Typically, Black Monday comes the day after the conclusion of the season. In the fast-paced, no-patience world of the NFL, change comes in a hurry.
Until Monday afternoon, fans who had their No. 69 Jared Allen jerseys were preparing to wear them when the Vikings were slated to play the Bears and getting ready for a bold fashion statement.
That statement was rendered moot Monday when Allen was traded to the Carolina Panthers for a sixth-round draft pick. Despite a coaching change that brought in John Fox as head coach and a 3-4 defense that Allen had never played in, he was paid an $11.5 million roster bonus for being on the team.
The Bears made it clear a couple of hours later that they are in veteran purge mode by trading linebacker Jonathan Bostic to the Patriots for another sixth-round pick.
Like Allen, Bostic seemed like a round peg in a square hole in the new Chicago defense. After a career of playing defensive end in a 4-3 scheme as a pass rusher with a hand in the dirt, Allen was being asked to be a standup linebacker in a 3-4 alignment. Bostic, who had been a starter for years in the Bears defense, had lost his inside linebacker starting spot because, like Allen, he wasn’t an ideal scheme fit either.
It seems as though Allen was just cashing a big check by being on the roster despite being a fish out of water at a position he had never played. While with the Vikings, he was asked about a potential scheme change to a 3-4 and Allen made it clear that, had the Vikings made such a philosophical change in their base defense, he likely would be out the door, reiterating that he was 4-3 defensive end his entire life and felt it was too late in his career to make such a dramatic switch.
Apparently, an $11.5 million roster bonus check can change a player’s mind, but Allen never appeared comfortable in his new position and the Bears felt the time was right to make the move.
It begs the question, would the Bears have traded their defensive veterans had they been 3-0 or 2-1 rather than 0-3? Probably not, but it goes to show how volatile things can get when a team is struggling out of the gate and seeing their season go down the drain in September.
For the players, there had to be a sense of elation by the moves. Both are going from a winless team to an undefeated team – both Carolina and New England are defending division champions with 3-0 records that appear locked and loaded to make another postseason run.
The compensation, as is often the case, seems extremely cheap for the players that Chicago gave up, but in a world where draft picks are the currency of the league, Day 3 draft choices are the standard M.O. for value in return for veteran players – just ask Mike Wallace and Brandon Marshall about that.
For a team looking to build a defense in a new image, the pair of sixth-round picks give the Bears ammunition to have some flexibility to make trades to move up or down in next year’s draft. Vikings General Manager Rick Spielman has always been a proponent of having 10 draft picks and, despite trading up into the first round with regularity over the last few years when a talent was available that he coveted, Spielman has always seemed to find a way to end up with his predetermined number of draft picks. He trades down in the middle rounds to acquire additional picks. Now the Bears have a starter stockpile of picks with which to use as bartering material to make moves.
It seems a bit early to have the Great Chicago Fire Sale, but the Bears didn’t hesitate to make the moves within hours of each other because, for the most part, they’ve given up hope of getting to the playoffs in 2015 with Allen and Bostic playing key roles. It just goes to show how quickly change can come in the NFL and how devastating a 0-3 start can be on an organization.
It should be viewed as good news for teams like the Vikings and Packers that, by all appearances, the Bears are throwing in the towel on the 2015 season, especially the Vikings – who have yet to play Chicago this season. It doesn’t mean that the team is simply packing it in for 2015. NFL teams don’t tank games to get higher draft picks, but it would certainly appear as though the Bears have weakened their defense in the short-term by getting rid of two veteran players to be replaced by other players currently on practice squads.
If the Vikings had started off 0-3, could veteran players like Brian Robison or Chad Greenway have been on the trading block? We’ll never know because it didn’t happen, but in a “what have you done for me lately?” league like the NFL, winning is all that matters and, when teams don’t win, change comes. In the case of the Bears, it means shipping out players with a long and storied past to start the process of rebuilding for the future.