Three Bears storylines at the NFL Scouting Combine

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With the NFL Scouting Combine upcoming and free agency and the draft on the horizon, the 2018 version of the Chicago Bears will slowly take shape over the next few months. Here are some things to watch as the NFL’s “underwear Olympics” kicks off.

1. What will the Bears do with CB Kyle Fuller?….After the Bears declined the fifth-year option, Fuller turned in his strongest season since his rookie campaign and will look to get paid. Chicago General Manager Ryan Pace’s decision looks precarious now, as the Bears may be forced to franchise tag Fuller in order to keep him. The franchise tag won’t come cheaply (approximately $14-15 million) and though Chicago has plenty of cap space, that’s a lot of money to sink into one player and position. The Bears other corner, Prince Amukumara, is also a free agent. If the Bears allow Fuller to hit the market, it’s highly unlikely he returns to Chicago.  The deadline for franchise players is March 6, which means Pace may have his plan formulated when the Bears entourage hits Indy.

2. How do the Bears upgrade the Wide Receiver position?….Some draft analysts speculate the position lacks top-ten talent, and while that may be an accurate assessment, the position does offer value and depth through the middle rounds.  SMU’s Courtland Sutton, Colorado State’s Michael Gallup, and Indiana’s Simmie Cobbs offer the big-bodied type wideouts who can make the contested catch in one-on-one situations. Memphis’ Anthony Miller and Texas A&M’s Christian Kirk possess the speed to separate and deliver explosive plays.

In free agency, the field might be limited due to some franchise tags (Miami’s Jarvis Landry, Jacksonville and the Rams potentially tagging Allen Robinson and Sammy Watkins respectively) but there are certainly options to pursue. The combine is fertile ground for initial discussions with agents on possible contract details. Expect the Bears to engage other clubs as well regarding trades. Pittsburgh’s Martavis Bryant is rumored to be available after an up-and-down 2017 season in which he was largely relegated to a supporting role after the emergence of rookie Ju Ju Smith-Schuster.

3. What effect does Matt Nagy and his coaching staff play in talent acquisition?….After the Bears decided to move on from Guard Josh Sitton, it was widely assumed the team would target Notre Dame Guard Quenton Nelson with the eighth overall pick due to Harry Hiestand, Nelson’s former line coach with the Irish, hired for the same job in Chicago. While that may or may not happen, Hiestand’s first-hand experience and knowledge should be helpful in evaluating offensive line prospects, another likely need area.  Similarly, new Offensive Coordinator Mark Helfrich enters the NFL with a college background, most recently as Oregon head coach. His opinions should prove valuable in scouting meetings as a cross-check to the Bears analysis.

Next up: A scouting combine primer with emphasis on possible Bears’ targets.

 

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