The Tribune’s Brad Biggs answers your Bears questions in his weekly mailbag.
Where is Chuck Pagano at in filling out his staff? — @johnthelaw123
Well, coach Matt Nagy is filling out the defensive coaching staff under new coordinator Pagano. There’s no doubt that Nagy is taking input from Pagano, but let’s be clear: Nagy is the one making the hires, and he is responsible for the coaching staff.
The Bears brought in Ted Monachino to serve as senior defensive assistant/outside linebackers. My hunch is he has an extra title attached to the position to justify a slight bump in pay over a standard position coach. Monachino worked as a defensive coordinator in Indianapolis under Pagano, and they also worked together in Baltimore. Monachino coached Terrell Suggs at Arizona State and again with the Ravens, so he has experience with high-level players.
Deshea Townsend, the former cornerback, was hired as defensive backs coach. He comes from the Giants, with whom he was an assistant defensive backs coach. He was the secondary coach for the Titans in 2016-17 and also worked for the Cardinals and Mississippi State after his playing career ended in 2010.
The Bears hired Ronell Williams as defensive quality control assistant. He worked with the Bears during training camp last summer as part of the NFL’s Bill Walsh Diversity Coaching Fellowship. That leaves one and maybe two positions to fill for the defensive staff. The Bears are not bringing back inside linebackers coach Glenn Pires, so that spot needs to be filled. It’s possible the Bears will promote Sean Desai, who has been a quality control assistant since 2013. I wouldn’t rule out the possibility of the Bears hiring an assistant defensive backs coach or a safeties coach.
I understand Cody Parkey’s season was disappointing, but Mason Crosby had disappointing seasons in the past and the Packers kept him. Could this season be an anomaly for Parkey, and could the Bears look at how the Packers kept Crosby? Especially since the free-agent kickers available are bottom heavy. — John K., Parts Unknown
There was some speculation that Crosby’s future was in doubt in Green Bay after the 2012 season, when he made only 21 of 33 field goals (63.6 percent). His 12th and final miss of the season came on a 42-yard try. The ball banged off the left upright at Soldier Field in what turned out to be a 21-13 victory for the Packers.
The Packers put Crosby through not one but two training camp battles, against Giorgio Tavecchio and Zach Ramirez — not exactly household kicking names — and Crosby won. He returned to form, making 33 of 37 field goals (a career-best 89.2 percent) in 2013, and he just completed his 12th season with the club.
The difference between Crosby and Parkey is huge, though. Crosby had a solid reputation in Green Bay and had earned the trust of general manager Ted Thompson and coach Mike McCarthy. Parkey was given trust by the Bears by virtue of the $9 million guarantee in his contract. He didn’t earn it. That trust has been lost. I don’t see a scenario in which the Bears bring back Parkey.
Do you see Deon Bush as a realistic, low-cost option to replace Adrian Amos should he leave this offseason? I thought Bush seemed to play adequately in his limited time on the field. — Dan S., Charleston, S.C.
There’s no doubt that Bush, who will be entering the final year of his contract, is an option for the Bears if Amos departs as an unrestricted free agent. Bush played mostly mistake-free football filling in for Amos at the end of the season, and he has a little experience now. I could see Bush in position to compete for a starting job with a modest free-agent signing or a draft pick. I would be a little surprised if the Bears just handed the job to him.
Ideally, the Bears get a solid player in the draft they can groom in the role. As you know, they’re short on picks, and we have plenty of history watching flavor-of-the-month late-round picks at the position. Fortunately, Eddie Jackson, a fourth-rounder in 2017, has been a big hit for general manager Ryan Pace.
What are the chances Matt Nagy gives up play-calling duties next year? When he looks back on his first year as head coach, do you think he will see some of the mistakes as rookie-head-coach mistakes or having too much to do? Mainly thinking about game management. — @adamdcharlton
I’d say there is little to no chance Nagy hands off play-calling duties to anyone on his staff, and I think doing so would be a mistake. Nagy’s offensive vision is one of his strengths, and the Bears reaped the benefits this season as they went from 29th in the league with 16.5 points per game to ninth with 26.3. That’s quite a jump in one year, and there is reason to believe the offense will be more potent in Year 2.
Was Nagy perfect calling plays? No. He’d be the first to tell you there were calls he’d like back in every game. The same could be said for every play caller in the league. Was he perfect with game management? No. There surely are some things he’d like to do differently. Some of those situations may be rookie mistakes as you call them. But I don’t think the Bears had glaring issues with game management, and as I have written before, when you’re simply viewing the game and not processing tons of information on the fly as a coach, it’s a lot easier to make snap decisions.
I think the Bears are best off with Nagy leading the offense. It’s worth noting that he undoubtedly benefited from having a veteran defensive coordinator in Vic Fangio, a guy who essentially acted as the head coach of the defense. While Fangio has departed, his replacement, Chuck Pagano, has plenty of experience. That should make Nagy comfortable allowing his new defensive coordinator similar autonomy.
I really like Stanford running back Bryce Love for the Bears, especially since his unfortunate injury likely puts him into Day 3 of the draft. The Bears could utilize Jordan Howard’s final year on his contract as a means of letting Love recover and get stronger before taking a lead role with Tarik Cohen in 2020. Your thoughts? — @zberg034
Love is an intriguing back, and his draft status definitely took a hit when he suffered a torn ACL in his right knee during Stanford’s final regular-season game. Love would have been better served had he left school following his 2,118-yard junior season in 2017. His production took a big dip in 2018 running behind an offensive line that wasn’t nearly as good. Still, he’s a solid pro prospect.
I polled two national college scouts, and both suggested he’s a mid-round pick: think Round 3 or 4. I’m not sure the Bears, with a shortage of picks and a desire to win now, are in a position to use a pick on a player who basically is going to have to redshirt, at least for the majority of the season.
What do league rules allow as far as coach/player interactions during the offseason? Are Nagy and Trubisky allowed to interact over the phone as to what the coach wants him to focus on, or are there certain limitations? — @roybal5598
The collective bargaining agreement prevents Nagy and Trubisky from working on football matters again until the start of the voluntary offseason workout program, which cannot kick off until April 15. Coaches and players are not allowed to talk football, have meetings, go over the playbook or do anything else that would take place in a coach/player relationship when it comes to football.
Trubisky is permitted to work out with the team’s strength coach, Jason Loscalzo, but that’s the most he can do football-wise with the organization until mid-April.
Can you go over the restricted free agents and how that will play out this offseason? I am guessing that a player like Roy Robertson-Harris would be tagged. If someone offers him a contract, what would Bears get in return? — @bearsfanpete
The Bears have only three restricted free agents. Robertson-Harris is not one of them. He is classified as an exclusive-rights free agent; lists that show him as an RFA are incorrect. Long snapper Patrick Scales, safety DeAndre Houston-Carson and tight end Ben Braunecker are RFAs.
The low-level tender for RFAs in 2018 was $1.907 million. The expectation is that figure will nudge just above $2 million for 2019. I don’t envision the Bears making a tender offer to any of those players at that level. I could see all three potentially returning, but probably not until after they see what other kinds of offers are out there. Robertson-Harris does not have any real leverage as an exclusive-rights free agent and will definitely be back in 2019 with one more year to go before he is an RFA.
Who should the Bears should address first: Cody Parkey, Adrian Amos or Bryce Callahan? If Amos and/or Callahan leave, how should they be replaced? — @sam_gutterman
With the proliferation of passing offenses in today’s game, the nickel cornerback takes precedent over a box safety and a kicker in my book. Every day of the week.
The kicker situation is more high profile now given Parkey’s penchant for nailing kicks off the upright, but when the dust settles, the Bears are more driven to get a quality slot cornerback.
Are the Bears getting the conditional seventh-round pick in this year’s draft from the Eagles to complete the Deiondre’ Hall trade? — @leonardowelan1
As I detailed in 10 Thoughts following the regular-season finale against the Vikings, the Bears indeed will receive a seventh-round pick from the Eagles to complete the Hall trade. Hall was sent to the Eagles in a deal on cutdown weekend for a conditional pick, one that could have improved to a sixth-round pick. However, the conditions required for the Bears to receive a sixth-rounder were not met. As I understand, the conditions were based on a modest playing time level.
Despite widespread injuries to the Eagles secondary, Hall barely got on the field, with only six defensive snaps. While he did play 175 snaps on special teams, playing-time conditions almost always are based on offensive or defensive snaps, so figure on the Bears gaining a seventh-round pick for the 2019 draft class. For what it’s worth, that seventh-round pick was originally property of the Broncos.
You coming to London? — @v31cr0
We don’t know the date for the game against the Raiders, but my bags will be packed for a return trip to London to see the Bears. The last time I was there, for a win against the Buccaneers in 2011, it was cool to meet some of the die-hard fans who root for the team throughout Europe. It was a terrific experience.
I know the compensatory math is complicated, but if the Bears let go Bobby Massie, Adrian Amos, Bryce Callahan and Aaron Lynch without signing new players to fill in and instead promote who’s already on the team (Rashaad Coward, Deon Bush, Sherrick McManis, Sam Acho), what kind of picks would you expect? — @word_jockey
I get where you are going with this, but I find your scenario unlikely. Keep in mind that GM Ryan Pace has been ultra-aggressive, and given that the team’s window to compete for a championship is open — wide open coming off a 12-4 season — I don’t see the Bears being idle this offseason.
I don’t believe all those unrestricted free agents will be back, but if all four depart, the Bears will not fill those four holes from within. They will be active and they will spend some money.
The Bears certainly are getting closer to breaking their amazing run of drafts without a compensatory selection. They haven’t had one since 2009 because they’ve drafted poorly and spent too much money in free agency. They’re drafting better and getting closer to the point that some homegrown talent will leave for richer offers elsewhere.
It’s possible the Bears are in line for a compensatory pick in 2020. It’s all based on net gains and losses in free agency, so you need to be pulling for the players who do leave to sign large contracts elsewhere.
Where can the Bears find upgrades to guard and tackle? Anything in free agency? Draft prospects? The O-line is a mess. — @nybearfan
You and I watched a different offensive line this season. The Bears didn’t have the best line in the league this year, and no one has claimed that, but they were pretty good. How else do you account for them allowing 33 sacks, tied for eighth fewest in the NFL? The ground game was a work in progress and needs improvement in 2019, but they’ve got a good nucleus on the line. Left tackle Charles Leno and center Cody Whitehair were added as Pro Bowl alternates on Tuesday. I think they will consider re-signing right tackle Bobby Massie. They’ve got a good young player in James Daniels who is only going to get better, and I think Kyle Long returns next season. The line was far from a mess.
When the Patriots lost Adam Vinatieri to free agency, they were aggressive in getting his replacement by drafting Stephen Gostkowski with a fourth-round pick. Do the lack of picks in this draft prohibit the Bears from being that aggressive in getting Cody Parkey's replacement? — @mstrclean
Here’s the problem with your approach: There’s a good chance there isn’t another Gostkowski in this draft. Since Gostkowski was drafted in the fourth round in 2006, two kickers — Alex Henery (2011 Eagles, fourth round) and Roberto Aguayo (2016 Buccaneers, second round) — have been drafted in the fourth round or earlier.
Henery didn’t last long in Philadelphia, and Aguayo was a bust for the Bucs and a bad waiver claim by the Bears. Daniel Carlson was the highest-drafted kicker last year. He went in the fifth round to the Vikings but quickly was bounced out of Minnesota after Week 2, when he was 0-for-3 on field goals in a 29-29 tie with the Packers. He landed with the Raiders and made 16 of 17 field goals for them.
It’s hard to find kickers worthy of a mid-round draft pick, and even then, it’s hard to say if they will stick.
I recall some excitement about Jonathan Bullard when the Bears drafted him a few years ago, but I don’t remember seeing Bullard having much of an impact this year. Should we be resigned to the fact that he is just a rotational guy and not an impact player? Or is he doing things on defense the casual fan doesn't see? — Rich S., Barrington
Bullard hasn’t panned out quite like the Bears hoped he would. He is a rotational player and was on the field for 28 percent of the snaps this season. Bullard would probably would be best in a 3-4 scheme. He can help them a bit, but as a third-round pick, it’s probably fair to say he’s been a bit of a disappointment. Entering the final year of his contract, maybe the Bears will get more out of him in 2019.
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