The Chicago Bears might soon have to make a decision regarding Cameron Meredith’s future, but GM Ryan Pace seems prepared.
Pace tells Adam Jahns of the Chicago Sun-Times that the team is closely monitoring the outside interest in the restricted free agent wide receiver. Earlier in March, the Bears placed a low-round tender worth $1.907 million on Meredith, meaning the team has the right of first refusal and the ability to match an offer sheet Meredith receivers. But should Chicago choose not to match the offer sheet, the Bears would receive no compensation for losing a player who was their leading receiver in 2016.
While handing the low-round tender to Meredith comes with its share of risks, Pace and the front office recently went through a similar experience when using the rarely-used transition tag on cornerback Kyle Fuller. Much like Fuller used the transition tag as an opportunity to get a feel for a market and check out how other teams value him, Meredith is doing the same under this particular tender. And just like the franchise tag would have suppressed much (if not all) of the outside interest in Fuller because of the compensation required to get a deal done, the same would have applied to Meredith had the team placed a higher tag on him.
In any case, teams interested in signing Meredith probably have similar questions to teams that wanted Fuller. Meredith is coming off a season-ending knee injury and has just one year of proven NFL production under his belt. But unlike Fuller, Meredith doesn’t have the prospect pedigree that comes with being a former first-round pick. Meredith is a converted quarterback who played his college ball on the FCS level at Illinois State and was an undrafted free agent. In addition, Meredith just missed all of last season, so his one year of proven production wasn’t even his most recent.
In short, teams that don’t have as much background and information on Meredith as the Bears do would be taking on their own set of risks when approaching the restricted free agent with an offer sheet. Then again, Meredith could always choose to play under the one-year tender and re-enter the market as an unrestricted free agent a year from now.
In the end, there shouldn’t be much concern regarding Meredith’s visits to Indianapolis, Baltimore, and New Orleans. Would it be nice to have a bit more certainty about his future in Chicago? Certainly. But there isn’t much harm in letting a player explore his market, especially when knowing he can easily be re-signed if a team is willing to put an aggressive offer sheet on the table.
And remember, the Bears are still $31.9 million under the cap, according to spotrac.com, which puts them in a good place should an offer sheet come their way. Should Meredith find a long-term deal he likes, then the real games will begin.