Dec 26, 2020; Detroit, Michigan, USA; Detroit Lions running back Adrian Peterson (28) talks with Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Tom Brady (12) after the game at Ford Field. Mandatory Credit: Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports

Adrian Peterson hoping to play 15th NFL season

Adrian Peterson is ready if he gets a call from a team wanting the 36-year-old to play a 15th NFL season.

Peterson is unsigned with training camp days away after rushing for 604 yards with the Detroit Lions last season.

Fifth on the NFL’s all-time rushing list with 14,820 yards, Peterson and Frank Gore (16,000) are both without a team but working out to be ready if the chance comes due to injury or otherwise.

“The training is going well and I’m going to control the things that I can control right now, and, when that time comes, somebody will give me a call,” Peterson said on Sports Talk 790 in Houaron. “That’s all I’m asking for. My body feels good. I came out healthy from last season. My body feels strong. I still feel young. I still feel good. I’m ready to play ball.”

Other free agent running backs include Le’Veon Bell and LeSean McCoy.

Peterson stands 450 yards behind Barry Sanders for fourth on the all-time rushing list, which is topped by Emmitt Smith (18,355 ).

–Field Level Media

Dec 28, 2020; Foxborough, Massachusetts, USA; New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft  on the field as his team warms up before the start of the game against the Buffalo Bills at Gillette Stadium. Mandatory Credit: David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports

Patriots’ Robert Kraft addresses free-agency binge, draft misfires

The New England Patriots were quite active during the NFL’s free agency period, spending a league-record $165 million in guaranteed money.

While the Patriots added tight ends Hunter Henry and Jonnu Smith and wideouts Nelson Agholor and Kendrick Bourne, among others, Patriots owner Robert Kraft acknowledged Wednesday that being active in free agency isn’t the desired path toward long-term success.

“In the end, if you want to have a good, consistent, winning football team, you can’t do it in free agency,” Kraft said. “You have to do it through the draft because that’s when you’re able to get people of great talent, whether it’s Willie McGinest or Tom Brady. You get them at a price where you can build the team and be competitive. Once they get to their (second) contract, if they’re superstars, you can only balance so many of them.

“… Really, the teams who draft well are the ones who will be consistently good. I don’t feel like we’ve done the greatest job the last few years and I really hope and believe I’ve seen a different approach this year.”

The Patriots look to rebound after a 7-9 record last season resulted in the first time they missed the playoffs since 2008. They have 10 picks in the 2021 NFL Draft, which kicks off on April 29. Barring a trade, their first pick will be No. 15.

As for New England’s recent top draft picks, well, judge for yourself.

In 2017, the Patriots selected defensive end Derek Rivers and offensive lineman Antonio Garcia in the third round. Both players are no longer with the team.

The following year’s first-round picks, offensive tackle Isaiah Wynn and running back Sony Michel, have produced inconsistent results. Wynn has started 18 games over the past two seasons while Michel rushed for 1,843 yards and 13 touchdowns in his first two campaigns before being limited to 449 yards and one score in 2020.

Wideout N’Keal Harry, the team’s first-round pick in 2019, has just 45 catches for 414 yards and four touchdowns in 21 games.

–Field Level Media

Oct 25, 2020; Nashville, Tennessee, USA; Tennessee Titans outside linebacker Jadeveon Clowney (99) forces a fumble by Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Chase Claypool (11) during the first half at Nissan Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports

Report: Jadeveon Clowney free agency delayed by knee surgery

Dec 6, 2020; Miami Gardens, Florida, USA; Miami Dolphins middle linebacker Kyle Van Noy (53) warms up prior to the game against the Cincinnati Bengals at Hard Rock Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

Jadeveon Clowney underwent knee surgery to repair a torn meniscus and the free agent defensive end won’t be medically cleared until April, NFL Network reported Tuesday.

Free agency begins March 17, although teams can negotiate with unrestricted free agents two days prior.

Clowney played eight games for the Tennessee Titans in 2020 before he landed on injured reserve.

The Titans lured Clowney to Nashville on a one-year deal worth $12.7 million — up to $15 million with incentives — although he was unsigned until Sept. 6.

Clowney said throughout free agency that he was taking his time in the process while discussing a deal with the Seattle Seahawks, Cleveland Browns and others.

Upon joining the Titans, he didn’t record a sack and made only a modest impact, considering the investment.

In seven NFL seasons, the former No. 1 pick (2014) has played in 83 games (74 starts) and notched 32 QB sacks.

A three-time Pro Bowl selection, Clowney spent his first five seasons with the Houston Texans and played for the Seattle Seahawks in 2019.

–Field Level Media

Dec 6, 2020; Houston, Texas, USA; Houston Texans defensive end J.J. Watt (99) runs onto the field before the game against the Indianapolis Colts at NRG Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

J.J. Watt taps brakes on destination speculation

J.J. Watt quickly tapped the brakes on speculation he was behind a hint about his free agency destination on Monday.

Watt took to Twitter to douse widespread reports that a change in his Peloton bio — with the words: “SB56…GB…CLE…BUF” — implied the Green Bay Packers, Cleveland Browns and Buffalo Bills could be his next destination.

The problem?

Watt said he doesn’t own a Peloton.

“I don’t own a bike. Stop,” Watt posted to Twitter.

ESPN reported the change in the bio earlier in the day.

The Packers, Browns and Bills all have been connected to Watt in his first foray into free agency. He’s also been in contact with the Tennessee Titans.

The update Monday appeared on the overview section of a bio for Peloton, the at-home bicycle trainer with a massive following, but the veteran defensive end said the account is not his.

The three-time NFL Defensive Player of the Year last month described his initial experience on the open market as “wild.”

–Field Level Media

Dec 6, 2020; Houston, Texas, USA; Houston Texans defensive end J.J. Watt (99) runs onto the field before the game against the Indianapolis Colts at NRG Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

Free agent J.J. Watt reportedly has $15M-$16M offer

Free agent J.J. Watt received at least one offer for $15 million to $16 million annually, ESPN reported on Thursday.

Watt was released by the Houston Texans at his request and the three-time NFL Defensive Player of the Year has described his first foray into the open market as “wild.”

Several teams have been connected to Watt, who was a first-round pick out of Wisconsin and spent his entire career to this point with the Texans.

The home-state Green Bay Packers, Cleveland Browns, Tennessee Titans, Indianapolis Colts, Las Vegas Raiders, Pittsburgh Steelers and Buffalo Bills are rumored to be contenders.

Watt might not be basing his decision entirely on money, considering his contract with the Texans would have paid him $17.5 million in 2021.

Watt turns 32 on March 22 and ESPN reported he has received “multiple offers.”

–Field Level Media

Dec 27, 2020; Houston, Texas, USA; Houston Texans defensive end J.J. Watt (99) waits with teammates to walk onto the field before a game against the Cincinnati Bengals at NRG Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

J.J. Watt: ‘Free agency is wild’

First-time NFL free agent J.J. Watt resurfaced publicly for the first time since he was granted his unconditional release by the Houston Texans to describe his ongoing foray into the open market.

“Free agency is wild,” Watt, 31, said via Twitter on Wednesday.

The three-time NFL Defensive Player of the Year was swarmed with interest in the hours after he was let go by the Texans. A report on Tuesday from said Watt finds the Browns an attractive landing spot. In Watt’s opinion, the Browns are positioned to make a Super Bowl run. Further, the Browns have $21.7 million in cap space; Watt was set to make $17.5 million in 2021.

Plus, defensive end Myles Garrett (12 sacks in 2020) would be on the other side.

There are numerous suitors for the five-time All-Pro.

Tennessee general manager Jon Robinson said Tuesday that the Titans have reached out to Watt’s agents. Pittsburgh, Buffalo and Green Bay are also potential suitors. However, the Steelers and Packers are $30 million and $19 million over the cap, respectively.

Watt’s former teammate in Houston, Arizona wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins, also took to social media Tuesday to woo Watt, photo-shopping Watt in a Cardinals uniform. Free agent wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster told Watt to “come play with your brothers” — T.J. and Derek — in Pittsburgh.

The Browns reached out to Watt’s agents Friday after his release from Houston, per the report.

Watt is Houston’s all-time leader in sacks with 101, tackles for loss (172), quarterback hits (282) and forced fumbles (25). He has 531 career tackles, 61 passes defensed and 16 fumble recoveries since the Texans made him the No. 11 overall selection in the 2011 NFL Draft.

–Field Level Media

Oct 11, 2020; Arlington, Texas, USA; Dallas Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott (4) calls a play in the second quarter against the New York Giants at AT&T Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

Take 5: Free agent situations that will shape the NFL offseason

The NFL is embarking on an offseason that could change the shape of numerous franchises.

While the league has yet to set the precise salary cap for the 2021 season, it is expected to be around $180 million. Teams can’t engage in discussions with free agents until March 15 and are prohibited from signing them until two days later, but that doesn’t mean franchises and players aren’t aware of what’s looming.

In free agency, a good addition such as when the Colts signed quarterback Philip Rivers, can turn a team coming off a losing season into a playoff contender. Conversely, a poor choice can stunt a team’s growth – for example, the one-year, $20 million deal Arizona gave to oft-injured quarterback Sam Bradford in 2018.

Free agent decisions create a ripple effect throughout the league, with teams left to fill voids and free agents getting a gauge of what their market value is with other signings in their position groups. Franchise and transition tags can also be used on pending free agents between Feb. 23-March 9 and can shape the free agent market.

Here are five free-agent situations that will shape the offseason:

1. QB Dak Prescott, Dallas Cowboys: The Cowboys and their franchise signal-caller have been working on a long-term deal for the past couple years without success. Now, it has likely come to a head.

Before Prescott suffered a compound fracture and dislocation of his right ankle in a win over the New York Giants on Oct. 11, he had thrown for 10,643 yards, 61 touchdowns and 23 interceptions, in addition to rushing for 12 scores, in his previous 37 games.

Prescott, who turns 28 in July, played under a franchise tag this past season. If he has to be franchise-tagged again, he’ll make more than $37 million in 2021, which could prevent the Cowboys from adding pieces to their defense, which struggled mightily at times last year.

The Cowboys are among roughly a dozen teams with the quarterback position in flux. Prescott is the headliner of this year’s potential free-agent quarterback class, with a steep drop-off to Chicago’s Mitchell Trubisky, Miami’s Ryan Fitzpatrick and New England’s Cam Newton.

2. RB Aaron Jones, Green Bay: Jones bet on himself this year. The Packers reportedly offered him a contract before last season that would have made him among the five highest-paid players in the league. But he turned it down because he was unhappy with the deal’s guaranteed money.

Jones was terrific for the second straight season. He made his first Pro Bowl with a career-high 1,104 rushing yards and nine touchdowns in two fewer games and 35 fewer carries than in 2019. Jones also caught 47 passes for 355 yards and two touchdowns, continuing to be a valuable check-down target for Aaron Rodgers.

How Green Bay handles Jones, who signed a four-year, $2.601 million deal as a rookie, likely sends a message to Rodgers regarding the team’s offensive philosophy. Jones’ backup, Jamaal Williams, is also a pending free agent, and it’s unlikely both return with 2020 second-round pick AJ Dillon also on the roster.

Jones’ situation will impact a free-agent group of running backs that includes Arizona’s Kenyan Drake (955 yards, 10 TDs), Seattle’s Chris Carson (681 yards, 5 TDs), Tampa Bay’s Leonard Fournette (367 yards, 6 TDs) and Atlanta’s Todd Gurley (678, 9 TDs).

3. Which receiver signs first?

The top tier of free-agent receivers is deep. Chicago’s Allen Robinson II, Tampa Bay’s Chris Godwin, Detroit’s Kenny Golladay and Pittsburgh’s JuJu Smith-Schuster could all hit the market and would command top dollar. But how much?

That’s the biggest question because the receiver who signs first – whether it is with his team or another franchise – could set the market for the others.

Robinson has 200 receptions for nearly 2,400 yards to go along with 13 touchdowns the past two seasons catching passes from Trubisky, Nick Foles and Chase Daniel. Robinson, who turns 28 in August, is also coming off a contract that paid him $42 million over three seasons, with more than $25 million guaranteed.

Godwin, who turns 25 later this month, has 151 catches for nearly 2,100 yards and 16 touchdowns during the same time span. He also had the luxury of playing with Tom Brady this season and alongside premier receiver Mike Evans during his time in Tampa. He’s in line for a huge raise after completing his four-year, $3.284 million contract rookie contract.

Golladay established himself as a go-to receiver with a combined 135 receptions for 2,253 yards and 16 touchdowns from 2018-19. However, he was limited to just 20 catches in five games in 2020 due to a nagging hip injury.

Will a team pay top dollar to the 27-year-old Golladay, who is coming off a four-year, $3.196 million deal?

Smith-Schuster caught 97 passes for 831 yards and a career-high nine touchdowns in 2020 and doesn’t turn 25 until November. He could also be expendable to the Steelers, who are deep at receiver with Chase Claypool, Diontae Johnson and James Washington.

Smith-Schuster will be looking for a much bigger payday now that his four-year, $4.195 million rookie contract is over.

The next tier of receivers includes Tennessee’s Corey Davis, Houston’s Will Fuller V, Carolina’s Curtis Samuel and Tampa Bay’s Antonio Brown.

4. What will the Ravens do with DEs Matthew Judon and Yannick Ngakoue?

The Ravens will likely be in the market for one of the above wide receivers to improve a league-worst passing offense (171.2 yards per game in 2020). They also have a major decision to make regarding their premier edge rushers.

Judon, a two-time Pro Bowler who recorded 6.0 sacks this season after recording 9.5 in 2019, played under a $16.808 million franchise tag and could command $20 million annually in his next deal.

So too could the 25-year-old Ngakoue, who the Ravens acquired in an in-season trade with Vikings. He had 8.0 sacks and four forced fumbles combined between the two teams while earning $12 million in 2020.

The free-agent class of edge rushers is fairly deep. It includes Denver’s Von Miller, Tampa Bay’s Shaq Barrett, Pittsburgh’s Bud Dupree, Washington’s Ryan Kerrigan, San Francisco’s Kerry Hyder, the Los Angeles Chargers’ Melvin Ingram and Tennessee’s Jadeveon Clowney.

5. What’s LT Trent Williams’ future in San Francisco?

It’s not often a premier left tackle hits the open market, but that could be the case with Williams, an eight-time Pro Bowler who returned to dominating form in 2020 after sitting out all of 2019 due to a contract dispute with Washington.

San Francisco gave Washington two draft picks to acquire Williams, but the 49ers will have to give the 6-foot-5, 320-pounder a new contract to keep him. Williams, who turns 33 in July and is coming off a five-year, $68 million deal, is in line for the biggest payday of his career.

If Williams leaves San Francisco, the 49ers could still find a good – but not great – replacement in free agency. Pittsburgh’s Alejandro Villanueva, Philadelphia’s Jason Peters, Jacksonville’s Cam Robinson and Carolina’s Taylor Moton and Russell Okung headline a deep class.

–Jon Gallo, Field Level Media

Jan 5, 2020; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA; Seattle Seahawks defensive end Jadeveon Clowney (90) reacts after defeating the Philadelphia Eagles in a NFC Wild Card playoff football game at Lincoln Financial Field. Mandatory Credit: Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports

Report: Still without deal, Clowney switches agents

With the NFL season kickoff less than a week away, free-agent defensive end Jadeveon Clowney has fired agent Bus Cook, according to ESPN.

The former No. 1 overall draft pick reportedly now will work with Kennard McGuire as he tries to find a team that will meet his contract demands this season.

Clowney fired Cook once before, according to ProFootballTalk. That came in the 2019 offseason, though Clowney rehired Cook before being traded from the Houston Texans to the Seattle Seahawks.

Cook is best known as the longtime agent of retired quarterback Brett Favre. Kennard’s clients include Carolina Panthers quarterback Teddy Bridgewater.

Clowney has been linked to the Tennessee Titans and Seahawks, but on Friday reportedly met with New Orleans Saints head coach Sean Payton in Houston for a private dinner.

Seattle, where Clowney played in 2019, and Tennessee both would be looking to pay him around $12 million per season, per Yahoo Sports. He reportedly turned down an offer earlier this offseason that could have been as high as $18 million from the Cleveland Browns.

Clowney reportedly was looking for $21 million per season when free agency opened, but found the market wanting.

Clowney has tallied 32 sacks in 75 career games. He also has a noteworthy injury history, which includes microfracture surgery on his knee and core muscle surgery after the 2019 season.

Clowney, 27, played in 13 games for the Seahawks last season, registering three sacks, 31 tackles and 13 quarterback hits.

–Field Level Media

Free Agency’s Losers

Players are usually eager to enter free agency because of the expectation of a big payday. It doesn’t always work out that way. A market may never develop for a variety of reasons (age, unrealistic contract demands, supply at playing position, etc.). Here’s a look at a few players that haven’t or didn’t fare so well on the open market.
Michael Crabtree (WR): Crabtree took a backseat to 34 year old Anquan Boldin in the San Francisco 49ers’ passing game last season. The 2009 tenth overall pick finished 2014 with 68 receptions, 698 receiving yards and four touchdown catches. The 49ers went in a different direction at wide receiver by signing speedster Torrey Smith to a five-year, $40 million contract (with $22 million in guarantees). It only took Dwayne Bowe a week to find a new home with the Cleveland Browns once the Kansas City Chiefs released him. Bowe got a two-year, $12.5 million containing $9 million fully guaranteed despite three straight disappointing seasons in Kansas City. Crabtree is willing to be patient to find the right situation. He made $4 million in 2014 during the final year of his six year rookie contract. The odds are against him finding a one year deal for more than his 2014 salary.
Terrance Knighton (DT)-Washington Redskins: It was widely assumed Knighton’s affinity for head coach Jack Del Rio would lead him to the Oakland Raiders. Del Rio had Knighton for three years when he was coaching the Jacksonville Jaguars and spent the last two seasons as his defensive coordinator with the Denver Broncos. Continuing to play for Del Rio went out the window after Knighton eliminated the Raiders from consideration because of a “low ball” offer. Knighton was reportedly seeking a multi-year contract averaging $8 million per year. The Raiders signed defensive tackle Dan Williams to a four-year, $25 million deal with $15.2 million fully guaranteed instead. Knighton took a one year deal worth $4 million from the Redskins, which includes $450,000 in weight clauses.
Rolando McClain (ILB): McClain was one of the NFL’s best bargains in 2014 while making $700,000. He was retired and hadn’t played in the NFL since the Oakland Raiders released him in the middle of the 2012 season when the Dallas Cowboys acquired him in a trade with the Baltimore Ravens last off-season. McClain was the Cowboys’ best linebacker in 2014 and finished tied for second in the voting for the NFL’s Comeback Player of the Year Award.
Other 2014 Cowboys linebackers quickly found deals on the open market. Bruce Carter signed a four-year, $17 million contract (worth up to $20.5 million with salary escalators and incentives) with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Justin Durant received a three-year, $10 million deal (worth a maximum of $13.8 million through incentives) from the Atlanta Falcons. McClain didn’t do himself any favors by running afoul of the league’s substance abuse policy. He is subject to a fine of four week’s salary for failing three drug tests. His next violation will result in a four game suspension.
The Cowboys are interested in bringing him back but have already signed Jasper Brinkley and Andrew Gachkar for middle linebacker depth. Brinkely received a one year deal worth $2.25 million with the Cowboys having an option for a second year at the same amount. Gachkar signed a two-year, $3.5 million contract (worth up to $5.5 million through incentives.).
Ahtyba Rubin-(DT)-Seattle Seahawks: Rubin’s one-year, $2.6 million deal (worth up to $3.1 million with incentives) is a big departure from his last contract. He entered free agency after completing a three-year, $26.5 million contract extension (with $18 million in guarantees) he signed with the Cleveland Browns in 2011. Rubin, who was slowed by a nagging ankle injury in 2014, will provide depth as a part of Seattle’s interior defensive line rotation.
Rahim Moore (S)-Houston Texans: Moore signed a three-year, $12 million deal ($4.5 million fully guaranteed) to fill a void at free safety that’s existed ever since Glover Quin left via free agency two years ago. It’s interesting that the Texans made a bigger commitment to an aging Ed Reed in 2013 than to the 25 year old Moore. Reed received a three-year, $15 million contract containing $5 million fully guaranteed when he was approaching 35 years of age. The future Hall of Famer made $5,050,966 from the Texans for appearing in seven games before being released nine games into the 2013 season. Moore is making $5 million in 2015.
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Joel Corry is a former sports agent who helped found Premier Sports & Entertainment, a sports management firm that represents professional athletes and coaches. Prior to his tenure at Premier, Joel worked for Management Plus Enterprises, which represented Shaquille O’Neal, Hakeem Olajuwon and Ronnie Lott.

Ryan Pace is proving to be a worthy General Manager

Being a General Manager for an NFL franchise is a tough job. Being a General Manager for an NFL franchise in a big media market like Chicago is even tougher. There is always going to be someone questioning just about each and every decision you make.
Ryan Pace has been the General Manager of the Chicago Bears for only two months, and in that time, he has shown that he has what it takes to become successful in the NFL. In that short two month period, he has already made a handful of decisions that could very well shape the future of the Bears and his time in Chicago.
First, he decided the Bears no longer needed the services of Pro Bowl wide receiver Brandon Marshall. As talented as Marshall is, he had a negative influence in the locker room, and that’s not someone anyone wants on their team. Pace found a willing participant for a trade and shipped Marshall off to the New York Jets for a low round draft choice.
Next, decided the Chicago Bears were not going to be big spenders in free agency this year. History has shown us that when you go out and spend a huge amount of money in the free agent market, it rarely pays off. Yes, it creates positive press and allows you to “win” the off season, but it doesn’t always translate to wins in the fall. Pace has made numerous moves in free agency, but he hasn’t given out the outlandish big ticket contract that makes headlines.
His first move was to sign outside linebacker Pernell McPhee, who spent his first four years in the league with the Baltimore Ravens. McPhee is only 26 years old and is considered an ascending player, which should mean his best football is in front of him. McPhee was signed to give the Bears an outside pass rusher in their new 3-4 defensive scheme.
Next, Pace signed safety Antrel Rolle. Rolle had a very successful career with the New York Giants and is clearly in the last years of his career, but he is still able to play good football and has strong leadership skills. The price tag to obtain Rolle was very fair, and in no way did Chicago overpay for his services.
The third big move was the signing of wide receiver Eddie Royal. Royal has had an up and down career. He was originally drafted by Denver and caught 187 passes in his first three years in the league. He then had a two year swing where his production fell off, but in the last two seasons, he has proven to still be a very reliable player. At 28 years old, he should still have some good football left in him and gives the Bears a much needed slot receiver.
Going into free agency, the Bears had a huge need along the defensive line as they were transitioning to a new scheme and didn’t have many defensive linemen who fit. Pace resisted going after the over the hill big ticket player and waited until phase two of free agency. His plan may be working. Yesterday, the Bears signed three veteran players who can help improve the defense as they are “fits” to what the Bears are doing.
The first player signed yesterday was defensive tackle Jarvis Jenkins, formerly of the Washington Redskins. Jenkins was a Washington’s second round draft choice in 2011 but tore an ACL his rookie year. It wasn’t until the last two years that Jenkins has started to play to his potential. In 2014, he started 14 games and had a career high of 29 tackles and three tackles for loss. He will be a good rotational defensive lineman for Chicago. As he only signed a one year contract, there is minimal risk involved.
The second player signed was inside linebacker Mason Foster. Foster is going into his fifth year in the league and, early in his career, played some outstanding football for Tampa Bay. When Lovie Smith came in as the new Tampa Bay head coach a year ago, Foster was looked at as a player who didn’t really fit Lovie’s Tampa 2 scheme. With his contract up, the Bucs decided not to re-sign him. Foster is a smart, instinctive player and is an excellent fit for the Bears new scheme. Again, the cost was minimal as he signed a one year deal.
The third player signed was by far the most controversial. Defensive tackle Ray McDonald is only 30 years old and has been a very productive player for the 49ers for years. The bad news is that last August he was arrested but not charged in a domestic violence issue involving his fiancé. The San Jose, California police decided against pressing charges after a thorough investigation. Last December, a woman accused McDonald of sexual assault. Almost four months later, no charges have been filed and McDonald has filed a law suit against the woman. It is obvious that the McDonald signing comes with risk and could backfire on the Bears. If that happens, Pace loses a lot of the credibility he has built up in Halas Hall.
Pace did a tremendous amount of research before pulling the trigger on the transaction. The Bears new defensive coordinator Vic Fangio came from San Francisco where McDonald played. Fangio has a four-year relationship with McDonald and vouched for Ray both as a person and a player. The same can be said for defensive back coach Ed Donatell, who spent the last four years with McDonald. The Bears also contacted the NFL regarding what their investigation of the incidents showed. Finally, McDonald flew to Chicago to meet with Bears Chairman George McCaskey. After a two hour meeting with McDonald, McCaskey agreed to the signing.
Regardless of whether or not the Bears feel they have done all their homework, the signing could backfire on Pace and the Bears. If McDonald had no issues, he would have been the second or third best defensive linemen available this off season after Ndamukong Suh. The money he could have gotten would have been in the $5M range per season. With the issues present, the Bears were able to sign McDonald to only a one year contract. If he screws up, it won’t cost the Bears anything other than bad publicity.
If all of these signings work out, Pace will be looked at as a shrewd, young, front office executive. If the McDonald signing fails, then it will be just the opposite. In my view, with the contract structured the way it is, the risk is minimal and the reward high.
Pace has spent the last two weeks in free agency making moves to allow the Bears to draft the best players available. It will be interesting to see how he handles draft day.
Follow Greg on Twitter @greggabe