Bears signing of Rueben Randle has some curious elements

Bears signing of Rueben Randle has some curious elements

The Bears' signing of former New York Giant and No. 2 draft pick Rueben Randle to a reserve/futures contract on Tuesday was a small tell that the Bears indeed will pull just about any lever to effect a roster upgrade. But Randle is a curious case — they had a chance to sign him anytime last season and didn't — and there's a teeny shred of "this sounds kinda familiar" to it.
 
Roy Williams. Brandon Marshall. Now Randle? All part of a group that looks every bit the part — and then teams find out why they were available in the first place.
 
Randle was the 63rd player taken in the 2012 draft, 18 picks after the Bears under GM Phil Emery traded up in in the second round to grab Alshon Jeffery and already had dealt away two No. 3's to acquire Marshall. "Enigmatic" would be a fair descriptor for all three receivers.

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Randle piled up 188 receptions, 2,644 yards and 20 touchdowns in his four seasons with the Giants, and started 33 of 64 games. But two NFL personnel men described Randle as a head case who runs lousy routes and was never where he was supposed to be, which did not sit well with quarterback Eli Manning. Consensus was that the Giants would've dumped Randle if he hadn't been someone's No. 2 draft pick.
 
Signing Randle at this point, after he was out of football all year following his failure to stick with Philadelphia past the 75 round of cuts, is intriguing. The Bears brought him to Halas Hall for a workout in late November but chose not to sign him despite a wideout-lite lineup that was without Jeffery (suspended) and Kevin White (injured), had Deonte Thompson starting, and proceeded to drop 10 passes the following game vs. Tennessee.
 
A reserve/futures contract assures the Bears a longer look at Randle this offseason, at a time when their receivers depth chart is in flux, with Jeffery coming out of his franchise tag, Eddie Royal unlikely to return after two injury-riddled seasons and Marquess Wilson a free agent but coming off a fractured foot.

CSN goes 1-on-1 with Bears chairman George McCaskey: 'Keep the faith, go Bears and go Giants'

CSN goes 1-on-1 with Bears chairman George McCaskey: 'Keep the faith, go Bears and go Giants'

When I asked George McCaskey in wrapping up a sitdown interview Wednesday if he had one final message for Bears fans, the chairman responded: “Keep the faith. Go Bears. And go Giants.”

Well, naturally there’s nothing unusual about rooting for whomever is playing the Packers. But before removing his microphone, McCaskey drew a comparison about keeping patient, as he and management have decided to do with Ryan Pace and John Fox, despite winning half as many games in year two of this regime compared to its first season.

“When they were 4-6, someone in the media said they need to fire somebody just to fire somebody. And they didn’t,” McCaskey told us. “They believed in their people. They stayed the course. The quarterback talked about running the table, but they approached each game as a must-win situation and put themselves in a good situation. I tip my cap to them.”

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Laying the groundwork in hopes of sustained success is why the Packers have controlled the division since the early 90s. They’re already there, a well-run machine, with the help of a second straight great starting quarterback. That’s what McCaskey is expecting from Pace and Fox, even if the Phil Emery-Marc Trestman duo won four more games over their two seasons together before being fired two years ago.

“I don’t think there’s anything to be gained by comparing regimes. We’re in the here-and-now. We’re assessing Ryan and John and their performance. We haven’t seen the results that anyone has wanted, and that’s disappointing, but we’re excited about the future.”

As his mother Virginia McCaskey turns 94-years-old on Thursday, George had to gather his composure for a moment in front of a group of reporters he’d earlier taken questions from. In a perfect world, he’d love nothing more than to have his mom accept the Lombardi Trophy one more time, if time and a successful rebuilding of the roster allows.

“People are surprised when I tell them mom goes to every game, home and away. And the players make way for her as she wheels herself up the stairs to the plane,” said McCaskey. “They want to win for her. But it can’t be just about one person. They want to win for each other, and they want to win for this great city and their great fans.”

As for the general manager he hired two years ago, he likes how Pace hasn’t let a disappointing, step-back season deter the vision with patience even the chairman would find hard to muster.

“He’s a steadying influence. I like the type of players he’s acquiring. Now we just need more “better” players.”

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In his group Q-&-A with the media Wednesday, McCaskey shared the mostly positive face-to-face feedback he gets from the fans, but was challenged about what’s believed to be a growing tune-out factor, anger, even apathy. But in following up with him, McCaskey isn’t naive enough to think it doesn’t exist among some diehards after his team missed the playoffs for a ninth time in ten years since Super Bowl XLI.

“We understand that. It’s not to say that everybody is happy in the stands. That’s certainly not the case. We understand that people are disappointed in their Bears. The way I can best describe it is, Bears fans’ relationship with the team ... like when a loved one disappoints you, the disappointment is more profound because you expect so much. We understand that we’ve fallen short of their expectations. We’ve fallen short of our expectations. Bears fans deserve a winner.

“In some cases, we may have to win people back. But most of the people I’ve been talking to have been saying, `Hang in there. We know you’re on the right track. We know you have the right plan, and we know you’ve got the right people.’”

Once more, quarterback decision is offseason priority for Bears

Once more, quarterback decision is offseason priority for Bears

An offseason without a Bears quarterback issue/controversy/move would be news. And the 2017 offseason is already not without a quarterback…situation.

The central figure in the situation is, as it has been for most of the past eight offseasons, Jay Cutler. But this time, as was the case when Josh McCown was the alternative after 2013, Cutler is far from the Bears’ only option, and it was made abundantly clear that the quarterback position is in perhaps its greatest state of flux since the Brian Griese-Rex Grossman-Kyle Orton maelstrom in the Time Before Cutler.

It was also abundantly clear that, unlike last year and the year before, there has been no “Jay is our quarterback” decision.

“In my mind, there is no more important position than the quarterback,” GM Ryan Pace said on Wednesday. “It is a critical, critical position. And I know and I recognize, that the decision that we make on that quarterback is going to be significant for all of us for the direction that this organization is going to head.”

Pace said he had met with more than two dozen players since Sunday, including Cutler, who is around Halas Hall rehabbing an injured shoulder. Their conversation involved letting Cutler know that when a decision is made on his future, he and his agent would be informed.

Which did not sound like something normally said to a player where the decision is to keep them.

“Once we make a decision as an organization whatever it is, you know he'll be the first to know and his agent, Bus Cook, will be the first to know and I made him that promise,” Pace said. “Those decisions haven't been completely finalized yet, but when they are you know he'll know immediately.”

But if the question is, do the Bears move forward with Brian Hoyer, Matt Barkley, a drafted rookie, a different free agent or a trade acquisition, the answer is…yes.

“There's a lot of things we value in that position,” Pace said. “You know this year it was about consistency and availability. You know we played with so many different quarterbacks it was hard to find continuity. But I think we're looking for consistency and productivity from that position and I think we'll find it this offseason.

“I think everything's on the table right now. It's free agency, it's trade, it's draft, it's current players on our team. Everything's on the table, and we've got to analyze all that and the next two months are going to be huge for that. It's critical that we get that right.”

If the decision is between Cutler and Hoyer, money is likely, and rightly, to be a consideration.

Using passer rating for apples-to-apples purposes, Cutler is a career 85.7-rating passer with a 3.3 interception percentage. Hoyer is an 84.8 passer but with a 2.2 interception percentage, a career pick rate equal to Cutler’s best single-season rate. Both are roughly .500 as starters over their careers.

But Cutler is due potentially $15 million this season; Hoyer is unrestricted after playing under a one-year deal for $2 million. Getting the same production for a fraction of the cost makes simple sense.

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Whatever the decision, whether Cutler, Hoyer or an outside option or two, management is leaving the call to the football people.

“I’ve always been a fan of Jay Cutler,” said Chairman George McCaskey, who had to have been one to agree to the $126-million contract given to Cutler by former GM Phil Emery. “I love him as a player. I love him off the field. I think he doesn’t get enough credit for what he does off the field.

“As far as the football evaluation, that’s up to Ryan and John [Fox].”