The Bears are reportedly still unsure on Ryan Pace. Let’s check in on some of his big contracts, shall we?
On offense, there are 5 veterans making >$5M/year: Allen Robinson, Cody Whitehair, Andy Dalton, Nick Foles, and Jimmy Graham.
Andy Dalton is being paid $10M to be a bad QB for 5 games. His ANY/A+ is an 83, meaning he’s 17% worse than a league average QB. $10M well spent.
Nick Foles is getting $8M/year to not even appear in a game this year.
Jimmy Graham is getting $8M/year to play 27% of his offense’s snaps (78th among TE) and have 108 receiving yards (61st).
That’s a total of $26M – 14% of the salary cap – for backups.
Now to the starters:
Allen Robinson is getting $18M this year, which is 8th among WRs in $$/year. He’s currently 73rd among NFL WRs in receiving yards, and his catch %, yards/target, and yards/reception are sub-par for the position (and way down from the last several years).
Cody Whitehair is getting paid $10.25M/year (12th among NFL G). There’s no great way to quantify OL play, but PFF has him with a 64.5 grade, which is 36th among guards. That’s the closest the Bears’ offense can come to a guy living up to his contract.
Add it all up, and the Bears are spending a total of $54M a year on these 5 veterans, who are rewarding that investment by providing Chicago with 3 backups, 1 bad starter, and 1 average starter. Tell me more about how you’re unsure if Ryan Pace should be fired…
The best place kicker in movie history?
I. A Tweet from Data.
I found that the average K finished 13th in the NFL in FG % in the Super Bowl season. 6 top 10, 8 11-19, 6 20th or worse.
So it turns out you can win a Super Bowl without a great kicker. But he can’t be too terrible; worst was 23rd in field goal percentage.
— Johnathan Wood (@Johnathan_Wood1) July 17, 2019
Data did a nice thread on Super Bowl kickers and this Tweet was the basic summation.
I agree with his basic conceit that the Bears don’t need a great kicker over the duration of the NFL season to have a great NFL season. But how many times do we need to see kickers make SIGNIFICANT kicks in the postseason to understand that this position makes and breaks postseason runs almost every season. I’m not questioning whether the Bears can win ten games with one of these kids kicking their field goals. They can. I’m questioning whether they can win a title. And that’s the goal now.
II. A Comment from the Comments
From “That Guy”:
In the last two weeks, I’ve outlined both what the Bears need to add at WR this off-season and what players in free agency should fit that profile/the new offense. At the end of that work, I came up with the following two lists, suggesting that the Bears work to sign one player from each group.
Tier 1 (750+ yard receivers)
Marqise Lee, Jordan Matthews, Mike Wallace, Emmanuel Sanders (if cut)
Tier 2 (500+ yard receivers)
Albert Wilson, Kendall Wright, John Brown, Taylor Gabriel, Paul Richardson, Jaron Brown
Now I want to look at what types of contracts those players should expect in free agency to see how expensive these moves would likely be for the Bears. In order to do that, you need to compare the contracts signed by similar players (in both age and past production) who hit free agency in recent years. This gives you a general baseline for the ballpark a new contract should probably be in, though of course there are no guarantees this is exactly how it works out.
In an effort to be as accurate as possible, I also accounted for inflation, since the cap keeps going up every year. It’s jumped by about $10 million a year every year since 2015, and is expected to do the same again this year. Thus the comparable contracts were multiplied by the following scaling factors to get the predicted value, depending on when they were signed (some slight adjustments were made for greater/worse production):
I know the salary cap can be confusing, so I try to break it down step-by-step as much as possible here. If you’re not interested in the specifics, you can just jump to the end for general numbers. All salary data comes courtesy of Spotrac.
The table below shows the Bears’ current cap situation.
Every line is important for the math, but the bottom line, highlighted in yellow, tells you they have roughly $32.1 million to spend after accounting for the likely contracts of their upcoming draft picks.
If you care where that number comes from, I’ll explain below the table. If not, just keep that $32.1 million in mind and jump to the next section.
The gray areas up top are the current cap expenses the Bears have.
This all adds up to $152.6 million. Those numbers are broken down on a player by player basis here.
As we all know, Kyle Fuller had a breakout season in 2017 after missing all of 2016 with a knee injury. He led the NFL in passes broken up and ranked 17th among all cornerbacks in both completion percentage and passer rating allowed, per Pro Football Focus. Now general manager Ryan Pace has to decide what to do with Fuller, who is set to enter unrestricted free agency as one of the top cornerbacks on the market.
Let’s take a look at his options.
One weapon at Pace’s disposal is the franchise tag, which would guarantee Fuller the average of the top 5 cap hits at the cornerback position in 2018. Right now, that would look like a one year, $15.3 million contract that is fully guaranteed (per Spotrac). Pace can choose to apply this tag at any point between February 20 and March 6, and it seems likely to happen unless the Bears and Fuller can reach a long-term agreement first.
When the Bears were on their bye week back in November, I looked at Chicago’s play-calling tendencies over rookie quarterback Mitchell Trubisky’s first four starts. In that study, I found that Dowell Loggains’ offense had been incredibly predictable through those four games. The team basically ran the ball if it was 1st or 2nd down and 10 or less and threw it if it was 2nd and 11+ or third down and anything.
This is obviously not a sustainable way to run an NFL offense, so let’s look at how those trends may have changed in the 8 games the Bears played after the bye. As before, all statistics come courtesy of the fantastic NFL play finder from Pro Football Reference.
In Trubisky’s first four starts, the Bears ran it 72% of the time on first down, but those numbers shifted dramatically following the bye. They actually passed more than running on 1st down in the last 8 games, with only 46% of their 1st downs featuring runs (I should clarify here that throughout this article passing plays are those which were called to be a pass, so either a pass attempt, sack, or QB rushing attempt, while runs are rushing attempts by anybody other than the QB. This assumes all QB runs are scrambles, which might slightly skew the data, but the Bears didn’t call many designed runs for Trubisky this year).
Sorry for the break the last few weeks. I haven’t been able to watch games live due to various holiday scheduling hijinks. Darn that real life for getting in the way!
Before we get into today’s game specifically, reports are that John Fox will be fired today. I won’t miss you as Chicago’s head coach.
In general, this game looked very much like a disinterested team playing out the string on the road for a soon-to-be-fired coaching staff against a hungry opponent playing to lock up a first round bye.
Devin Hester officially announced his retirement this week, well after NFL teams had made it obvious that his career was over. My Twitter feed was instantly flooded with highlights and memories, and I hope you’ve taken a few moments in the last couple days to remember just how special Hester was. If not, here’s a quick refresher. Well, it’s not that quick, but that’s the point; Hester’s highlight reel is a long one.
Hester is without a doubt the greatest return man in NFL history. His 20 return touchdowns are the most ever. He had 3,786 punt return yards as a Bear, more than 1,000 more than the next highest returner, and his 14.3 yards per punt return led the NFL (minimum 50 attempts) by half a yard over that stretch.
But a common argument has been that Hester’s impact extended beyond his absurd return statistics because teams prioritized kicking away from him, giving the Bears better field position. Using the terrific Game Play Finder from Pro Football Reference, I attempted to see if that actually happened. Special thanks to the wonderful Andrew Link for helping me think through how to do this.
Is this real life?
The Bears dominated on both sides of the ball, scored 30 points for the first time in over two years, and generally rolled over the dormant Cincinnati Bengals.
I know Cincinnati is bad and banged up, but so are the Bears, and this was a lot of fun. More importantly, this as led largely by young players for the Bears, which bodes well for the future. Let’s take a look at what happened.