The Chicago Bears are going to walk the tight rope when it comes to Kyle Fuller’s future.
Brad Biggs of the Chicago Tribune reports the team will not use the franchise tag as a means to retain Fuller, who put forth his best (and most consistent) year as a pro after the team declined to exercise the fifth-year option on his rookie deal.
HOWEVER, Biggs did not rule out the Bears using the transition tag to keep Fuller. In short, the use of the transition tag would allow Fuller to test the market and give GM Ryan Pace the right to match an offer sheet. So if it comes to it, OverTheCap.com projects the transition tag tender for cornerbacks to be $12.898 million.
Last week, we discussed a report by Pro Football Weekly’s Hub Arkush in which he hears that Fuller would like to return to the Bears, but only after getting a taste of free agency, exploring the open market, and getting a feel for his value. For what it’s worth, it sounds like Biggs is hearing similar things. And if the feeling is mutual (and it sure seems like it is from reading Biggs’ thoughts on the matter) there is no reason not to be optimistic about the two sides ironing out a long-term deal.
To be clear, there is a fair amount of risk in not tagging Fuller. But the front office probably feels as if its relationship with Fuller is in a good enough place where it can allow him to test the free agent waters in this manner. The Bears (as an organization) have used this tactic before, allowing star linebacker Lance Briggs and Pro Bowl center Olin Kruetz to check out free agency without a tag. After each player came to an understanding of their value on the free agent market, both signed deals to return to Chicago. It’s not the safest plan, but it’s one that has been successful in the past.
Without opening up old wounds, this entire process feels totally different than what came before the decision not tag Alshon Jeffery prior to free agency in 2017. Hopefully, it ends with the Bears bringing back a player the team drafted and developed on a deal that keeps him in Chicago through his prime years.