Tracking the Bears' moves in free agency: Bears bring back Roy Robertson-Harris, Isaiah Irving

As the Bears sign players and others join new teams, the Tribune coverage team will track the moves and provide insight into what they mean.

April 15

The Bears signed exclusive rights free agents Roy Robertson-Harris and Isaiah Irving, the team announced.

What it means: Robertson-Harris returns for his third season after totaling three sacks and 11 quarterback hits from the defensive line. Irving provides outside linebacker depth after recording a sack and eight tackles in 13 games in his second season. The Bears have Khalil Mack, Leonard Floyd and Aaron Lynch to lead their pass rush. But general manager Ryan Pace said at the NFL owners meetings last month that the Bears can supplement that group by using Robertson-Harris creatively in pass-rush situations and developing young outside linebackers Irving and Kylie Fitts.

April 12

The Bears signed former Alliance of American Football kicker Elliott Fry to a three-year contract.

What it means: Fry, 24, recently kicked for the Orlando Apollos in the AAF before the league suspended operations earlier this month. He made 14 of 14 field-goal attempts with a long of 47 while playing for his former South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier. He kicked at South Carolina from 2013-16 but has no NFL experience. Fry joins two other kickers on the Bears roster – Chris Blewitt and Redford Jones, who are also rookies.

April 5

The Bears re-signed offensive lineman Rashaad Coward, the team announced.

What it means: Coward, 24, was an exclusive-rights free agent, and the Bears tendered him an offer in mid-March. He didn’t appear in any games for the Bears in 2018 as he made the transition from the defensive line to the offensive line. As a rookie in 2017 out of Old Dominion, he played in one game for the Bears.

April 3

The Bears brought back long snapper Patrick Scales on a one-year contract.

What it means: Scales returns for his fifth season with the Bears. He played in all 16 games in 2018 after missing the 2017 season with a torn ACL. The Bears also re-signed punter/holder Pat O’Donnell, and they now just need to figure out who their kicker will be. General manager Ryan Pace said he expects there to be a competition for that position, and the Bears already have signed rookies Redford Jones and Chris Blewitt.

April 1

Outside linebacker Aaron Lynch agreed to return to the Bears on a one-year deal.

What it means: Lynch, 26, will provide important depth in the outside linebackers room behind starters Khalil Mack and Leonard Floyd. He will return for a second season in Chicago after totaling three sacks, four tackles for loss, eight quarterback hits and an interception in 13 games while on a one-year deal. His season ended early because of an elbow sprain.

March 28

The Bears traded running back Jordan Howard to the Eagles for a 2020 draft pick.

What it means: The Bears had been weighing options for potential trade destinations for Howard for months after a 2018 season in which Howard’s production tailed off in coach Matt Nagy’s new offense. General manager Ryan Pace signed free agent running back Mike Davis earlier in March, but the Bears could also look to draft a replacement for Howard. The Bears received a sixth-round draft pick, which could become a fifth-rounder.

March 20

Third-string quarterback Tyler Bray re-signed on a one-year deal, the team announced.

What it means: Bray did not take a regular-season snap in 2018, but the Bears valued how he worked with starter Mitch Trubisky during Trubisky’s introduction to Matt Nagy’s offense. Bray, you’ll recall, was with Nagy for all five of Nagy’s seasons with the Chiefs. By re-signing him, the Bears maintain continuity with their quarterback dynamic in meetings, practices and games. Also, newly signed receiver Cordarrelle Patterson played with Bray at the University of Tennessee. Patterson acknowledged to media that it’s nice to have that familiarity in the locker room.

March 18

The Bears agreed to a two-year, $4 million deal to bring back punter Pat O’Donnell, ESPN reported.

What it means: O’Donnell, a Bears sixth-round pick in 2014, returns for his sixth season. The 28-year-old averaged 45 yards on 65 punts, with a net average of 39.7 in 2018. He landed 28 punts inside the 20, tying a career high. Bears general manager Ryan Pace said at the NFL combine last month that he thought O’Donnell punted well in 2018 and that they were working on a potential deal. O’Donnell had signed a one-year, $1.5 million deal with the Bears last offseason.

Former Bears tight end Daniel Brown has signed with the Jets, his agent tweeted.

What it means: Brown, 26, departs after 2½ seasons with the Bears. After 13 catches for 129 yards in 2017, he didn’t record a catch in 14 games in 2018. But he was a major contributor on special teams. He spent the first 1½ years of his career with the Ravens. The Bears are down to three tight ends on their roster — Trey Burton, Adam Shaheen and Ben Braunecker — along with Zach Miller, who continues his recovery from a severe leg injury.

March 15

Former Bears slot cornerback Bryce Callahan signed with the Broncos and coach Vic Fangio.

What it means: The Bears moved on from Callahan earlier in the week when they signed Buster Skrine to a three-year, $16.5 million deal that includes $8.5 million guaranteed. As expected, Callahan earned more on the open market. The Broncos gave him $21 million over three years, with $10 guaranteed, ESPN reported.

Callahan lingered on the open market for four days after the negotiating period opened and two after the signing period did. There wasn’t much buzz about him in national reports, but he cashed in nonetheless.

Callahan joined the Bears as an undrafted free agent out of Rice in 2015. He became everything a team wants in slot cornerback: an eager, tough tackler; accomplished blitzer; good at changing directions, mirroring in man coverage and playing the ball. The only problem was his durability. He never played 16 games in a season because of knee, hamstring and foot problems. A broken left foot ended his 2018 season prematurely. But he played 81 percent of the Bears snaps before he got hurt.

Former Falcons special teamer Marvin Hall signed a 1-year deal, the team announced.

What it means: Hall helps fill the vacancy created by Josh Bellamy’s departure. He’s a depth receiver whose primary contributions to the Falcons came on special teams.

He averaged 23.7 yards on 26 kickoff returns last season. That job for the Bears is presumably Cordarrelle Patterson’s, but Hall gives the Bears another option.

He had 10 catches for 149 yards and a touchdown last season. The Falcons did not tender him as an exclusive-rights free agent.

The Bears announced they signed defensive tackle Nick Williams to a one-year deal.

What it means: Williams, 29, has played four NFL seasons with the Chiefs, Dolphins and Bears. The 6-foot-4, 310-pound Williams returns as a depth piece for the Bears’ defensive line after he played in two games in 2018, recording two tackles, one for loss.

March 14

Former Bears wide receiver Kevin White is expected to sign with the Cardinals, NFL Network reported.

What it means: The Bears’ 2015 first-round pick will look to reboot a career that never really got going in Chicago. Over three seasons and four years with the Bears, White had just 25 catches for 285 yards in 14 games. His tenure instead will be remembered for his three straight season-ending injuries from 2015 to 2017. He was healthy in 2018, but he was active for only nine games because of performance reasons. He had four catches for 92 yards.

Safety Ha Ha Clinton-Dix’s visit with the Bears resulted in a one-year contract.

What it means: The Bears have their replacement for Adrian Amos. Clinton-Dix is more of a traditional free safety than Amos was, meaning his skill set overlaps more with Eddie Jackson’s than Amos’ did.

Amos was known more for his tackling and physicality, while Clinton-Dix’s ball production (14 career interceptions) is more established. Because the Bears’ talented front seven can help limit the tackling demands of their two safeties, it’s easy to see how Clinton-Dix could realize his upside in Chicago. To maximize his one-year prove-it deal, he’ll have to play faster and take better angles than he did during nine games last season with the Redskins.

The 26-year-old was a first-round pick of the Packers in 2014, but they gave up on him last season, trading him on Halloween to the Redskins for a fourth-round pick after they determined they wouldn’t re-sign him. The Redskins offered Clinton-Dix a contract to stay, but he chose the Bears.

By signing Clinton-Dix and slot cornerback Buster Skrine, the Bears have filled the two first-string openings they had. Otherwise, they return 20 of 22 first-stringers from last year’s 12-4 division championship team.

The Browns announced they signed former Bears guard Eric Kush.

What it means: The Bears signed guard/center Ted Larsen to a one-year contract Wednesday to build depth on the interior offensive line since Kush and Bryan Witzmann were unrestricted free agents this offseason. Kush had been with the Bears since 2016 and started 11 games. After missing 2017 with a torn hamstring, he began 2018 as the starting left guard, but he eventually lost the job to rookie James Daniels. Witzmann also climbed above him on the depth chart later in the season, and Kush didn’t play a snap on offense for the final eight games.

March 13

Former Packers safety Ha Ha Clinton-Dix will visit the Bears on Wednesday night and Thursday, NFL Network reported.

What it means: Wouldn’t that be something if the Bears and Packers effectively exchanged two of their 2018 opening-day safeties in free agency?

Former Bears fifth-rounder Adrian Amos is the one who got paid this week, while Clinton-Dix is no longer the inspiring prospect the Packers took in the first round in 2014 (seven spots after the Bears drafted Kyle Fuller).

In fact, the Packers gave up on Clinton-Dix last season, trading him on Halloween to the Redskins for a fourth-round pick. And after his play suffered from bad angles and a dearth of speed, the Redskins haven’t been willing to meet his asking price in free agency.

That said, the Redskins reportedly would like Clinton-Dix back if the price is right. They valued his leadership and graded him on a curve because he joined the defense in the middle of the season and was not surrounded by enough smart, talented players.

The Bears, on the other hand, have a loaded front seven that might help mitigate Clinton-Dix’s weaknesses and inconsistency and help him tap into whatever upside he has left. The 26-year-old did have three interceptions in seven games for the Packers and one forced fumble for each of his teams in 2018.

The Bears officially released kicker Cody Parkey and placed exclusive rights tenders on three players, the team announced.

What it means: Bears general manager Ryan Pace confirmed last month at the NFL combine he would be releasing Parkey when the new league year opened. They made the move Wednesday afternoon, and the Bears officially are looking now for a kicker to replace Parkey, who missed eight field-goal and three extra-point attempts in his only season in Chicago. The Bears also placed exclusive rights tenders on defensive end Roy Robertson-Harris, outside linebacker Isaiah Irving and offensive lineman Rashaad Coward. Robertson-Harris is the most notable of the three after totaling three sacks, 11 quarterback hits, 22 tackles and two passes defensed in his second season. Irving played sparingly in his second season, totaling a sack and eight tackles. Coward spent the year making the transition from playing on the defensive line.

The new league year began at 3 p.m. with 13 players from last season’s team looking for a 2019 home in unrestricted free agency.

What it means: As the signing period opened Wednesday afternoon, slot cornerback Bryce Callahan is, by most accounts, one of the top 10 free agents league-wide who hasn’t agreed to terms with a new team. The Bears are preparing to move on from him after agreeing to terms Monday with former Jets slot cornerback Buster Skrine.

The Bears did not submit a restricted free-agent tender to either safety DeAndre Houston-Carson or long snapper Patrick Scales, making them unrestricted free agents. It’s possible they could return on relatively cheap deals.

The other Bears thrust into the open market without a home: receiver Kevin White; outside linebacker Aaron Lynch; tight end Daniel Brown; punter Pat O’Donnell; running back and special teamer Benny Cunningham; guards Bryan Witzmann and Eric Kush; fullback Michael Burton; defensive back Marcus Williams and defensive lineman Nick Williams.

Interior offensive lineman Ted Larsen returned to the Bears on a one-year contract.

What it means: Larsen comes back to the Bears to compete for a backup role. He played for the Bears in 2016, starting eight games, before going to the Dolphins for the last two seasons. Larsen, 31, has position versatility on the interior. He’s also a tough, physical guy who plays with an edge—in a good way.

Eric Kush, who in 2017 signed a two-year deal to fill this swing interior lineman role, is out of contract. The Bears already have backup lineman Bradley Sowell under contract.

March 12

All-Pro running back Le’Veon Bell will sign a four-year deal with the Jets.

What it means: Bell confirmed national reports with a tweet late Tuesday night, a reality check for Bears fans who spent the open negotiating period fantasizing about how he might elevate coach Matt Nagy's offense with his explosiveness and versatility out of the backfield.

Truth is, general manager Ryan Pace has no track record of high-level investments in the running back position. Also, Bell did not fit the earnest team-centric culture Pace, Nagy and players have lauded as a central force in the team’s turnaround. Convincing evidence of the Bears’ interest in Bell — to any extent — has yet to surface.

Furthermore, the Bears believe veteran free agent Mike Davis can play a prominent role because of his burst and lateral agility as a runner and good hands as a receiver.

NFL Network reported Bell’s contract will be worth $52.5 million. That annual average of $13.1 million is less than what the Steelers reportedly offered him last offseason before he sat out the season.

Meanwhile, it remains to be seen whether the Bears will buy a big-name free agent using the estimated $13 million in cap space they created by restructuring the contracts of veterans Khalil Mack and Eddie Goldman.

The Bears agreed to a two-year, $10 million deal with former Patriots wide receiver Cordarrelle Patterson, according to multiple reports.

What it means: Patterson, who will turn 28 on Sunday, adds depth as both a receiver and a kicker returner for the Bears in a deal that guarantees him $5 million. In his only season in New England, he had 21 catches for 247 yards and three touchdowns, 42 carries for 228 yards and a touchdown and 23 kickoff returns for 663 yards. Patterson’s lone kickoff return for a touchdown in 2018 came against the Bears, and he gained 179 yards on four returns that day. The Bears spent most of the 2018 season trying to find the right solution on kickoff returns. A Vikings first-round pick in 2013, Patterson had 132 catches for 1,316 yards over four seasons and also spent a year with the Raiders.

Former Bears safety Adrian Amos is headed to the Packers.

What it means: After 56 starts over four seasons with the Bears, Amos will play for their NFC North rival. Bears general manager Ryan Pace had expressed interest in keeping Amos around after a 2018 season in which he had two interceptions, nine passes defensed and 73 tackles. But now they’re in the market for another starting safety to play alongside Eddie Jackson. The Bears had drafted Amos in the fifth round in 2015, and he had three interceptions, 18 passes defensed and three forced fumbles in his Bears career. ESPN reported the deal was for $37 million over four years, with $14 million in the first year.

The Bears converted $13 million of Khalil Mack’s base salary and roster bonus into a signing bonus, creating $11 million in salary-cap space, according to ESPN.

What it means: The Bears positioned themselves to potentially make a bigger signing with the added cap space available after restructuring Mack’s contract, and the move doesn’t affect what Mack is paid either. After agreeing to deals with nickel cornerback Buster Skrine and running back Mike Davis on Monday night, the Bears still have the need for a starting safety, a potential running back replacement for Jordan Howard, a backup edge rusher and maybe another target for quarterback Mitch Trubisky at wide receiver or tight end.

READ MORE: The Bears restructured Khalil Mack’s contract to create 2019 salary-cap space. Here’s how it works and what it means. »

March 11

Former Bears wide receiver Josh Bellamy has agreed to a two-year deal to join the Jets, according to multiple reports.

What it means: Bellamy’s stint in Chicago is set to come to a close after five seasons with the Bears. He had 76 catches for 999 yards and five touchdowns in that span and was a key special-teams contributor. In 2018, his seventh year in the league, he had 14 catches for 117 yards and a touchdown. The deal reportedly is for $7 million, with $2.75 million guaranteed. Bellamy essentially confirmed the signing on his Instagram account, posting “J-E-T-S JETS JETS JETS” to his story.

Former Jets cornerback Buster Skrine has agreed to a three-year deal with the Bears, NFL Network reported.

What it means: Entering his ninth season, Skrine, 29, landed a deal worth $16.5 million, with $8.5 million guaranteed, according to a report. He fills the Bears’ need for a nickel cornerback with the impending departure of free agent Bryce Callahan. Skrine had three interceptions, three forced fumbles, 30 passes defensed and 222 tackles over four seasons and 59 games with the Jets. He was a Browns fifth-round pick in 2011 and started 37 games over four seasons with them, totaling a career-high four interceptions in 2014.

Former Seahawks running back Mike Davis is signing with the Bears, NFL Network reported.

What it means: Davis, 26, is coming off his best season of four in the league. He rushed for 514 yards and four touchdowns on 112 carries and caught 34 passes for 214 yards and a touchdown in 2018. The Bears have starters Jordan Howard and Tarik Cohen on their roster for now but needed depth with the impending free agency of Benny Cunningham. The Bears reportedly were fielding trade offers for Howard at the NFL combine last week, but it’s unclear what the addition of Davis means for Howard. Davis tweeted a Bears emoji with a smiley face on Monday afternoon. His deal is worth $6 million over two years, with a maximum value of $7 million, according to the report.

The Bears signed tight end Ben Braunecker to a two-year deal, Brad Biggs reports.

What it means: The Bears bring back a depth piece in a tight ends room that also includes Trey Burton and Adam Shaheen. Braunecker, who was set to be a restricted free agent, had three catches for 42 yards in 15 games and two starts in 2018 and also was a key contributor on special teams. He was signed as an undrafted free agent in 2016 and will begin his fourth season with the Bears.

March 6

The Bears signed kicker Chris Blewitt after holding a tryout at Halas Hall, the team announced.

What it means: It’s the Bears’ second kicker signing this offseason, and Blewitt will join Redford Jones in competition for the job. Blewitt made 10 of 17 field goals in his senior season at Pittsburgh in 2016. He went to Steelers camp in 2017 but hasn’t kicked for an NFL team. Blewitt won won Jamie Kohl’s field-goal competition last month in Phoenix.

March 5

The Bears released reserve outside linebacker Sam Acho, the team announced.

What it means: The Bears could be in search of depth at outside linebacker after cutting Acho, who has been in Chicago four seasons. He tore his pectoral muscle in September and spent the rest of the season on injured reserve. Acho was a team leader who helped spearhead the Bears’ social justice initiative and potentially could return on a more affordable deal.

Feb. 27

The Bears will release kicker Cody Parkey at the start of the new league year, Pace confirmed at the NFL scouting combine.

What it means: The Bears are searching for a new kicker after parting with Parkey, who missed eight field-goal and three extra-point attempts in his only season with the Bears. The Bears still owe Parkey $3.5 million from the $9 million they guaranteed him last spring. They are expected to designate him as a post-June 1 cut, saving some salary-cap space for 2019. The Bears have kicker Redford Jones on board through a reserve/futures contract but are searching other avenues to create competition at the position.

Feb. 26

The Bears restructured the contract of right guard Kyle Long to create salary-cap space.

What it means: Long took a pay cut in his base salary to save the Bears $2.9 million in cap space, according to NFL Network, but he can make back some of that through incentives. The new deal ensures Long would be back with the Bears in 2019 after his third straight injury-shortened season. The Bears now will bring back their entire starting offensive line next season — left tackle Charles Leno, left guard James Daniels, center Cody Whitehair, Long and right tackle Bobby Massie.

Free agency and the Bears: A position-by-position look at the team's needs and who's available »

Bears offseason calendar: The new league year begins at 3 p.m. on March 13 »

'It's not good enough, but the foundation is set': A sitdown with Bears coach Matt Nagy »

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