Moving On: Most-Missed, Least-Missed Chicago Bears

The Bears had a large group of players leave this season in free agency, for cap purposes and in retirement, and here's an account of who they'll miss most and who they'll miss the least.
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When players are leaving in free agency, it becomes an emotional time for fans accustomed to seeing those faces.

They remember the big plays made by those players, unless it was someone like Cody Parkey.

The teams making the decisions not to keep those players most often do it for salary cap reasons but sometimes because they know something about the player's abilities and want to upgrade or find someone for less money who can do the same or better.

The Bears made decisions on several free agents and to varying degrees will miss them in ways.

Here's a rating of who the Bears will miss and won't miss, and why.

Who They'll Miss Most

1. Prince Amukamara

Amukamara was a highly respected voice in the locker room and defensive huddle. His play dropped off dramatically last year to a 105.2 passer rating against when targeted, which partially explains his departure. The rest has to do with age and the money. They definitely can replace him with rookie Jaylon Johnson, but just like the Detroit Lions and Minnesota Vikings, who lost cornerbacks and are depending on younger players at the position, the Bears will find NFL quarterbacks chew up inexperienced cornerbacks. And they keep on doing it until they're no longer inexperienced.

2. Nick Kwiatkoski

They have not adequately replaced a high-level backup. This is the reason they'll miss him. He was not as good as Danny Trevathan, although younger. He wasn't the defensive leader on the field Trevathan is. He was leaving if they kept Trevathan, or Trevathan was leaving if they kept Kwiatkoski. It was that simple. But relying on Devante Bond, Josh Woods, Joel Iyiegbuniwe and two undrafted free agents to replace him is short-changing yourself at a position where every year they seem to have players injured. Trevathan has missed 22 games in four Bears seasons. Roquan Smith missed four games last year. That third inside linebacker, and even the fourth, usually have been needed.

3. Cornelius Lucas

Bobby Massie missed six games last year and Lucas started and played well. He actually started eight games because they used him twice to start games with an extra blocker. Lucas graded out by Pro Football Focus as their best lineman last year. They've replaced him by bringing in Green Bay's Jason Spriggs, who has talent that caught their eye before the Packers even drafted him. Yet Spriggs has been an injury problem virtually his entire career.

4. Leonard Floyd

Bears fans may not want to admit it, but even with descending sack totals since his first season Floyd has contributed as a pass coverage linebacker and has been far better than initially billed at stopping the run. His speed off the back side on run plays resulted in 26 tackles for loss in four years, and his speed kept quarterbacks from scrambling far when he didn't get a sack. Definitely Robert Quinn's pass rush is better and a drastic improvement. Quinn is limited in his use, whether it's the side of the line he plays or his inability to play in coverage. This will hamper coordinator Chuck Pagano in throwing wrinkles at offenses.

Who They'll Miss Least

1. Trey Burton

They'll miss the Burton of 2018 regular season. They won't miss the player they had from the 2018 playoffs on, the guy who caught only 58.3% when targeted or gained 3.5 yards per time targeted. Burton became almost a week-to-week burden after the 2018 regular season. Trying to count on him invited disaster, as Matt Nagy found out by plotting the whole game plan against the Eagles around the position in the playoffs, only to have Ben Braunecker and Adam Shaheen trying unsuccessfully to do the athletic things they had planned to get from Burton. Bringing in three new tight ends should allow them to move on sufficiently, and might even get them past the level Burton was at in 2018 when he made 54 catches.

2. Taylor Gabriel

Speed was supposed to be his calling card, yet the Bears rarely saw it from him. He averaged only 3.4 yards and 2.7 yards after the catch in his two Bears seasons. He had a respectable 2018 in terms of passes caught with a team-high 67, but a 10.3-yard average from a player who was said to be a 4.3-second type in the 40 is not getting it done. And last year the concussions kept them from getting much value

3. Kyle Long

The Kyle Long they had last year was a mere shell of his former self, one of the least effective blockers in the NFL according to Pro Football Focus. PFF gave him a grade of 38.0 last season. He'd been in the 70s in 2017 and earlier.

4. Nick Williams

The players will miss a well-liked locker room presence. The team might miss him if they lose two defensive linemen like in 2019, but they've also tried to solve this by bringing back veteran John Jenkins, while retaining Brent Urban and Roy Robertson-Harris. Williams was on the roster in 2018 but played only 44 defensive snaps. So last year was the first indication he could even play at all and he was excellent as a complementary player early. Once teams figured out he had more talent than a guy hanging onto a roster, they dealt with him very easily. Williams didn't play in the first game when they held Green Bay to 10 points. In the next eight games he made six sacks, five tackles for loss and nine quarterback hits as offensive lines double- and triple-teamed Khalil Mack. Offenses determined Williams needed to be treated more evenly and adjusted. Ultimately the Lions paid $10 million to a player who had zero sacks, zero quarterback hits and zero tackles for loss over his final seven games.

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