Here is a breakdown of the first week of free agency for the Chicago Bears:
Most significant signing: Giving quarterback Mike Glennon a three-year deal worth $16 million guaranteed in 2017. Glennon hasn’t started a game in more than two years, but the contract contains only $2.5 million in guarantees beyond the first year. Chicago general manager Ryan Pace is enamored with Glennon. Pace went as far to say that Glennon’s arrival could impact the round in which the Bears draft a quarterback. That logic sounds foolish to many, but the Bears will give Glennon the opportunity to lock up the starting job for the long term. Regardless of how Glennon pans out, signing the 6-foot-6 quarterback represents a changing of the guard at Halas Hall. Jay Cutler is gone, released on the day the new league year started. It’s Glennon’s show -- for now.
Most significant loss: Alshon Jeffery. The Bears didn’t make much of an attempt to re-sign Jeffery, Chicago’s best receiver by a landslide. He ended up agreeing to a one-year deal with Philadelphia that guarantees him $8.75 million but could max out at $14 million with incentives. The Bears attempted to fill the void at wide receiver by picking up free agents Markus Wheaton and Kendall Wright, but Jeffery is difficult to replace. Although he missed time the past two seasons because of injuries and suspension, he was the Bears' greatest threat in the passing game. Jeffery grew tired of Chicago’s quarterback uncertainty and wanted a change of scenery, and the Bears never fought to keep him. That might come back to haunt them.
Player they should have signed: A.J. Bouye and Jeffery. The entire free-agent vibe in Chicago would be different had the Bears brought Jeffery back and closed the deal with Bouye, one of the top two cornerbacks on the market. Sources said the Bears wanted Bouye for six years at $13 million each. Bouye eventually signed a five-year deal with Jacksonville that averaged $13.5 million per season. The top free agents just don’t want to come to Chicago. The Bears did land cornerbacks Prince Amukamara ($7 million guaranteed in 2017) and Marcus Cooper ($6 million), but the top two prizes were Bouye and Stephon Gilmore. On those players, Chicago came up empty.
What’s next: The Bears might still look to add a return man in free agency, but their focus is turning to the draft. Chicago owns the third overall pick and will draft near the top of each round. The draft is where Chicago has to find superstars. At No. 3, the Bears have to walk away with a stud defensive player, either defensive end or safety. They need additional help at quarterback, receiver, tight end and running back, where they badly miss a speedy, change-of-pace runner to complement the bruising style of Jordan Howard. You can underwhelm in free agency, just as long as you hit home runs in the draft. That is the position the Bears find themselves in.
Overall grade: C-plus. For not landing any of ESPN’s top-150 free agents, the Bears paid substantial guaranteed money to Glennon, Amukamara, Cooper, Dion Sims ($6 million), Wheaton ($6 million) and Quintin Demps ($4.5 million) for 2017. Why? To be fair, the Bears filled a bunch of needs in free agency, and Glennon is a breath of fresh air after eight years of Cutler. You could tell after his 15-minute news conference last week that the atmosphere at Halas Hall is changing for the better. However, Glennon is still a relative unknown. Chicago’s 2017 free-agent class ultimately will be judged by his success or failure. Right now, the group looks slightly better than average.