Audibles From the Long Snapper: What I’m Hearing Pre-Free Agency

| March 8th, 2024

The “legal tampering” period begins Monday, and a lot is set to change around the NFL. Here are my thoughts on everything.

First, the Bears.

  • Buffalo did not want to lose Ryan Bates, but his cap number would not be sustainable for 2024. Said one Bills executive to me, “You got a good one.” Ryan Poles wanted Bates to anchor his offensive line at center two years ago, and that still could be the strategy.
    • The Bills salary purges on Wednesday were devastating in their building. Some aging veterans, sure, but a lot of leadership left that organization.
  • Don’t fret about Jaylon Johnson. The Bears will get a long-term deal done. Johnson isn’t going anywhere.
  • There were Justin Fields-to-Atlanta rumors when the Falcons were running Arthur Smith’s offense. Those rumors continued, even as the Falcons switched to Zac Robinson’s offense. In what world does Fields fit both of these offenses, especially the latter? Is this hypothetical trade based entirely on geography?
    • Most of the top-level NFL scoopmeisters believe Kirk Cousins will be the next QB of the Falcons. If that’s the case, that would further limit potential trade destinations for Fields.
  • I’ve heard some of the names on the edge linked to the Bears. I’ll continue to pound the drum for the best pure pass rusher on the market, Bryce Huff. (I would argue the 9th pick should be used on whichever position the Bears don’t fully address in FA, edge rusher or wide receiver.)
  • I’ve been wondering if the Bears would be in the market for a backup quarterback but folks I trust believe the Bears trust Tyson Bagent in that role, even with a rookie quarterback.

Around the League…

  • The specter of Bill Belichick is now haunting Brian Daboll in New Jersey.
  • Rumors have Saquon Barkley as a primary target for DeMeco Ryan and the Texans. As someone who fantasy owned their entire backfield a season ago, it is a giant hole in their roster. If Barkley stayed healthy in Houston, he’d have All Pro potential.
    • There are also rumors of Barkley to Chicago, and I think he’d have even greater potential here.

  • The other talk in New Jersey is that the Jets could blanket the offensive line in free agency. General consensus is they need AT LEAST three new starters for the unit, including one in the first round.
  • Surprised Mike Evans didn’t test the market, but there’s something to be said for personal comfort. Evans and his wife have three little kids, and a thriving foundation supporting victims of domestic violence. Did he really want to upend his family at this stage in his career for a few more million?
    • I’d also argue there’s no way he signed that contract without confirmation as to who his quarterback would be in 2024. Hard to see that not being Baker Mayfield.
  • I googled “Danielle Hunter”, and these were the teams linked to him in the first ten hits: Giants, Raiders, Jaguars, Browns, Bears, Vikings, etc. Nobody knows anything.
  • Here’s the problem with Russell Wilson: people don’t like him. Legitimately. He’s the most full of shit player in the sport, and his teammates are acutely aware of that. But that’s easy to overcome if the production is still there, and it’s not. There is not a team in the league that will view Wilson as the final piece to a championship puzzle, so where does he end up playing in 2024? I like the idea of him backing up Rodgers in Jersey. But is he willing to accept the backup’s fate?
  • I’ll be interested to monitor the wide receiver market. With guys coming out of almost every round of the draft and producing immediately, will teams want to spend resources on second and third options outside? The stars will continue being paid like stars, but how does one calculate the value of a Tyler Boyd, or Curtis Samuel, or even Darnell Mooney?
  • It seems the league is sending a message to safeties: we don’t want to pay you anymore. Justin Simmons was one of the Broncos’ best players. Xavier McKinney will be only 25 this season. I get the Broncos clearing cap, to some degree, but the Giants? How are they better in 2024 without one of their top defenders?

Comments Prompt

Outline your ideal free agency period for the Chicago Bears. Closest to the actual outcome gets a prize. I’m not sure what.

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