CHICAGO – It is next to impossible to write about NFL free agency during the 48-hour negotiating period that opened Monday.
Thanks to the warp speed with which agents are leaking deals for their clients to their favorite media folks a lot of our analysis and ideas become moot as players are eliminated from and added to the free agency ranks.
But for the Chicago Bears there were a few subtle moves shortly after the opening bell rang that could make for interesting and fiscally responsible options to improve themselves.
The key to the Bears getting back to the playoffs and then going deeper in the tournament this year is adding more explosion – quick strike and big play ability on offense.
Obviously Mitch Trubisky needs to take another step and become a more complete quarterback to make that happen, but he will also need improvement from the tight end and running back positions.
At tight end the Bears re-signing of Ben Braunecker is worth noting but it’s really a bottom of the roster move as his value today is on special teams and as a backup should there be injuries in front of him on the depth chart.
Trey Burton was a very good addition last season in free agency as a move tight end but while he is a willing blocker he is never going to be a 60-minute contributor.
Adam Shaheen is obviously the guy Ryan Pace and Matt Nagy have the most hope for, a player with the size and ability to become an outstanding blocker and the athleticism to be a top pass catcher whose presence on the field does nothing to slant the odds that the offense will be either running or passing.
Unfortunately the preseason injury he suffered in Denver last season caused him to take a step backwards or at best fail to improve in his second season in the league.
Just yesterday I wrote that the Jaguars' Austin Seferian-Jenkins is a free agent I’d like to see the Bears take a chance on as a 60 minute guy, but he does come with some character questions, is not yet an outstanding blocker and while he won’t command top dollar he could be a little pricey for a Bears team shopping the bargain racks due to salary cap restraints.
Ideally Shaheen becomes that guy, but for a Bears team ready to win now and knowing how fragile these competitive windows have become in the NFL it’s hard to see how they can afford to not hedge their bet at tight end.
That is why a subtle note that the Cardinals are releasing Jermaine Gresham caught my eye.
At 6-5, 260 he was once considered one of, if not the best blocking tight ends in the game and over his first five years in the league in Cincinnati he averaged 56-545, 5 TD’s.
In 2015 Gresham hit free agency and signed a one-year deal with Arizona, and then back on the market a year later he spurned a $23 million offer from the Bears and second year G.M. Ryan Pace to stay in Arizona.
Gresham has been a bit nicked up since – although he’s missed just five of 48 games – and his production has slipped as the Cards have hit the skids with 2018 the worst year of his career, and he will turn 31 in June.
But he is as high character a young man as you’ll find in the game, obviously Pace liked him a lot at one time and if the Bears continue to believe in Shaheen but agree they can’t wait on him, Gresham could become the perfect mentor for the young man, bridge to his development and an instant upgrade in the run game as well with his blocking skills.
Pace has done a nice job of increasing his cap space from a low point of about $3 million a few weeks ago to perhaps $17.5 million today.
But that’s still not enough to avoid the need to bargain hunt and on a short term basis Gresham just might be a nice fit while leaving a few extra bucks to address the safety, running back and nickel spots.