LAKE FOREST, Ill. — Don’t expect the Chicago Bears to host a splashy offseason news conference to announce a lucrative contract extension for quarterback Mitchell Trubisky. That, however, doesn’t mean Chicago’s front office is done with the 25-year-old quarterback.
But even Trubisky’s most ardent supporters can’t expect the Bears to offer him a second deal in the range of other young quarterbacks. In September, the Los Angeles Rams gave Jared Goff a four-year contract extension with $110 million guaranteed. In June, the Philadelphia Eagles signed Carson Wentz to a four-year extension with $107 million guaranteed.
Both had their team options picked up prior to the extension, and unlike Trubisky, both have had elite seasons.
But the Bears, without any electrifying results from Trubisky or real playoff success, find themselves stuck in quarterback limbo. The kind of place where a team doesn’t have a solution or a clear path forward.
Goff, who will face the Bears Sunday (8:20 p.m. ET, NBC), got the deal because he guided the Rams to the playoffs in consecutive years and reached the Super Bowl last season. Goff has passed for 12,191 yards and 76 touchdowns with 35 interceptions since being drafted No. 1 overall in 2016.
Wentz, chosen second overall by the Eagles in 2016, passed for 3,296 yards and 33 touchdowns with seven interceptions in 11 games in 2017 before suffering a season-ending injury. Philadelphia went on to win the Super Bowl that year. In his career, Wentz has passed for 12,212 yards and 85 touchdowns with 32 interceptions.
Trubisky entered the league as the second overall pick in 2017. Over 34 career regular-season starts, Trubisky has passed for 6,806 yards and 39 touchdowns with 22 interceptions.
Those numbers pale in comparison to those of quarterbacks Patrick Mahomes (8,007 passing yards, 68 touchdowns, 14 interceptions) and Deshaun Watson (8,296 passing yards, 63 touchdowns 22 interceptions), both of whom were drafted after Trubisky in 2017.
Mahomes, the reigning MVP, and Watson are all but assured of inking record-setting deals in the offseason.
For the Bears, it’s a type of football purgatory that many teams have experienced.
“To me, it is a tough situation. There is a lot of heat from the fan base because they don’t think he can play,” said Ryan, who was with the Jets when they drafted quarterback Mark Sanchez in the first round in 2009. “So you have a lot of things to consider, but I think they are going to err on the side of caution and wait and see. They just want some reason to sit back and say, ‘Hey, look, he’s got a chance.’”
But no matter how you spin it, the former North Carolina quarterback is in the throes of a subpar third season. Trubisky’s only bright spots have been against dreadful defenses in Detroit and Washington, against whom he threw six of his eight touchdowns passes. The rest of the season has been one shaky performance after another, a seemingly endless stream of incompletions, inaccuracy, indecision and general ineffectiveness. The Bears could have easily pulled the plug on Trubisky following back-to-back home losses to the New Orleans Saints and Los Angeles Chargers, but they stayed the course.
“Right now it’s too early to panic if you are in the Bears’ front office,” former NFL executive of the year Scott Pioli said. “Fans are going to react and overreact. The media is going to act and overreact, and that’s what they are supposed to do. … When you’re inside the room, you need to try and hold a steady hand. Keep working towards what you believe in until the time comes that you don’t believe it’s going to work anymore.”
The Bears haven’t reached that point, in large part because general manager Ryan Pace is heavily invested in Trubisky. Pace sent the third, 67th and 111th picks of the 2017 NFL draft and a 2018 third-round pick to the San Francisco 49ers to move up one spot to select Trubisky. By virtue of being the second overall pick, Trubisky signed a four-year, fully guaranteed rookie contract worth more than $29 million.
And Trubisky did — at times — reward Pace’s faith last year. He passed for 3,223 yards and 24 touchdowns with 12 interceptions while the Bears went 12-4, won the NFC North and reached the playoffs for the first time since 2010.
“You can always go back to that [success last year] and see that it’s not that this has never happened,” Bears coach Matt Nagy said Thursday.
Ryan said he considered Trubisky one of the league’s “most exciting players” in 2018.
On top of the strides Trubisky made in the passing game, he added a dual-threat ability, rushing for 421 yards and three touchdowns in 2018. This season, Trubisky dislocated his non-throwing shoulder and suffered a slight labrum tear in Week 4, and he has run just 14 times for 54 yards.
“With Trubisky, look, it hasn’t been great, but I think last year he made huge strides,” Ryan said.
“There is no set timetable for a quarterback. Some guys hit late. The one thing we know he has is the tools to be a legitimate NFL quarterback. And he’s also had some flashes where you say, ‘OK, this kid is pretty good.’ That’s kind of where you run into that fine line of asking yourself will there be other teams willing to roll the dice with him. I don’t know. But you’d hate for somebody else to take him and he hits.”
Pioli believes the worst thing Pace can do is bail on Trubisky prematurely.
“Right now, Mitch is not trending in a positive way, but the thing Ryan Pace can’t do and the head coach can’t do is jump the ship too early,” Pioli said. “This is Mitch’s third NFL season. There is still time. He’s still learning …
“There’s no blueprint for how long you wait on a quarterback.”
The final piece of living in this limbo is procuring Trubisky’s replacement. Where do you find him? Do you turn the offense over to backup Chase Daniel, who plays well in spurts but struggles when opponents have time to prepare for him? Do you sign a veteran in the offseason? Do you use limited draft capital — the Bears do not have a first-round pick but have two picks in the second round — and search for a college prospect?
And can the Bears find an upgrade to Trubisky?
For the impressive roster that Pace and the Bears have built, the quarterback spot is still in question. Remember, the Bears originally wanted Trubisky to sit out his entire rookie year. Pace signed veteran Mike Glennon — and guaranteed him $18.5 million — to bridge the gap until Trubisky was ready. But Glennon turned out to be an unmitigated disaster and lasted four games before Trubisky was forced into action.
“Be careful what you wish for, because when the guy is gone, who the hell is going to take his place?” Ryan said.
“It’s not like you have a slam dunk heading your way. That’s not the case. It’s really a hard situation. I think they’re going to stick with this guy and give him more time than people want. … It’s easy to say we need a quarterback. Really, where are you going to find them?”
With no clear-cut alternative, Nagy and the Bears have no choice but to preach patience, even if that becomes increasingly difficult after every poor Trubisky outing.
“We all understand the significance and the importance of the quarterback position,” Nagy said. “If you don’t, then you’re not really being real with the situation.”
Sources — Steelers RB James Conner (shoulder) expected back vs. Bills
Pittsburgh Steelers running back James Conner, who has been sidelined by an injury to the AC joint in his right shoulder, is expected to play Sunday night against the visiting Buffalo Bills, sources told ESPN’s Adam Schefter on Saturday.
Listed as questionable on the team’s injury report, Conner hasn’t played since a brief appearance against the Cleveland Browns on Nov. 14.
Conner injured the AC joint during the final two minutes of a win against the Miami Dolphins on Oct. 28. He was wrapping up his best game of the season: 145 yards and a touchdown on 23 carries.
Conner missed the next two games against the Indianapolis Colts and Los Angeles Rams before trying to play against the Browns, but Conner realized after a quarter that his body wasn’t ready. He left the game after just five carries for 10 yards.
“I just wasn’t ready to come back,” he said at the time. “I just tried to fight through it, but I wasn’t able to.”
Conner has missed the past three games, wins against the Cincinnati Bengals, Browns and Arizona Cardinals, with rookie Benny Snell Jr. taking over in Conner’s absence. Snell rushed for 98 yards against the Bengals, 63 yards against the Browns and just 41 yards last Sunday against the Cardinals.
Information from ESPN’s Brooke Pryor was used in this report.
Dolphins WRs DeVante Parker, Albert Wilson clear concussion protocol
Parker suffered a concussion in the second quarter of Sunday’s 22-21 loss to the New York Jets. He did not return after hitting his head on the ground following a difficult catch along the sideline.
Albert Wilson was cleared from the concussion protocol as well, meaning the Dolphins will have their two starting receivers back Sunday.
Parker’s return comes after he agreed to a four-year contract extension on Friday evening that is set to keep him in a Dolphins uniform through 2023. The extension is worth up to $40 million with an $8 million signing bonus and more than $20 million guaranteed, according to a source.
Parker and Wilson practiced throughout the week, donning red noncontact jerseys as limited participants Wednesday and Thursday before being upgraded to working the full session with those restrictions Friday.
The Dolphins’ offense has centered around Parker since Preston Williams went on injured reserve in early November.
Parker has a career-high 882 receiving yards and six touchdowns this season, and maybe most importantly he hasn’t missed a game yet for the first time in his NFL career.
Wilson has 26 catches for 154 yards and one touchdown in a season that has been slowed by multiple injuries.
Sources — Terrell Suggs angling to be claimed by Ravens only
Terrell Suggs, released by the Cardinals on Friday and eligible to be claimed on waivers Monday at 4 p.m. ET, will strongly consider not reporting if a team other than the Baltimore Ravens claims him, league sources say.
Any team that claims Suggs will owe him just over $350,000 for the final two weeks of the regular season. But Suggs doesn’t care about that money; he cares about returning to Baltimore, which is his overwhelming preference.
With a 12-2 record, the Ravens have the NFL’s lowest waiver claim, meaning every team will have the chance to claim Suggs before Baltimore. Knowing this, Suggs has told some people that he is unlikely to report anywhere other than Baltimore, wanting to finish his NFL career in the same city in which he started it.
The question is whether any contending teams that could use pass-rushing help — and many do — disregard the wishes of Suggs, who started 13 games for the Cardinals this season. The answer will come sometime Monday afternoon.
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