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.

Jordan Howard Jersey

Jordan Howard is growing used to changing directions.

But that’s just off the field. When on the gridiron, he still comes pretty much straight downhill, which is why the Eagles acquired him in a trade with the Chicago Bears last week.

Howard was introduced to the media on Monday and said this latest change in his career path is basically something he’s taking in stride.

“I’ve had a different running back coach every year since college,” he said, “so I’m used to adjusting to different people and getting along with all different people.”

Just 24, Howard spent just three seasons with the Bears, which is one more season than he spent with the University of Alabama-Birmingham, which folded its program after his sophomore season.

Howard spent the next season at Indiana, then declared for the draft.

He could be somewhere else next year too, since he’s set to play out the final year of his rookie deal this coming season too.

Why the Bears would give up on someone as productive as Howard, who has gained more rushing yards than anyone not named Ezekiel Elliott or Todd Gurley since entering the NFL in 2016, is puzzling.

Howard is not considered a dynamic weapon in the passing game and his yards per carry average has declined each year since making the Pro Bowl as a rookie.

Besides, he didn’t cost much to acquire and will barely make a dent in the salary cap at $2 million this year.

Howard on Monday said he has worked hard to become a better receiver. He’s already a good blocker in the pass game, if you believe Pro Football Focus, which ranked him the most efficient pass blocker of 2018 (allowing just two pressures in 92 attempts).