Unrestricted Free Agents Bears Should Avoid Retaining
The decision on signing or letting their own free agents leave is more complex than the amount of a team's salary cap space.
The cap space issue usually applies to starters or highly paid players. Most free agents do not fall into this category.
The majority of free agents are at the bottom of the roster, providing depth and special teams play. In many cases teams can afford them, even the veterans, but might have other players they want to bring along or obtain other players for those spots.
In some cases they're project players brought along in case of injuries to starters or to replace starters.
Losing free agents in this category can result in depleted special teams coverage units, because many of these players are running down on punts or kicks or blocking for the return men.
The Bears have several veteran free agents who provide depth but they'd be best off not retaining.
They also have one starter who shouldn't be resigned.
Ha Ha Clinton-Dix
A popular notion being repeated is Clinton-Dix's acquisition was a failure and this wasn't the case. For $3.25 million they had a proven NFL player, a former Pro Bowl player who knew how to play his position and performed well enough to be retained if there were no other options. The jump in passer rating against of almost 13 points this past season still left them in a respectable spot as a group. Clinton-Dix dropped his passer rating against, his completion percentage allowed and yard per play when targeted. He had his first touchdown return and had a career-high two fumble recoveries. He did them well enough other teams will be sure to come calling with bigger contract offers than the Bears could afford. And it would be good for them to have him leave for one reason. Eddie Jackson can do everything Clinton-Dix did at that position but does it better. And Clinton-Dix couldn't take on the role of playing closer to the line to stuff the run more that the Bears had to ask of Jackson in 2019, or they would have had him do it. To optimize their $58.4 million investment, the Bears need a different type of safety partnered with Jackson who can be more physical and play by the line. Then Jackson could be the true ball hawk he can be.
A knee injury suffered right when the Bears needed him the most last year made it obvious the Bears should move on. He's only costing around $1 million a year but in his 11th season now the Bears would be better off with a younger guard on the roster who is learning and improving as a backup. Alex Bars or Rashaad Coward or a draft pick could play that role.
This experiment with a tackle moving to tight end never showed the slightest hint of success. He got into six games, never was targeted with a pass and should be happy they let him stick around to collect a nice check through the year.
There have been moments in the past two years when Lynch seems like an asset. When Khalil Mack was injured in 2018, Lynch stepped in and at least stopped the run while providing occasional heat in the rush without finishing with a sack. Last year, though, he was needed less and showed up less. He had two sacks to go with six tackles. In one way he showed up more than they needed -- he had seven offside or neutral zone infractions. The Bears could find a reserve in many places who could perform better at a cap cost of $1.5 million or less.
It's a foregone conclusion the Bears are bringing in quarterback help. Daniel's knowledge of the offense was the reason they gave for keeping him behind Mitchell Trubisky, but they need someone backing up the starter who actually has playing experience or someone ascending who could take over when the starter falters. The playbook master was a role needed when the starter didn't know the playbook. Trubisky knows that by now -- or at least he should.
He was signed along with Cornelius Lucas when they needed a backup tackle but suffered a quad injury and went on injured reserve before the season. He's spent most of his last three years in the league on injured reserve and needs to do it elsewhere even if he did come in at a minimum salary. Lucas showed he can play this role, and deserves to be a free agent who is retained. Lucas started eight games, as many as he had in his previous five seasons combined, and provided a stable performance when tackle Bobby Massie was ill or injured.
The Bears didn't tender him at the minimum amount as a restricted free agent, so he played at a bargain rate. However, he really slid down the depth chart at safety even more with Sherrick McManis moving from cornerback to safety. And he rarely makes an impact on special teams as is required. He's a sixth-round draft pick who gave them a bit of depth but it's time to bring in someone else younger who might do it and improve enough to start.