LAKE FOREST, Ill. — The Chicago Bears‘ never-ending search for a franchise quarterback could have another chapter after general manager Ryan Pace declined to say that the team intends to re-sign 2017 second overall pick Mitchell Trubisky.
“As far as the plan at quarterback, to get to where we want to go, we definitely need more out of that position,” Pace said Wednesday after he and coach Matt Nagy were given a vote of confidence.
“Everything is on the table.”
Trubisky’s future in Chicago has been tenuous ever since the Bears traded for veteran Nick Foles last April and declined Trubisky’s fifth-year option a little over a month later.
Trubisky went on to win the starting job over Foles to open the season, but Nagy benched Trubisky, 26, in favor of Foles in Week 3.
An injury to Foles — coupled with ineffective play — opened the door for Trubisky to return to the starting lineup in late November, and he helped Chicago revive its playoff hopes with three straight wins versus Houston, Minnesota and Jacksonville.
The spark that Trubisky provided proved fleeting. The Bears lost at home in Week 17 to Green Bay. Chicago backed into the playoffs and the NFC’s seventh seed courtesy of the Rams’ victory over the Cardinals in the regular-season finale but then had a dreadful offensive performance in the playoffs versus the Saints.
Overall, the Bears dropped eight of their final 11 games after having begun the year 5-1.
Chicago went 1-7 against playoff teams.
Still, Trubisky expressed a willingness to return to Chicago next season, telling reporters in the aftermath of the season-ending loss to New Orleans that he had “unfinished business” with the team.
That may be so, but the Bears made no promises Wednesday to extend Trubisky or apply the franchise tag. Instead, Pace and Nagy spoke at length about the importance of improving the position that has been a problem for the Bears since Hall of Famer Sid Luckman retired in the 1940s.
In recent times, Pace infamously traded up to draft Trubisky over Patrick Mahomes and Deshaun Watson in 2017. Mere weeks before obtaining Trubisky, the Bears signed free-agent quarterback Mike Glennon to a deal that included $18.5 million in guarantees. The Bears pulled the plug on Glennon after just four starts and were forced to prematurely usher in the Trubisky era.
“Why do we feel strong about getting that position right?” Pace said. “It goes back to the connected vision I share with Matt.
“I just have a lot of confidence in the unity we have as coaching staff and personnel department, but mainly that Matt and I have at attacking that together.”
Foles, 31, is the only Bears quarterback under contract for next year. The veteran will count approximately $6.6 million against the 2021 salary cap.
In other news:
• Pace said star pass-rusher Khalil Mack is unlikely to require offseason surgery to repair the shoulder injury that bothered him much of the year. Mack still led the Bears with nine sacks.
• The Bears are hopeful veteran pass-rusher Robert Quinn can have a bounce-back season in 2021. Quinn, who signed a deal last offseason that contained $30 million in guarantees, recorded just two sacks for the Bears. Pace all but conceded that Quinn will return in 2021 — largely because his salary next year is fully guaranteed.
“We expect him to rebound,” Pace said. “I think having an offseason being with us, I think that will bode well for him. Together with him and with us and our plan, we have to find a way to help him get more production, and I believe that he will.”
• Nagy announced that the search to replace retiring defensive coordinator Chuck Pagano will begin in earnest. Nagy does not believe Chicago’s current predicament will prevent outside parties from having interest in the position. Nagy has two years left on the five-year contract he received to coach the Bears. Pace has one year left on the three-year extension he signed in 2018. Bears CEO and president Ted Phillips said neither Nagy nor Pace received any additional years on their contracts after Chicago’s 8-9 finish.
• Pace remained noncommittal about the future of wide receiver Allen Robinson, who will be a free agent unless the Bears use the franchise tag. The Bears and Robinson’s agent were unable to come to terms on a long-term deal during the season, and talks eventually broke off. Robinson, 27, led the team with 102 catches for 1,250 yards.
“You know how we feel about Allen, how respected he is in the building,” Pace said. “But to get into specifics on his contract, you guys also know I’m not going to get into that. In regard to the franchise tag, I would just say everything is on the table. The league gives us tools for a reason, but right now we’re just going to keep all those talks internal out of respect to Allen, out of respect to his agent. I just think those are best handled in a private manner.”
• Nagy punted when asked whether he intended to reclaim offensive playcalling duties next season. Nagy insisted that offensive coordinator Bill Lazor served as the team’s primary playcaller for the final eight games. Nagy, however, declined to say whether he plans to carry over the arrangement into next year.
Detroit Lions, ex-Las Vegas Raiders WR Tyrell Williams reach deal, source says
Williams, who missed the entire 2020 season because of a torn labrum in his shoulder that required surgery, was released by the Las Vegas Raiders last month.
He signed a four-year, $44.4 million contract that included $22 million guaranteed with the Raiders as a free agent in 2019. All the guaranteed money has been paid out in his contract and the Raiders saved $11.6 million against their cap by releasing him.
Williams, who turned 29 in February, had 42 catches for 651 yards and six touchdowns for the Raiders in 2019. But plantar fasciitis in both feet slowed him and he missed two games.
He spent the first four seasons of his career with the Chargers and had 155 receptions for 2,530 yards and 17 touchdowns in 55 games. His best season came in 2016 when he had 69 receptions for 1,059 yards and seven touchdowns.
New York Jets GM Joe Douglas open to Sam Darnold offers, downplays idea of trading for a star player
“I will answer the call if it’s made,” general manager Joe Douglas said Wednesday in a video conference with reporters, confirming previous reports that the Jets are willing to field inquiries.
The Jets are facing a major quarterback decision: Stay with Darnold, draft a replacement with the second overall pick or perhaps pursue Houston Texans star Deshaun Watson if he becomes available — a potential scenario that Douglas downplayed.
Douglas said he’s in no rush to make a quarterback decision, but there’s a pressing deadline with regard to safety Marcus Maye, a pending free agent whose agent lashed out at the Jets on Tuesday night on social media. The GM dismissed the criticism, saying the goal is to sign Maye to a long-term contract. Failing that, they could use the franchise tag by next Tuesday’s deadline.
The quarterback drama remains the headline, especially in light of Darnold’s struggles.
At the 2019 trading deadline, Douglas said he’d listen to offers on every player except a franchise quarterback – and he put Darnold in that category. Clearly, that position has changed. Since the end of the season, the organization has remained non-committal on Darnold.
“As it pertains to Sam, we think Sam is a dynamic player in this league with unbelievable talent,” Douglas said. “He really has a chance to hit his outstanding potential moving forward. (But) if calls are made, I will answer them.”
The Jets have received multiple calls from interested teams, ESPN’s Adam Schefter reported previously. Their plan is to evaluate the top quarterbacks in the draft before making a decision on Darnold. The top candidate with the No. 2 pick is thought to be BYU’s Zach Wilson. Douglas said they’re gathering “as much information — good information — as we possibly can” on the available quarterbacks. Another option is sticking with Darnold and trading the second pick for a haul of draft picks.
The wild card is Watson. With two first-round picks in the upcoming draft, and two more in 2022, the Jets have the ammunition to pull off a trade of that caliber.
By rule, Douglas is prohibited from commenting directly on Watson, but he didn’t seem enthused about the prospect of trading significant draft capital for one player. That, of course, could be posturing.
“Obviously, we have a lot of different scenarios and a lot of different rabbit holes we can go down,” he said, responding to a general question about a potential blockbuster deal. “Not to get so much into a hypothetical question, but I just go back to (our philosophy).
“For us to get to where the great teams are, the most consistent teams are, you do that through the draft. It’s the most team-friendly market in sports. For us to be a team that’s consistently competing for Super Bowls, we have to hit on our draft picks.”
The Jets have a history of trading away top draft picks. They traded unhappy safety Jamal Adams last summer, and now Maye — his former sidekick — appears to be disenchanted with negotiations. Agent Erik Burkhardt tweeted the Jets “refuse to take care of their best player, captain and team-voted MVP.”
…Yet refuse to take care of their best player, Captain, & team-voted MVP in his prime who had several All-Pro votes…and who played out his entire rookie deal and even changed positions on his contract year (after they got rid of last yrs All-Pro safety). ✌🏼
— Erik Burkhardt (@ErikBurkhardt) March 3, 2021
Douglas brushed it off, indicating it’s part of the business and negotiations. He said they’ve had “productive conversations” with Maye’s agents, adding, “Our plan hasn’t changed. We’re in the process of working to have Marcus be here long term.”
Free agent Bud Dupree expects to be ready for an NFL training camp after tearing ACL in December
One of the top pass-rushers in free agency is getting healthier.
Pittsburgh Steelers outside linebacker Bud Dupree, who tore his ACL on Dec. 2 against the Baltimore Ravens, told ESPN he plans to be a full participant in an NFL training camp based on positive feedback from his doctors.
Dupree has been rehabbing diligently since the injury, and the Steelers have been pleased with his progress. Nearly two weeks ahead of when free agency begins on March 17, Dupree has kept in communication with the Steelers, who would like to bring Dupree back but have a $15.5 million salary-cap deficit. The expectation is they will at least stay involved with Dupree as free agency approaches, even if they can’t meet his market.
Dupree’s potential new team can determine how much they may want to limit him in camp, but his plan is to be fully available.
He played on a $15.8 million franchise tag in 2020, and a second tag would cost Pittsburgh $18.9 million.
Dupree had 8 sacks, 31 combined tackles, 8 tackles for loss and 15 quarterback hits last season before his injury.
He hit his stride with 11.5 sacks during the 2019 season, which marked his healthiest season since being taken by the Steelers out of Kentucky in the first round of the 2015 draft.
ESPN’s Brooke Pryor contributed to this report.
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