Bears of Thrones

As Free Agency kicked off a week ago, the Chicago Bears made it clear that Jay Cutler will be on their roster in 2015. Pro Bowl guard and 3rd year veteran Kyle Long went as far as declaring his allegiance to his quarterback…

And so, Cutler was dubbed the #OneTrueKingOfTheNorth.  It’s no secret that I am a huge geek…or obsessed with Thrones. So thanks to Long’s Tweet, I will take it a step further and align the 2015 Bears with characters from Game of Thrones (That’ll be stuck in your head forever). WARNING: MILD SPOILERS IF YOU HAVEN’T CAUGHT UP ON THE SHOW. CONTINUE IF YOU DARE.

Jay Cutler / Stannis Baratheon

image1 Long has set the tone with his allegiance and it makes all the sense in the world (of Westeros). Cutler had knocked on the gates of a Super Bowl birth before he was knocked out with a torn MCL against the “Lannisters” of the NFC North, the Green Bay Packers. Sound familiar? Stannis Baratheon was dealt a similar hand at the Battle of Blackwater, blown away by a similar “Green” explosion.

Blackwater Packers

Neither Cutler nor Stannis are very likable to the public. Both can be viewed as underestimated to their opponents, but command loyalty from those closest to them. And you best believe Cutler has slayed some Wildlings in his day… (Picture this being the Vikings)

Slaying Wildlings

Kyle Long / Jon Snow

image2 Most Thrones geeks probably assumed I would have gone with Davos Seaworth, Stannis Baratheon’s righthand man, but I felt Long deserved a much more badass comparison…and there are some strong correlations. Long comes from a family rich in football prowess. While not a bastard, he is the son of a well respected warrior of the game (like Ned Stark). Kyle’s brother, Chris, built a reputation as one of the league’s elite defensive players before he came onto the scene. One hopes Chris doesn’t attend any shady arranged weddings in the near future. And Long has stepped up to lead his position group to protect his quarterback, much like the Night’s Watch at the wall.

Alshon Jeffery / Daenerys Targaryan

image3 Now hear me out, Alshon… Like Daenerys, Jeffery has proven naysayers wrong over the course of his young professional career. He was underrated in the draft, similar to when Daenerys acquired her Unsullied army from “The Masters” of Astapor. Jeffery’s skills and work ethic that helped him ascend to Pro Bowl status are like the Khaleesi’s dragons doing this to everyone in her path…

Jeffery has an opportunity to prove he is a #1 wide receiver like Daenerys, who is gunning for the throne of the seven kingdoms.

Alshon Browns catch

Matt Forte / Jamie Lannister

image4 Incest aside, Matt Forte and Jamie Lannister can be considered comparable for their accomplishments. Forte has always been a workhouse and a consistent weapon for the Bears offense and for multiple head coaches while Jamie served as captain of the Kingsguard under multiple kings. Both are getting up in age and have dealt with their share of injuries (Jamie losing his hand is a lot more severe than anything Forte has dealt with), but have plenty to offer still. Oh, and Bears…

Thrones Bear gif

Martellus Bennett / Tyrion Lannister

image6 Like Tyrion is to all of Game of Thrones, Martellus Bennett is a unique individual on the Bears roster. Both have a great sense of humor. Neither care what others think of them. And when the moment counts most, they can get the job done in the clutch. Bennett will come up with the big play against a division rival…

Marty GW TD

…and Tyrion will rally his troops against impending doom.

Eddie Royal / Barristan Selmy

image5 Neither Eddie Royal or Barristan Selmy are flashy names, but they are helpful pieces to their respective teams and both are quality free agent signings. I mentioned how Jeffery is like Daenerys already…Royal’s skill set can potentially make Jeffery better by forcing team’s to respect the slot more. That pulls coverage away from Jeffery that would allow him to shine, just like Barristan providing council to Daenerys. image7 Proven veterans who both could use a bounce back season. Jermon Bushrod is Pro Bowl left tackle who had difficulties blocking in year 2 of his Bears tenure. Sir Jorah was recently cast away by Daenerys for losing her trust. Both were meant to play big parts in achieving greatness, whether it be a Super Bowl or control of the Iron Throne, and both have the ability to make a comeback.

Jared Allen / The Hound

image8 Outside of similar appearances, both Jared Allen and The Hound are defectors of their longstanding teams. Allen (former Viking) and Sandor Clegane (formerly employed by the Lannisters) are also looking to return to form and regain the feared reputation they both once had.

Pernell McPhee / The Mountain

image9

In his Bears introductory press conference, Pernell McPhee was asked to describe himself.

“I’m violent.” And that was it.

Pernell sack

Also violent and a man of few words, meet Gregor Clegane…

The Mountain

Ego Ferguson / Hodor

image10 Transitioning to a 3-4 defense, the Bears need to identify a nose tackle to eat space up the middle. Hodor would be an AWESOME 0-technique…and Ego Ferguson also seems to fit the bill as well. I’d also like to hear Ferguson do an entire interview just saying “Ego.”

Willie Young / Daario Naharis

image11 In his first year with the Bears, Willie Young was a quarterback assassin. Daario is not very different, playing deadly mercenary for Team Targaryen. Hoping Young can return fully healed, and in Vic Fangio’s 3-4 system, let’s hope to see more of this…

Daario GIF

Followed by this…

Willie Sack dance

Antrel Rolle / Davos Seaworth

image12 Antrel Rolle is another new Bears addition but there are two things he brings to the defensive side of the ball: Loyalty and Leadership. It’s been very cool to hear Rolle speak on his experience in New York and it sounds a lot like what Davos brings to Stannis Baratheon’s camp. Loyal to a fault, not afraid to speak his mind, a warrior, and adaptable.

Antrel Rolle

Kyle Fuller / Bran Stark

image15 Unlike Bran Stark, Kyle Fuller still has the use of legs. But LIKE Bran, Fuller has the potential for big things. After an excellent first month in the league, Fuller had a tough rest of the season. He was forced into a starting cornerback role after Charles Tillman was ruled out for the season and had a quick “Welcome to the League” experience against the league’s best wide receivers. Fuller has the skills and makeup to improve though, and you can’t help but get excited for what’s next…like Bran Stark.

Jon Bostic / Arya Stark

image13 Sure, on the outside the two are nothing alike…but think about it. Jon Bostic has been out of position for most of career, mis-casted as a middle linebacker and a strongside linebacker when he was best suited for weakside linebacker. Arya Stark was raised to be proper and in a world of aristocrats while she is truly meant to handle a sword. Both play with a chip on their shoulder and strike like they have some serious anger issues. Don’t be surprised if both have breakout seasons in new positions coming up.

Bostic hit

Have some more Football & Thrones comparisons on your mind? Or maybe you just want to geek out some more about sports and TV? Let me know on Twitter @Mike_PiFF03

Chicago Bears: Marshall Out, McPhee In. Now What?

Ryan Pace has made his first personnel moves to kick off his tenure as Chicago Bears GM.

It began with the trade of Brandon Marshall to the New York Jets for a 5th round pick.

Brandon Marshall vs. Vikes

In just 3 seasons with the Bears, Marshall ranked 11th for receiving yards (3,524) in Bears history, tied for 5th in touchdowns (31) and 8th in receptions (279). However, following an injury plagued 2014 season and accumulating off-field issues, Pace and new head coach felt it best to part ways with the former pro bowl receiver. The reception of this move has been polarizing among the team’s fan base, but the bottom line is that the Bears received compensation for an almost 31 year old wide receiver (Birthday – March 23rd) coming off multiple injuries and declining athleticism that they planned on releasing anyway. Marshall has also openly voiced how football is more of a platform than a passion, so at least he won’t have to fly cross country to record his weekly Showtime appearance. 5th round picks are no slouches either…unless you consider Carl Nicks, Richard Sherman, or Kam Chancellor as such.

The second big move came today as the Baltimore Sun reported that the Bears and OLB/DE Pernell McPhee have agreed to a 5-year/$40 million deal with $16 million guaranteed…also a 5th round pick.

Pernell McPhee

McPhee isn’t as sexy a name as Julius Peppers was when Lovie Smith rang his doorbell at midnight of the 2010 Free Agency start. McPhee’s skill set and versatility are VERY sexy though. Just 26 years old, McPhee is a pure pass rusher with experience as a defensive end and outside linebacker in Baltimore’s 3-4 system. He has also played end in a 40 front. McPhee has dealt with injuries to both his knees, but played in every game during the past 2 seasons. He recorded 7.5 sacks in 2014 while spelling for pro bowler Terrell Suggs, who was nursing an achilles injury.

The McPhee signing does 3 things:

1. It provides flexibility in the draft. The Bears needed an edge rusher and now they have one. A proven one. They put themselves in a position where they don’t have to draft a “need” but instead the best available player with 7th overall pick. That could be Alabama WR Amari Cooper. Bears could use another top-end pass catching talent. It could be Clemson’s DE/OLB Vic Beasley. You can’t have enough weapons to go after the quarterback on the field.

2. It gives new Bears defensive coordinator Vic Fangio options in his unpredictable defense. McPhee has played every technique on the defensive line. He has stood up to rush the edge. He’ll even rush from the middle on 3rd down from a “chaos” look that you see with multiple 3-4 schemes. And chaos is good…That also opens things up for Fangio to assign positions to unknowns currently on the roster like Willie Young, Jared Allen, and Lamarr Houston.

3. It sets the tone for the type of players the Bears are looking for. The defense is in dyer need of a makeover. Lance Briggs and Charles Tillman, both Chicago Bears all-timers, are on the outs due to age and recent injury history. The average age for defensive starters was 29 while more than half were 30+ years old. The 26 year old McPhee adds youth, but also has a recent Super Bowl ring as part of his resume from 2012. There are other free agents with winning experience who would also fit the needs of the Bears roster.

What’s Next? 

The new NFL year and free agency officially begins today at 3:00 PM CT. Teams had already struck deals with high target players over the weekend.

DT Ndamukong Suh to Miami (6 years $114 million, $60 million guaranteed)

S Devin McCourty stays with New England (5 years $47.5 million, $28.5 million guaranteed)

WR Randall Cobb stays with Green Bay (4 years $40 million, $17 million guaranteed)

WR Jeremy Maclin to Kansas City (Total and years aren’t confirmed, suspected $11 million per year)

TE Julius Thomas to Jacksonville (Expected multi-year deal, $9 million per year)

C Rodney Hudson to Oakland (5 years $44.5 million, guaranteed money hasn’t been confirmed)

Note: Guaranteed money is key with NFL contracts. Rarely does anyone make their entire contract total.

So let’s look at the Bears’ needs and the targets to address them.

Defensive Line

While McPhee can be plugged in as a 5 technique DE, and one would assume Lamarr Houston would fit at the other side, the Bears still need a space eater in the middle to play nose tackle.

Terrance “Pot Roast” Knighton – Former Broncos NT under Fox, stellar run defender. Interest from Raiders, Colts, Washington, and the Bears

Dan Williams – Cardinals DT who didn’t get enough playing time. Ranked 8th vs the run by Pro Football Focus. Interest from Giants, Lions, and Washington

Corey Peters – Falcons DT and 5 year veteran. Rebounded well after achilles injury.

Kenrick Ellis – Jets NT. Great 2 down run stopper.

Vince Wilfork – Patriots NT, 5-time pro bowler and proven winner with plenty and knowledge to share. Devin McCourty is trying hard to get him back.

Wilfork GIF

Inside Linebackers

In Fangio’s 3-4 scheme, there are two ILBs…one being the “Mike” (middle) linebacker and the other being the “Jack” backer who lines up weak side of the line. Opponents’ run games will be funneled inside for the most part and while the NT eats up space and OL, the ILBs will be responsible for finishing the plays tackling.

Bruce Carter – Cowboys LB who filled carried a lot of weight with Sean Lee out. Aggressive and uber-athletic. Would be a huge steal away from the Packers who are targeting him.

Brandon Spikes – Former Bills defensive captain yet was treated like a 2 down defender under Jim Schwartz. While he may be on back end of career, provides the violent thump a Fangio LB needs.

Mason Foster – Buccaneers LB who doesn’t fit in Lovie’s Cover 2, but is better built to take on anything funneled to the middle. Bears already linked to Foster.

Nate Irving – Broncos LB that Fox is obviously familiar with but coming off a knee injury. Still in high demand and being pursued by Cardinals. Powerful and prototype for 3-4 ILB.

Nate Irving INT

Cornerbacks

While the Bears do have Kyle Fuller and former pro bowler Tim Jennings, they weren’t all that great with them after the first month. Health reasons have proven you can’t have too many, and Jennings may be better suited for the nickel as he gets older.

Davon House – Packers CB expected not to return, well versed in Fangio’s system as the he was DC for Dom Capers previously. Excelled as slot defensive back last season.

Perrish Cox – 49ers CB who has off-field issues but obviously experienced with Fangio. Great instincts in coverage and reading receivers hips. Doesn’t allow much spacing.

Darrelle Revis – Obviously a big fish to catch in a small pond, but come on…Revis Island.

Darrelle Revis

Safeties

A glaring need for years with the Bears defense, the Bears already missed out on my first choice, Devin McCourty. Don’t necessarily need a playmaker but someone who is at least dependable.

Rahim Moore – Another former Fox defender who was very solid in 2014. Not as flashy as Earl Thomas but fits the “dependable” mold that would make the Bears comfortable.

Antrel Rolle – Giants safety that Bears are linked to. Very vocal about being reunited with University of Miami teammates Andre Johnson and Wilfork. Wouldn’t necessarily rule that out for Bears.

Da’Norris Searcy – Bills safety with run-stop and coverage skills. Young and wasn’t really an every down player, but certainly looked the part.

Mike Adams – Colts safety who does a solid job. Older player but could fit for a year or two and get it done.

Mike Adams

Wide Receiver

Obviously there’s an opening for another split out receiver after the Marshall trade. As mentioned earlier, drafting one is a likely possibility but why not add someone with experience. The preference for the Bears would be a speedster, somebody who can take the top off a defense. They didn’t have that guy last season and it made the Jay Cutler led offense predictable. Marshall and Alshon Jeffery weren’t burning past anybody for a much needed deep threat. But anyone with dependable hands would also do…before the draft.

Torrey Smith – Ravens receiver who has proven to be a risk/reward option for the past few years. Has dropping issues but can certainly stretch the field though and compliment Jeffery well.

Andre Johnson – Very similar career as Marshall production-wise, without the baggage. Doesn’t fit the burner mold but super dependable route runner. I’d blame his lack of touchdowns on his quarterbacks more than him.

Michael Crabtree – Former Heisman candidate that has shown promise but hasn’t met the ridiculous standards we all set for him. Change in scenery and pairing with Jeffery and Martellus Bennett could help him breakout.

Michael Crabtree

Running Backs

The Bears do have Matt Forte, but it wouldn’t be outrageous to start looking beyond the pro bowl “everything” back. Forte will be in the last year of his deal and at the very least will need a backup this season. Bears look to be very run-heavy this coming season, so a 2-back system would be beneficial to not go overkill with Forte touches.

Ryan Matthews – Chargers RB that has had difficulty staying on the field, but solid power runner when given opportunities. Not sure how much Matthews will garner on the market, but would make a great compliment to Forte and can make it an audition to take over after his contract is up.

CJ Spiller – Very similar situation to Matthews in terms of injury history and needing an audition, but a much better pass catcher and versatile offensive weapon. Spiller is also no stranger to the 2 back system.

Knowshon Moreno – Another back with injury history that could also be affordable because of that. Made his money with Dolphins after playing in Adam Gase’s RB-by-committe system and obviously familiar with Fox.

Knowshon Moreno

Of course there are more needs and other options the Bears could go with. Feel free to recommend your suggestions and follow along the Free Agency action with me on Twitter