In case you missed it
Nagy reshuffles coaching staff; gm pace adds foles to compete with trubisky
Welcome back, football.
After an awkward and difficult offseason for the entire NFL because of the coronavirus quarantine, the Bears are scheduled to begin training camp Tuesday. It won’t be business as usual, with COVID-19 protocols to maximize player safety almost certain to cause hiccups. The preseason schedule already has been eliminated; and actual practices likely won’t be held for three weeks as players get back into football shape after a “virtual” offseason away from Halas Hall.
But to many NFL fans, any football is a return to normalcy and will be welcomed. And in that spirit, here is a catch-up review of the Bears’ offseason since a 21-19 victory over the Vikings — remember that? — concluded a disappointing 8-8 season:
Ch-Ch-Changes . . .
After quarterback Mitch Trubisky and the offense flopped when they were supposed to take off in 2019, coach Matt Nagy overhauled his offensive coaching staff, firing three assistant coaches, with a presumed emphasis on improving the Bears’ 27th-ranked run game.
Offensive line coach Harry Hiestand was replaced by Juan Castillo, who coached with Nagy in 2010-12 on Andy Reid’s staff with the Eagles. He last was in the NFL in 2018 as offensive line coach of the Bills.
Offensive coordinator Mark Helfrich was replaced by former Bengals offensive coordinator Bill Lazor, who was the Bengals’ offensive line coach in 2017-18.
Tight ends coach Kevin Gilbride was replaced by Clancy Barone, who was the offensive line coach on the Broncos’ Super Bowl winning team in 2015. He was last in the NFL in 2018, as the Vikings’ offensive line coach.
Nagy also hired former Jaguars offensive coordinator John DeFilippo as quarterbacks coach and moved quarterbacks coach Dave Ragone to a new position of passinggame coordinator. DeFilippo was the Eagles’ quarterbacks coach when they won the Super Bowl in 2017.
Additionally, assistant special teams coach Brock Olivo was replaced by Brian Ginn, who was the Bears’ offensive quality control coach last season. And senior offensive assistant Brad Childress decided to leave the organization.
Trubisky vs. Foles
General manager Ryan Pace affirmed his belief in Trubisky in his annual season-ending news conference. “Mitch is our starter and we believe in Mitch and we believe in the progress that he’s going to continue to make,” Pace said.
As it turned out, it was a soft endorsement and Pace ultimately showed his hand. The Bears not only traded for Jaguars quarterback Nick Foles but later acknowledged that Trubisky and Foles would engage in an open competition for the starting job. The Bears also restructured Foles’ contract — turning the four-year, $88 million deal he signed with the Jaguars in 2019 into a three-year, $24 million contract, with $21 million guaranteed.
The Bears also declined the fifth-year option on Trubisky’s rookie contract — even Trubisky understood that move. “I felt like the way I played didn’t merit that,” he said.
Trubisky had surgery on his left (nonthrowing) shoulder in January and proclaimed himself “100 percent” on a podcast with former teammate Chase Daniel in April.
Linebacker Roquan Smith had surgery on his torn pectoral muscle that he suffered against the Cowboys on Dec. 5. Anthony Miller had surgery on his left shoulder for the second consecutive season after he was injured on a kickoff against the Vikings in the season finale.
The Bears expect all three players to be ready for training camp. Defensive end Akiem Hicks (elbow) and linebacker Danny Trevathan (elbow) avoided surgery and are expected to be ready for training camp.
Pace has aggressively rewarded productive players, so it was no surprise that safety Eddie Jackson signed a four-year, $58 million contract extension through the 2024 season. The deal made Jackson the highest paid safety in the NFL at $14.6 million per season.
Trevathan, who turned 30 in March and is coming off surgery to repair a dislocated elbow that forced him to miss the final seven games in 2019, signed a three-year, $24 million extension.
Wide receiver Allen Robinson was the most obvious extension candidate after his stellar season — 98 receptions for 1,147 yards and seven touchdowns — magnified his value. But it hasn’t happened yet and Robinson is set to enter the final year of his three-year, $42 million deal in 2020.
The Bears cut four veteran starters — cornerback Prince Amukamara, wide receiver Taylor Gabriel, outside linebacker Leonard Floyd and tight end Trey Burton. Amukamara signed with the Raiders (one-year, $1.2 million). Burton signed with the Colts (oneyear, $910,000). Floyd signed with the Rams (one-year, $10 million). Gabriel is unsigned.
Guard Kyle Long, seeing the writing on the wall after suddenly being put on injured reserve after playing every snap against the Raiders in Week 5 last season, announced — somewhat ambiguously — that he was retiring from football. And cornerback Ha Ha Clinton-Dix signed a one-year, $4 million contract ($2.5 million guaranteed) with the Cowboys.
Other contributors who have left: Defensive lineman Nick Williams (Lions); linebacker Nick Kwiatkoski (Raiders); linebacker Aaron Lynch (Jaguars); quarterback Chase Daniel (Lions); and linebacker Kevin PierreLouis (Redskins).
Bye, bye Bourbonnais
The Bears announced in January they would conduct training camp at their recently expanded facilities at Halas Hall in Lake Forest, abruptly ending their 18-year stay at Olivet Nazarene in Bourbonnais.
The Bears were hardly flush with cash in free agency and pinpointed two positions to splurge on. They signed pass rusher Robert Quinn (five years, $70 million, $30 million guaranteed); and tight end Jimmy Graham (two years, $16 million, $9 million guaranteed).
They also signed wide receiver Ted Ginn (one year, $1.2 million) to replace Gabriel’s speed element; safety Tashaun Gipson (one year, $1 million) to replace Clinton-Dix; tight end Demetrius Harris (one year, $1.6 million) to compete with Adam Shaheen; guard Germain Ifedi (one year, $1 million) to compete with Rashaad Coward for Long’s right guard spot; and kicker Ramiz Ahmed (three years, $2.3 million, no guarantee) to compete with incumbent Eddy Pineiro.
Other signings: linebacker Barkevious Mingo (one year, $1.1 million); defensive tackle John Jenkins (one year, $1 million); cornerbacks Artie Burns (one year, $1 million) and Tre Roberson (two years, $1.3 million, $75,000 guaranteed); safety Jordan Lucas (one year, $1 million).
The Bears did not have a first-round draft pick because they traded it to the Raiders to acquire Khalil Mack. (The Raiders used the 19th overall pick to draft Ohio State cornerback Damon Arnette.) Still, the Bears drafted two presumed first-year starters in the second round in Notre Dame tight end Cole Kmet (No. 43) and Utah cornerback Jaylon Johnson (No. 50).
Their other five picks were in the fifth round or later: Tulsa outside linebacker Trevis Gipson (fifth round) Georgia Southern cornerback Kindle Vildor (fifth); Tulane wide receiver Darnell Mooney (fifth); Tennessee State offensive lineman Lachavious Simmons (seventh); and Colorado offensive lineman Arlington Hambright (seventh).
The Bears’ list of undrafted free agents included one particularly notable name: Buffalo linebacker Ledarius Mack, the younger brother of Khalil Mack. Other intriguing signings included Kentucky wide receiver Ahmad Wagner, a college basketball player at Iowa, and Yale guard Dieter Eiselen, a former South African rugby player.
The Bears lost three notable members of their family this offseason.
Michael McCaskey, a grandson of George Halas who served as president, CEO and chairman of the board, died at 76 of cancer on May 16.
Rosey Taylor, a two-time Pro Bowl safety who starred on the Bears’ 1963 NFL championship team, died at 82 on May 29.
Ryan Wetnight, a tight end who caught 172 passes and nine touchdowns in seven seasons with the Bears from 1993-99, died of cancer at 49 on May 1.
Earl Thomas, a tight end/wide receiver who led the Bears in receptions in 1972 and 1973, died at 71 on July 4.
Defensive lineman Nick Williams (veteran) and running back David Montgomery (rookie) were voted by teammates as winners of the Brian Piccolo Award — on the 50th anniversary of Piccolo’s tragic death in 1970.
Wide receiver Robinson was named the Bears’ winner of the Ed Block Courage Award, also voted on by teammates. ✶
Mitch Trubisky will have to beat out Nick Foles to retain the Bears’ starting QB job.
Eddie Jackson became the highest paid safety in the NFL after signing a four-year, $58 million extension.
The Bears added former Cowboys pass rusher Robert Quinn (above) to replace Leonard Floyd.
Receiver Allen Robinson, who is entering the final year of his three-year deal, hopes to get an extension.