reached the dramatic wheel-spinning stage for a chance to compete in the “showcase showdown.”

“I should have said ‘Bear Down,’ but I was so nervous I said ‘my buddy.’ … it was just a hilarious slip of the tongue.”

He said he was flooded with questions today from people who wanted to know how he knew Trubisky, whom he never has met.

Not only is Asofsky getting all this attention for his Trubisky moment, he also won a 58-inch television and a hard-boiled egg maker on the show.

“It was all in good fun,” Asofsky said. “Memories for a lifetime.”

Anthony Miller Jersey

Chicago Bears wide receiver Anthony Miller showed plenty of promise in the 2018 NFL season. It appears he managed to flash his potential with only one healthy arm all year.

Miller’s season came to an end due to a shoulder injury. According to Colleen Kane of the Chicago Tribune, he is looking forward to being fully healthy next season.

Miller’s optimism is certainly understandable. Making the transition from college to the NFL is always difficult for a rookie. It is much harder when they are not fully healthy. Fortunately, he still managed to justify Chicago’s investment in him.

The Bears traded a 2019 second-rounder in exchange for a second-round pick in last year’s draft. He managed to finish his rookie campaign with 33 receptions for 423 yards and seven touchdowns in 15 games before ultimately opting for shoulder surgery in the offseason. It is clear that he has high expectations for himself moving forward.

Chicago enjoyed a bit of a resurgence on offense last season under head coach Matt Nagy. Miller was among the notable playmakers the front office brought in to help add some firepower to quarterback Mitch Trubisky’s arsenal. Although wide receiver Allen Robinson has served as the team’s top wideout, Anthony Miller will have an opportunity to solidify the No. 2 spot across from him.

Regardless, the Bears will likely take a cautious approach with his recovery.

Roquan Smith Jersey

The Chicago Bears found that out during the 2018 season. After years of struggles under head coaches like Marc Trestman and John Fox, Matt Nagy put the Bears on the right path. The defense was one of the biggest reasons why the Bears took off last year and inside linebacker Roquan Smith showed signs of major progression week in and week out.

The Bears are set to restart offseason workouts later this month and Smith is excited to get to work soon with his teammates.

Smith photo shows him excited in a game last year with a quote talking about getting to be “with your boys” during the offseason for workouts. Smith stands to be a key part of Chicago’s defense this upcoming season with Chuck Pagano at the helm as defensive coordinator.

The Bears took Smith with the eighth overall pick in last year’s draft. After spending all the offseason workouts with the team, Smith did not join the team for the start of training camp as he was involved in a contract dispute. Smith missed all of training camp while working out the details of his contract. He eventually signed his deal in August, but conditioning and a minor injury kept him off the field in the preseason.

He began Week 1 on the bench behind starters Danny Trevathan and Nick Kwiatkoski. When he got onto the field for the first time in that Week 1 game against the Green Bay Packers, Smith recorded his first career sack on Sunday Night Football. He went on to see action in all 16 games and made 14 starts for the Bears.

Smith ended the regular season with 121 tackles, five sacks, five pass deflections and one interception. Only Brian Urlacher in 2000 recorded more tackles as a rookie in a Bears uniform. In Chicago’s playoff loss to the Philadelphia Eagles in the Wild Card round, Smith recorded seven tackles, one pass deflection and one interception. It took him a couple of games to get into a rhythm on defense, but it was evident late in the season just how big of an impact he can make on the field.

He and Trevathan are set to continue their run as the team’s starting inside linebackers. Trevathan also had a solid 2018 campaign. He started all 16 games for the first time since the 2013 season when he was with the Denver Broncos. He ended last year with 102 tackles, two sacks, six pass deflections, two interceptions and one forced fumble. Trevathan and Smith proved to be a formidable duo last season on the inside.

The Bears will get the first phase of their offseason kicked off later this month before diving deeper into OTAs in the upcoming months before eventually hitting training camp in late July in Bourbonnais, Illinois.

Khalil Mack Jersey

Few believe the Raiders did the right thing by trading Khalil Mack last September. The MIT Sloan Sports Analytics Conference nevertheless recognized the trade as being the best of the year in all professional sports.

“I think it was the only award we got last year,” Raiders coach Jon Gruden tells Peter King of Football Morning in America.

It remains a hollow prize, with most non-MIT-types realizing that the purpose of the draft is to turn lottery tickets into rare jackpots, and then to keep the rare jackpots in place without succumbing to the allure of trading them for more lottery tickets. Gruden now justifies the decision not to pay Mack by pointing to this year’s rash of acquisitions.

“If we did come up with the money to make the [Mack] contract happen last year, we wouldn’t have any of these men we’re talking about now,” Gruden tells King. “We would not have [tackle] Trent Brown. We would not have [receiver] Antonio Brown. We wouldn’t have [safety] Lamarcus Joyner. We wouldn’t have [linebacker] Vontaze Burfict and we wouldn’t have [receiver] Tyrell Williams. And we wouldn’t have the three first-rounders that we’re talking about.”

But that’s not accurate. First, teams can do a lot more with the cap than they claim that they can do. While it’s possible that the Raiders were limited more by cash concerns, it’s not as hard as it used to be to create cap space to permit moves that a team wants to make — especially with the cap going by up more than $10 million every year.

Second, as it relates to Mack, the Raiders ended up backed against a financial wall because they incorrectly assumed that Mack would play out his fifth-year option in 2018, and they stubbornly refused to give him a new deal. If they’d realized that he wasn’t going to show up without that new deal, and if they’d paid him before Aaron Donald broke the bank on the Friday of Labor Day weekend, the Raiders surely could have gotten Mack for less than what the Bears paid.

And let’s consider what the Bears paid. At $23.5 million per year, they set a new high-water mark for defensive players even while giving up multiple draft picks to get him. If they could have gotten Mack on the open market, they would have paid somewhere between $25 million and $30 million per year for Mack.

The Raiders, if they’d properly handled Mack a year ago at this time, likely could have had him for $20 million per year, and maybe even a little less than that. (Before Donald got to $22.5 million annually, the highest-paid defensive player was Von Miller, at just over $19 million per year.) That extra $3.5 million per year would have helped pay for their 2019 free agents.

Would they have signed all of them? Probably not. But with Antonio Brown essentially replacing receiver Amari Cooper‘s current and future cap and cash burden, the question becomes whether it makes more sense to have Khalil Mack or Trent Brown, Lamarcus Joyner, Vontaze Burfict, and Tyrell Williams. Even if one or more of those guys could have been signed if Mack hadn’t been traded, it doesn’t take a degree from MIT to conclude that Mack can do far more to impact games and deliver victories than those other four players combined.

The goal when drafting players continues to be finding potential Hall of Famers. When a team finds those potential Hall of Famers, the challenge becomes finding a way to keep them around, for a second contract, a third, and maybe a fourth.

To truly justify the trade, the Raiders need to get a future Hall of Famer with one of the first-rounders acquired for Mack. If they do, they need to figure out how to keep him.