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Chicago Bears free agency analysis and grades

A detailed look at every move the Chicago Bears made in free agency and how it will impact the team, and its salary cap, in 2017 and beyond.

Players Added


After eight seasons with Jay Cutler at the helm, Mike Glennon takes over as the Chicago Bears starting quarterback. Glennon (6-6, 225) has NFL size and a very strong arm. Physically, he's everything teams look for in No. 1 passer. He has a 2-to-1 career TD-to-INT ratio, with 18 career starts under his belt. Glennon is young (27) and has size, arm strength and experience, giving the Bears a lot of upside in a potential long-term quarterback. 

“I’ve liked Mike ever since NC State, honestly," GM Ryan Pace said. "Being in the same division, at New Orleans, was beneficial, being up close. Obviously he’s a big quarterback with a strong arm."

There are a number of concerns with Glennon. He has a career 5-13 record as a starter and hasn't started a game since 2014. In addition, much of his production has come in garbage time, which skewed his TD-to-INT ratio. For his career, he's completed less than 60 percent of his passes (59.4 percent) and he has very limited mobility. If the pocket breaks down, Glennon is going down. 

The Bears signed Glennon to a three-year deal and will pay him $14 million this season. Beyond 2017, there is only $4.5 million in guaranteed money remaining in Glennon's contract. If he falters in Chicago, the Bears can cut him without incurring a major cap hit. So in essence, this is a one-year "prove-it" deal, one that will not preclude the Bears from drafting their quarterback of the future in this year's draft. 

Glennon is not an exciting option to lead Chicago's offense but the free-agent market for starting quarterbacks was razor thin, and no QB had as much upside as Glennon. He'll be overpaid in 2017 but as a bridge quarterback with long-term potential, the Bears could have done a lot worse than Glennon. 

Grade: C+


The Bears signed Sims to a three-year deal worth $18 million, with $6 million guaranteed. 

On the surface, that seems like a lot of money for a tight end who had a career-high 26 catches last season. Yet the guaranteed money in Sims' contract is carried in the first year. If the Bears cut him next season, they would owe him just $666,000. Again, this is essentially a one-year deal. 

Sims (6-4, 271) was never a featured pass catcher in Miami but he came on strong in the second half of last season, catching 18 passes and 4 TDs between Weeks 10-16. In the passing game, he can be a complimentary weapon with the potential for starter-level production. 

Yet Sims was signed because he's regarded as one of the best run-blocking tight ends in the NFL. No matter who is under center for the Bears next season, the offense will be carried by Pro Bowl RB Jordan Howard, so getting a legitimate edge blocker, something the team lacked last season, will be a big boost for Howard. 

"He’s good in space. He’s got good ability to sustain his blocks," said Pace. "He’s just a well-rounded player. Sometimes you look at these Ys and they’re one or the other — they’re a good blocker that struggles as a receiver or vice-versa. I think he can do both, and think sometimes that’s hard to find right now. He’s a well-rounded solid player."

That said, Pro Football Focus graded Sims very poorly as a run blocker last season. Take that for what it's worth but it's clear Sims has a lot to prove in Chicago. 

Grade: C+


Over the past two seasons, Chicago's defense has been one of the worst in NFL history at creating turnovers. With Demps, the Bears get a playmaking safety with a knack for the football. 

Demps had 6 INTs last season, which was just two less than Chicago's entire secondary. He has 15 interceptions, 3 forced fumbles and 31 pass breakups over the past four seasons. Few NFL safeties get their hands on the ball as much as Demps. 

At 32 years old, age is the biggest concern with Demps, yet Pace was looking to add experience to the secondary.

"Sprinkling in a couple vets here and there I think sometimes can be good," Pace said. "And I think with him, he's a guy who's played corner and he's played safety. He's still showing his speed, he' still showing his ball skills. He's one of those guys, going all the way back to UTEP, he's just always around the football, he's always around the ball. I think, too, for kind of a younger secondary group to have him in the mix kind of a calming presence, a veteran presence. I think he's going to provide that, which will be good."

The Bears lack playmakers and experience in the secondary, and Demps brings both. He was signed to a three-year deal and will make $4.5 million in 2017, with very little guaranteed money ($666,000) remaining beyond this season. Again, this is just a one-year deal. 

While Demps isn't a long-term option at safety, he should have a significant impact on Chicago's secondary. He's 32 but he's only been a full-time starter the past two seasons, and only started 15 games in 2013 and 2014 combined. He still has plenty of tread on his tires, so Demps should be good for at least another season or two. 

Grade: B-


The Bears pursued many of the top cornerbacks on the first day of free agency but came up empty handed. Amukamara was arguably the top corner among the second layer of free-agent corners. 

A former first-round pick of the Giants, injuries have hampered Amukamara's career. He's played 16 games just once and missed 13 games total his final two years in New York. He signed a one-year deal with the Jaguars last season and played very well in 13 starts. 

Beyond injuries, Amukamara (6-0, 202) has also suffered from a lack of top-tier production. He has just 7 career interceptions in 58 starts and only one season in which he had more than one interception (3 in 2014). In fact, he's coming off a 13-start campaign in which he failed to intercept a single pass. 

For all of his size and talent, Amukamara just hasn't show elite playmaking ability. In addition, he was helped last year by playing alongside Jalen Ramsey, which allowed Amukamara to focus on No. 2 and No. 3 receivers. 

On a one-year deal, the Bears got a quality starter in Amukamara, yet after six NFL seasons, it's clear his skill set is relatively limited. He won't be a liability for the Bears in coverage nor in run support, where he gives good effort, but he's unlikely to take Chicago's secondary to the next level. 

Grade: B-


After losing Alshon Jeffery, the Bears were quick to scoop up Wheaton, who spent his first four NFL seasons with the Steelers. 

Wheaton had two productive seasons in 2014 (53-644-2) and 2015 (44-749-5), yet missed all but three games last year due to a shoulder injury.

The 26-year-old brings a speed element that has been lacking in Chicago's passing attack for years. He can take the top off opposing defenses, which will create room underneath for his fellow receivers. In respecting Wheaton's speed, opposing secondaries might also be hesitant to push a safety in the box, which will help Jordan Howard as well. 

Wheaton also has experience playing alongside the strong-armed Glennon at the 2013 Senior Bowl, which he said impacted his decision to sign with the Bears.

"Obviously he has the big arm. For me that’s a huge plus," Wheaton said. "He was a hell of a leader. That’s one thing I do remember about him. He’s a guy that’s always out front. In a quarterback you want that. You want a guy that can lead the team. So I’m excited to get started with him and see what we can do."

Wheaton does not replace Alshon Jeffery as the club's No. 1 pass catcher. He's a limited receiver but his speed should pay dividends for the entire offense. 

Grade: B-


Cooper began his collegiate career at Rutgers as a wide receiver and switched to cornerback in 2010. He was then drafted in the seventh round by the San Francisco 49ers in 2013, and was quickly cut by then-defensive coordinator Vic Fangio and defensive backs coach Ed Donatell, both of whom now reside in Chicago. 

Four years later, Fangio has signed off on the Bears investing three years and $16 million on a player he once cut. 

“I've just improved with time and experience," Cooper said. "I was still fresh at my position when I switched over in college from receiver. I’ve just been able to go through some things as a corner, get burned as a corner and had some success as a corner, and that’s allowed me to grow mentally and competitively. So I’m just happy to have the opportunity to work with them again.”

Cooper spent three seasons as a backup in Kansas City and signed a one-year deal with the Cardinals last year. He started 13 games in Arizona last season, finishing with 11 pass breakups and 4 interceptions, one of which he returned for a TD. 

Cooper has elite height (6-2, 192) and he's strong in run support. He's just now emerging at cornerback, which was a relatively new position to him when he entered the NFL, and he just turned 27. There's a lot to like there. 

That said, Cooper did not grade well in coverage last year, per PFF. In fact, he graded as one of the worst coverage corners in the league in 2016. Again, take that for what it's worth but it's definitely not an encouraging sign. 

Cooper still has room to grow but his size in the red zone and his ability in run support should help him have an immediate impact in Chicago.

Grade: C+


Wright was signed to a one-year, $4 million contract. 

A former first-round pick of the Titans, Wright spent his first five NFL seasons in Tennessee. Once a featured member of the Titans' passing attack, Wright has been little more than a role player for the past two seasons, catching just 65 passes total and dealing with multiple injuries. 

At the same time, rumors have circulated about Wright's lack of motivation and work ethic. That's a concern but not so much on a one-year deal. 

The Wright acquisition is a positive for two reasons. 

First, he brings quickness and game-changing ability out of the slot, something the Bears lacked with Eddie Royal the past two years. Wright is extremely fast in and out of his breaks, and can be a nightmare for opposing secondaries on short and intermediate routes. 

Second, Wright caught 94 passes for 1,079 yards in 2013, when Dowell Loggains was offensive coordinator for the Titans. If anyone knows how to make best use of Wright, it's Loggains. 

If Loggains can again bring out the best in the 27-year-old, Wright could go down as Pace's best free-agent acquisition this off-season. 

Grade: B+


Compton is a five-year NFL veteran with 10 games of career starting experience, nine of which came in 2014 with the Redskins. 

Compton (6-5, 308) has started just one game the past two years combined. The 27-year-old will compete for the swing tackle role next season. 

Grade: C

Players Lost

QB Jay Cutler

Releasing Cutler should not have been shocking to Chicago fans. It was a long time coming and, for many, long overdue. 

In defense of Cutler, he played under five different coordinators during eight seasons with the Bears -- a few of which had no business being in an OC role. That lack of continuity never allowed Cutler the comfort and familiarity he needed. 

In defense of the Bears, the time had come to move on from a turnover-prone, polarizing quarterback -- both among fans and his teammates -- who had led the team to just one playoff win in eight seasons. 

Over the last six years, I've watched Cutler grow immensely as a person, which I commend and respect, but he's shown very little growth as a football player, particularly in terms of technique and ball security.

I wish him nothing but the best and appreciate everything he did for the Bears and the Chicago community, but I am ready for the post-Cutler era to begin. 

Grade: A

WR Alshon Jeffery

The Bears chose not to tag Jeffery at $17 million, which was a smart move, but that decision ultimately cost the team its best receiver. 

Jeffery signed a one-year deal with the Philadelphia Eagles, ending his time in Chicago. 

When healthy and playing alongside Brandon Marshall, Jeffery was a dominant NFL receiver. The two-time Pro Bowler is one of the best jump-ball pass catchers in the league, with 6-3 height and sticky hands. 

Yet Jeffery has been a relative disappointment since Marshall was traded two years ago. He missed seven games in 2015 due to three different soft tissue injuries and was suspended four games for PED use last year. 

His production has waned as well, to the point where he was no longer considered an elite NFL wideout. The market was shallow for Jeffery, who ultimately accepted a one-year, $14 million deal in Philadelphia. 

Yet the fact he signed a one-year deal says a lot. The Bears tried for two off-seasons to re-sign Jeffery and he would not do it. At a certain point, the reality is that your star player doesn't want to play in your city, and you have to let him walk. 

It's not an ideal situation for the Bears but neither is paying $14 million to a receiver whose last good season came in 2014. 

Grade: D+

Players Re-Signed

CB Johnthan Banks

A former starter for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Banks bounced between three teams in 2016 and started two games for the Bears to end the regular season. 

A former second-round pick, Banks has very good height (6-2, 185), although he is a bit thin. With Banks, Cooper and last year's fourth-round pick Deiondre Hall, the Bears now have three cornerbacks 6-2 or taller. 

Banks is a high-upside player who provides good size and depth at the corner position.

Grade: C+

LB Christian Jones

In three years with the Bears, Jones has started 20 games. He adds positional flexibility with the ability to play both inside and outside linebacker, and he's developed into one of the best special teams players on the team. 

Jones earned his new contract and will provide depth at multiple positions on defense. 

Grade: B+

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