Wednesday Lynx Package: Arlington Heights Traffic, Don’t Forget Paris & Moore(2Life)!

| March 22nd, 2023

We’re entering something of quiet period between the height of free agency and the draft, unless you’re someone who finds prospect visits and pro days fascinating. So, let’s see what is being discussed out there.

  • Next week, DBB will be holding our second annual pledge drive. With a full graduate school workload, this last year would have been near-impossible to execute on the site without the support from last year’s drive. Here’s hoping we have another successful week and can enthusiastically steer the ship into the lead-up to the draft.
  • SHOCKER! Arlington Heights residents are now worried that bringing the Bears to their neighborhood will create a “traffic nightmare”. Why are they worried? Because every single stadium built in a suburb creates a traffic nightmare. Go to Foxboro, or the Meadowlands, or Inglewood. Everyone arguing otherwise is kidding themselves.
  • ICYMI. Ryan Poles was convinced he could trade back twice in the first round, accruing an additional first pound pick in 2024. Instead, he took the Panthers offer, specifically because DJ Moore was in it. No brainer for Poles. Draft picks are rolling the dice and hoping for a six. Moore is an accomplished NFL wide receiver, a true top guy, that makes his club better immediately.
  • ACTUAL BEAR NEWS: New Mexico’s Department of Game and Fish is now hiring “bear huggers”. And yes, it’s as adorable as it sounds.
  • Teams are starting to leak their intentions when it comes to drafting Jalen Carter, but none of them should be believed. Carter is a tremendous talent, and he has a month of meetings to convince NFL franchises that his character concerns are overstated. (For the record, I don’t see Carter as a game changer at the next level.)
  • Sometimes I get a good vibe about a player after reading a few profiles, and I’m getting that vibe about Ohio State OT Paris Johnson Jr. From Doug Lesmerises at Cleveland.com: “Hard to imagine the Bears not getting a good vibe from Johnson, who was a student journalist at Ohio State, who started a charity to help veterans, who always seems comfortable with who he is. He was on the OSU roster with Fields in 2020 as a freshman even though he didn’t start. Fields was the focus of a lot of combine questions, and Johnson went into a staunch defense of him, ending with, ‘He has all the intangibles that you want.'”
  • Mel Kiper has his flaws when it comes to draft analysis, but he joins a growing chorus on Northwestern’s Peter Skoronski, suggesting the kid is destined to at least start his NFL career at guard. If that is the case, would the Bears be interested if they decide to take a lineman early, as Johnson Jr. and Georgia’s Broderick Jones will also likely be on the board when they choose?
  • DJ Moore’s Moore2Life Foundation “supports at-risk youth and families in need through resource distribution, educational advancement, and mentorship-based programming. Growing up with a single mom in the heart of Philadelphia, Moore witnessed gun shots, sirens, and violence on a regular basis. Through the eyes of his young daughter, Ari, Moore intends to change that viewpoint and show the importance of giving back.” Here’s hoping that DJ can bring these efforts to Chicago in the coming years. It is needed.

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Yet Another Look at the “Underrated” DJ Moore [VIDEO]

| March 21st, 2023

Things that seem very evident with videos like these, and just DJ Moore tape, generally:

  • He’s constantly open deep and consistently overthrown by bad quarterbacks. One does wonder how much production these quarterbacks have cost him.
  • He does two things the Bears have desperately needed: he runs in the middle of the field and makes contested catches.
  • He wins matchups with top corners at the line of scrimmage.

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Bought & Sold: Free Agency, American Sport and the Question of Language

| March 20th, 2023

[Note: These ideas are not entirely fleshed out. But since I have this space, I thought I would start fleshing them out in public.]

Writing a unique NFL column at this time of the year is often a difficult proposition. Look around the internet and you’ll understand what I mean. Everybody writes their “free agents to target” piece, and then their “free agents acquired” piece, and then their “free agents still available” piece, and then their “free agency round-up” piece. The kids doing this can utilize video and throw around buzzy terminology like “sudden route runner”. The byline brigade will get their off-the-record scout sources to take a break from filing a 13-page report on some Vanderbilt slot corner to provide some punch-up quotations. (“Our pro personnel guys see him as a starter.”) None of it is offensive. But none of it is particularly interesting, either.


So today I want to consider something that has long interested me when it comes to the NFL, and really the whole of American sport: language. When a European soccer club acquires a player, they “buy” him and the club they buy him from “sells” him. When a team gives a player to another team, that player is said to be out “on loan”. Players are property, athletic commodities possessed by supremely rich ownership groups, and the language used to reflect their movement in the sport reflects that. It’s honest. It’s real.

But we don’t use that kind of language here. Why? The Bears just bought Tremaine Edmunds. They own his ability to play football for the length of their agreed-upon contract. (For the Marxists in the audience, this would be his “labor value”.) But we use language like “signed him” because it’s a fine way to pretend the player possesses an autonomy he does not, in fact, possess. There is a softness to the word “signing”. It gives the player agency, as he is the one always photographed doing the signing. (We never see George McCaskey putting ink to paper.) “Buying” denotes the harsher reality.

When we hear language like, “Team X cut Player Y to Save Z” do we actually acknowledge that phrase as meaning “The Moon Monkeys fired Jim Tawilliger to save a buck”? A “cap casualty” is an economically driven pink slip, an acknowledgement to the player that the contract initially signed was (in the long run) bullshit and a reminder that his child most likely needs to make a whole new set of friends in a whole new city. Can you imagine this language being employed in any other profession on the earth? “Sorry, Bill, you’re a good employee but now you cost too much and we have set an arbitrary limit on how much we can spend on our workforce.”

And what of the salary cap, generally? ESPN pays $1.1 billion annually for Monday Night Football. Amazon pays $1 billion a year for Thursday Night Football. The three networks also kick in about a billion each year, with YouTube now ponying up another $2 billion for Sunday Ticket. That’s more than $7 billion dollars, which divided by 32, means television contracts ALONE bring each team about $220 million annually. Before a ticket is sold. Before a beer leaves the hand of a vendor. Before you get your kid that Justin Fields jersey for Christmas. The reported revenue for the Chicago Bears was $520 million in 2021. What is the salary cap next year? $224.8 million. And folks wonder why the owners pay Roger Goodell what they do.

One might argue that the European model is not a good comparison since teams don’t technically sell players to other teams. Well of course they do. They just don’t do it transparently, for money, because of the salary cap. Baseball trades often involve cash considerations, and those considerations are rarely disclosed. NFL trades don’t involve cash because it would just be billionaire owners lining each other’s pockets and that would appear unseemly. So, they trade another commodity: the draft pick. To front offices and coaches, draft picks are players that can make the roster better. To owners, draft picks are price tag.

We use the language we do for one reason: it’s easier on us. Soft terminology allows us to distance ourselves from the reality of this ruthless business. The fan relationship with sport is dependent upon a belief that the players on the field want to win a championship as much as they do. And while most are desperate to win a chip, most also don’t care where they win that chip. Their value is in their athletic ability, and they want to play where that ability yields the most financial security. In other words, they are for sale, whether we want to acknowledge that or not.

Read More …

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Brief Notes on the Week One Free Agent Signings

| March 18th, 2023

The Bears were aggressive over the first week of free agency, as Ryan Poles now begins the process of rebuilding the roster he needed to tear down in 2022. Here are thoughts (with a few insider-type notes) on the signing writ large.

  • There was a bidding war for the services of Tremaine Edmunds, with Buffalo South (the Giants) also making an aggressive bid for his services. Here’s what I know about Edmunds. His former DC, Les Frazier, called the Bears to congratulate them on the signing. Two people who formally worked with him, Joe Schoen and Brian Daboll, were all-in for him. The man who invented the phrase Bills Mafia, Del Reid, texted me to say the Bears got a good one. If you’re cynical about this signing, it’s because you just want to be cynical.
  • P.J. Walker is one of those signings that gives me confidence in this front office. It does not make sense for the Bears to have a quarterback backing up Fields that cannot run his offense. Walker can. Is he a great player? No. There aren’t enough good STARTING quarterbacks, let alone backups. But Walker is 4-3 as a starter. If Fields misses a few games due to injury, Walker can hold down the position and perhaps sneak a few victories. That’s all you can ask for from a backup QB.
  • I was once having a conversation an NFL personnel man and he said something profound: “Most evaluators can never escape their college grades.” When Poles was asked about Travis Homer he said, “That’s a guy I’ve loved since college.” Homer is only 24 years old. It won’t be surprising if Poles envisions a larger role for him in this offense than many of us expect.

Read More …

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What I’ve Learned About Fans (and NFL Conversation) Over the Last Week

| March 17th, 2023

Twitter has been a wild place since Monday morning, and arguably since its inception. But Elon’s “For You” function has become a bit of a guilty pleasure for me because that feed seems to understand my uncontrollable desire to watch cats do ANYTHING while also thinking I care even SLIGHTLY about the World Baseball Classic. It’s an emotional maelstrom, replete with an equal number of “Awww” and “Who the hell is Tim Anderson” outbursts. The stream also highlights the Tweets of many Bears fans I do not follow and do not know and their moment-to-moment responses to this free agency has been…interesting. (Full disclosure: I have started muting and blocking most of them.)

What have I learned?

  • Most fans care way more about your ability to break a scoop than your ability to put together a great sentence, which for a writer is more than mildly dejecting. 75% of Tweets from fans are asking writers and media what they hear about potential future transactions. I’ve more than doubled my follower total since I got in the scoop business, and I can’t wait to be out of it.
  • There are numerous fans on the platform who can name the 13th best running back in the 2023 NFL Draft but can’t name a single starting offensive lineman in the AFC South. How does this happen? 15-20% of the players drafted in April will be relevant in the league. 100% of those AFC South linemen are relevant in the league.
  • The phrase “off-ball linebacker” needs to be retired. Tremaine Edmunds was signed by the Bears to a large contract specifically because of his ability to impact the football. He’s not a downhill, hole plugger like Lance Briggs. He’s a monstrous speedster, great in a coverage, whose range and length impacts throwing lanes as well as any linebacker in the league.
    • And I say this as someone who hasn’t missed a Bills game in several years. I had a business relationship with the head of Bills Mafia. One of my best friends is a die hard, and another close friend works in their building. I know that roster as well as I know the one in Chicago.
  • The battle has been waged and PFF has won. So many fans, and now media members, use their absurd grades in arguments now. These grades have zero value in NFL front offices but that doesn’t seem to matter in the public debate. PFF is in the bloodstream.
  • Every single starter on the 2022 Eagles offense was acquired via the draft, with AJ Brown being acquired with draft picks. Yet fans still think you can buy your way out of the basement in free agency. Bears fans on Twitter really wanted the Bears to buy a dozen new starters. When has that ever worked in the sport?
  • In the “what have you done for me lately” department: it has been amazing how many fans simply moved on from the DJ Moore acquisition, the most important acquisition made by any team this off-season. Moore is a veritable Number One receiver, and the consensus is one of those was not available in FA or the draft.
  • Two things that are driving much of the debate re: the Bears, and neither are surprising.
    • Fan obsession with Justin Fields. For many of these social media folks, arguing about Fields on the platforms is a full-time job. Poles not overpaying for a mid-level right tackle is considered a personal insult by many of these folks.
    • Fan belief in the quick turnaround. Can the Bears win the NFC North? Yep. Lions are currently +160, Vikings +275, Bears +330 and Packers +400 to win it. It is a crap shoot. But this will not be a championship-contending roster, even with a remarkable draft class. This is the year where the club/program needs to show significant progress and play meaningful games in the second half of the schedule.

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Free Agency Day One, Open Thread

| March 15th, 2023

DBB is on spring break this week. And in lieu of spending the week drunk and shirtless in Daytona Beach, I’m hanging out with Sarah and the cats in Queens while doing very little mental labor. So, we’ll start this week with a series of three open threads during the legal tampering period and opening day of free agency, allowing the comments section to be the place to discuss the moves/non-moves. Thursday we will return with some longer reflections. 


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Legal Tampering Day Two, Open Thread

| March 14th, 2023

DBB is on spring break this week. And in lieu of spending the week drunk and shirtless in Daytona Beach, I’m hanging out with Sarah and the cats in Queens while doing very little mental labor. So, we’ll start this week with a series of three open threads during the legal tampering period and opening day of free agency, allowing the comments section to be the place to discuss the moves/non-moves. Thursday we will return with some longer reflections. 


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Legal Tampering Day One, Open Thread

| March 13th, 2023

DBB is on spring break this week. And in lieu of spending the week drunk and shirtless in Daytona Beach, I’m hanging out with Sarah and the cats in Queens while doing very little mental labor. So, we’ll start this week with a series of three open threads during the legal tampering period and opening day of free agency, allowing the comments section to be the place to discuss the moves/non-moves. Thursday we will return with some longer reflections. 


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