Lions franchise tag takes DE Avril out of play


Lions franchise tag takes DE Avril out of play

The Detroit Lions took one of the few elite pass rushers out of any free-agent market at this point when they applied the franchise tag to Cliff Avril on Monday morning.

With the Houston Texans talking to Mario Williams, chances of the Bears addressing their professed need for more edge pressure in free agent drop significantly.

Nearly two months remain before the NFL draft but the Bears best shot at securing a high-impact rusher appears to be from a strong pool of possible first-rounders in Quinton Coples from North Carolina, Courtney Upshaw out of Alabama, South Carolinas Melvin Ingram, Whitney Mercilus from Illinois and Nick Perry from USC.

Avril staying in Detroit is bad enough news for the Bears. He had 5 sacks in his last three games against the Bears and has been the chief beneficiary of the inside havoc wrought by tackle Ndamukong Suh.

The Lions met with Avrils camp on Sunday, according to Adam Schefter over at ESPN, but when no deal could be reached, the decision was made to use the tag with its one year at a guaranteed 10.6 million. A longer-term deal remains a possibility but the Lions are short of cap space and have others like linebacker Steve Tulloch to do as well.

Avril, 25, had 11 sacks and 6 forced fumbles last season.

Bears In-Foe: Purple a fitting color for Vikings' battered, bruised offense

Bears In-Foe: Purple a fitting color for Vikings' battered, bruised offense

Mike Zimmer couldn't hold back his frustration after Sunday's 21-10 loss in Philadelphia.

Realistically, big picture-wise, he should feel fortunate. Not that his team isn't any good. We've seen these Vikings coming for awhile. But his offense, minus so many pieces that have been subtracted due to injuries, hadn't turned the ball over once in its 5-0 start.

That's when Eagles defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz, who'd seen Sam Bradford for all of training camp before he was traded a week before the opener, dialed things up. The result? Four turnovers, including Bradford's first interception of the season, coupled with a pair of fumbles. Schwartz doesn't have as many pieces as the Vikings' defense, but he had enough to sack Bradford six times, deliver 19 hits and 14 knockdowns.

Bradford's managed to step in for Teddy Bridgewater more easily than starting tackles Matt Kalil (hip) and Andre Smith (triceps) have been replaced. T.J. Clemmings is capable after starting all of his rookie season a year ago, but the hope that former No. 1 overall pick Jake Long had anything left took a serious hit Sunday. He'd gone unclaimed for quite a while (even reportedly going through a workout with the Bears), and we saw some of the reasons against the Eagles. He was replaced by journeyman Jeremiah Sirles. The middle of that line seems OK, thanks in part to the free agent signing of guard Alex Boone to anchor the interior with Brandon Fusco and center Joe Berger.

The great Adrian Peterson's torn meniscus in week two has him on injured reserve, with little hope he'll make it back. And while Jerrick McKinnon (3.2 yards per carry) and Matt Asiata (3.3) are serviceable, the line hasn't been able to help those replacements rush for an average of even 75 yards per game (31st in the NFL).

And think about this: Yes, the Bears have played one more game than the Vikings, but they have four receivers who've matched or surpassed the dangerous Stefon Diggs' team-leading total of 27 receptions. Three of Bradford's seven touchdown passes have gone to tight end Kyle Rudolph. Former Illinois High School Player of the Year Laquon Treadwell was targeted to be the big target Bridgewater/Bradford needed, but had just two snaps the first three games and has yet to catch his first NFL pass. It's part of the Zimmer Way to bring along draft picks slowly (think Trae Waynes last year, albeit at a much deeper position on this team). Zimmer's indicated the 23rd overall pick's still too mechanical, still thinking too much at this level to earn snaps over Adam Thielen, Charles Johnson and now, even the once-exiled Cordarrelle Patterson, who scored the Vikings' lone touchdown Sunday on a pass from Bradford.

Like the Bears, this banged-up unit has trouble in the red zone (touchdowns on just 47 percent of their trips inside), and their 21.5 points per game average is boosted by four touchdowns combined from its defense and special teams. It'll be interesting to see if Leonard Floyd, Willie Young and perhaps Pernell McPhee can have themselves a good night next Monday against that susceptible line, and who's able to go among the Bears' defensive backs versus a passing offense that's averaged only 225 yards a game.

Why the Bears can't afford a complete collapse just for a better draft pick

Why the Bears can't afford a complete collapse just for a better draft pick

As the 2016 Bears season spiraled down to its 1-6 point, one segment of the fan base looks at that problem and sees opportunity in the form of a total collapse that would position the Bears in 2017 to draft a true franchise quarterback.

Nothing could be worse.

Because if the crumbling continues and the Bears wind up, say, 2-14, the Bears might wind up with the No. 1 or No. 2 pick overall. But the lurching downwards will have revealed so many grievous need craters that the organization will be forced to shop the pick in order to fill more gaping holes than they appear to have even now. “Best available” is where teams like that go, because almost any pick at any position will be an upgrade, and a 2-14 team will need a lot of “best availables.”

Put another way: If the Bears bumble in at 2-14, one broader conclusion could be that two years of franchise-reforming by general manager Ryan Pace have been utter failures. If that comes to pass (unlikely), his ability to successfully direct a third draft would be highly suspect.

Instead, consider: The Bears held the No. 7 pick in the 2015 draft. They took their due-diligence look at Marcus Mariota in that draft class. But Tennessee wanted a ransom, and the Bears concluded that the price for moving up would have gutted Ryan Pace’s first draft class. Instead, the Bears landed what was five starters (Kevin White, Eddie Goldman, Hroniss Grasu, Jeremy Langford, Adrian Amos) before the injury tsunami rolled through.

The Titans used the pick for Mariota and improved — from 2-14 to 3-13, leaving them at No. 2 again. This time they traded out of the pick and built a book of 10 selections, but only one (Michigan State tackle Jack Conklin, No. 8) is starting on a 3-4 team. Quantity does not assure quality.

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Now consider: The Los Angeles Rams and Philadelphia Eagles finished 7-9 in 2015. Meaning, they had solid pieces in place: for the Rams, Aaron Donald, Todd Gurley, Robert Quinn; for the Eagles, Fletcher Cox, Lane Johnson, Malcolm Jenkins, Jason Peters.

The Rams climbed the draft from No. 15 to the No. 1 pick that belonged to the Titans. They took Jared Goff, who’s still waiting for Jeff Fischer to conclude that the rookie could do a whole lot worse than Case Keenum’s 8-10 touchdown-interception ratio and 77.5 rating. Even with that, the Rams are still 3-4.

The Eagles (4-2) went all in for Carson Wentz (swapping 2016 No. 1s and giving up a No. 2, a No. 3, and No. 4 this year, and their 2017 No. 1) and thought enough of him to deal away Sam Bradford to the Vikings, whom Wentz and Eagles just bested last weekend.

Better in the Bears’ current situation and have a demonstrably good enough core that dealing up for a top-ranked quarterback — Clemson's Deshaun Watson, Ole Miss' Chad Kelly or North Carolina's Mitch Trubisky? — makes sense rather than to be a complete shambles at the end of the 2016 season and wondering if any draft pick, quarterback or other, could be trusted.