Message Board

The draft is always a communication device for veteran players and some Bears could receive loud messages from the team or simply have known messages reinforced
Author:
Publish date:

Veteran NFL players always approach the draft with trepidation.

They might like to see who their team brings into the mix on one hand, but dread of competition for their own job can be the predominant reaction.

In this way there can be messages sent for players about the future, or possibly with even more immediacy.

The classic case for the Bears was Mike Glennon announcing it was his year, and then Mitchell Trubisky coming to the team with the second pick of the draft.

It looked to Glennon like a comment about the team's future. The future arrived a little earlier than Glennon figured, as in five weeks into his only Bears season.

He only has a one-year contract and knows it's possible he won't be here beyond if there is a young quarterback. Glennon had a three-year deal on paper and a huge bonus compared to what Dalton received.

There are some Bears veterans who could get messages from this draft, subtle and otherwise.

1. Allen Robinson

Without a new contract yet, and designated a franchise free agent for this year, the top Bears receiving threat would discover in no uncertain terms how he'll be doing a one-and-done in Chicago if the pick in Round 1 of the draft is Minnesota's Rashod Bateman. 

The same might be communicated later in the draft if they opt for a player like Michigan's Nico Collins, but especially Batemen because he's perceived as more of a polished X-receiver candidate

2. Andy Dalton

Putting him on this list is rather silly, actually. He doesn't need a message.

Unlike Glennon, he only received a one-year deal with far less in bonus money. He may have said he's the starter, but he didn't say he had the whole year coming to him like Glennon did. If the Bears draft a quarterback early, the clock will be ticking immediately and no one should be surprised. Still, a message doesn't need to be a  surprise. 

3. Charles Leno Jr.

It's the final year of Leno's deal, but he hasn't been a bad tackle. The problem for Leno is teams don't usually draft tackles with the intention of letting them sit and learn the spot for a year like with a quarterback. 

Last year nine of the first 11 tackles drafted started 11 games or more. 

In fact, 13 of the first 18 drafted started at least 11 games, and that dipped down into players selected in Round 6.

So if the Bears draft a tackle in Rounds 1-3, and he projects as a left tackle type,  there should be no surprise if Leno's time in Chicago is shorter than expected. The final year of his contract is mostly cash and easily absorbed by the cap. It would actually help the Bears cap-wise to cut him.

However, working on Leno's side is one very big fact. Neither Germain Ifedi nor Elijah Wilkinson are swing tackle types. They both have been right tackles or right guards. They haven't played left tackle and it's a different position. 

Normally teams like a swing tackle to be someone who can play on either side. Jason Spriggs was supposed to be that way last year, but it turned out he couldn't play at all due to injuries. 

If the Bears drafted a left tackle, they could want to keep Leno for this year just to have someone who can play the position. It's become that specialized of a line position 

4. Akiem Hicks

It's generally expected Akiem Hicks will be in his final Bears season, but it wouldn't be stunning for them to offer him a one-year extension based on whether he can show his decline in sack numbers over the last 13 games and overall down play last year was an abberation. Not that Pro Football Focus' grading system is especially adaptable for interior defensive linemen, but it is an evaluation used consistently and for a good number of years now. And Hicks is coming off his worst season in the league at age 31. They gave him a 65.2 grade last year, 60th best among 125 interior defensive linemen. He hadn't been below 70.2 since 2014. He also failed to make a sack the final 13 games after exploding for 3 1/2 in the first three weeks.

If the Bears tried using Hicks as a bargaining chip in the Russell Wilson trade, and they saw someone in the draft they liked as a future defensive starter, it wouldn't be out of the question for them to draft an interior lineman and whether he took Hicks' job could depend on training camp, preseason and the start of the season.

5. Anthony Miller

His message has already been delivered. They're trying to trade him.

It could be a draft day trade, or it could be something later on for a future draft pick. Either way, Miller seems destined for another team already and the only question is where the guy in the draft who replaces him will be taken.

6. Danny Trevathan

Although he has more contract time remaining than Hicks, his performance last year could warrant selecting a replacement in the draft.

Because they signed Christian Jones as a backup, and there are a few other veterans on hand in Josh Woods and Joel Iyiegbuniwe, the need for a depth linebacker is not great. But if they draft one, it's going to light up all kinds of speculation about Trevathan's future. Cutting him before June 1 wouldn't be wise because his salaries run through 2022. However, the team would have a small net cap gain of less than half a million by cutting him after June 1.

Trevathan's play overall had never been questioned, so it's possible last year was merely the residue of not having a proven nose tackle eating up blocks in front of him after the opt-out by Eddie Goldman.

Trevathan's PFF rankings in Chicago had been 38th of 88 linebackers, 11th of 85, 17th of 91 and 39th of 90 and then lsat year the bottom fell out at 76th out 83. That kind of drop tends to make you think of outlying circumstances, like minor nagging injuries or the Goldman absence.

We'll find out if an inside linebacker gets targeted early on Day 3 or on Day 2.

7. Robert Quinn

Quinn's first-year debacle of two sacks was an embarrassment and the team can't have an encore at the price he commanded.

He's easily cut after the 2021 season because the rest of his contract is in salary and not a cap hinderance beginning with 2022, even though it runs through 2024 in bonus money against the cap.

They brought in Jeremiah Attaochu as an experienced third on the edge. If the Bears shocked everyone and drafted one of the outstanding edge rushers who could be available to them in the first round, the message to Quinn would be clear about his fate after 2021.

8. Cole Kmet

This isn't a message about his job as much as the range of his job. Although Kmet made great strides and caught more passes than any rookie tight end, he didn't make many seam-route receptions or get downfield in general. He was mostly taking short routes and dump offs, then making the most of them.

When Kmet came into the league, the Bears said they were going to start him out at the Y or in-line tight end spot. Whether he could develop into a U or move-tight end was up to him.

If they draft a U-tight end anywhere up in rounds, it could mean they've determined he'll simply stay at the Y tight end spot and not expand his role.

9. Eddie Jackson

It could be subtle message. But the Bears signed Jackson for $58.4 million and then he went through his first year without an interception. In general, his coverage wasn't as good. He allowed a passer rating of 110.1, double what he'd been doing. 

The Bears do need a young safety who can take the other position because Tashaun Gipson signed a one-year contract. Where they draft him is the key to whether this is a pick to be Gipson's understudy, or whether it's something intended to light a fire under Jackson.

Twitter: BearDigest@BearsOnMaven