The Chicago Bears have been busy. Between hiring Matt Nagy as the new head coach, the week long “will he, won’t he” with newly renewed defensive coordinator Vic Fangio and the slew of other hirings, the Bears have had their hands full. However, it’s time to shift the focus to the players.

Who’s staying? Who’s going? Who should we re-sign?

More coming on those first two questions, but for now, let’s focus on the last one. The Bears have 20 players on their roster set to become free agents and there is no question who is atop the list. Kyle Fuller.

The Facts

Fuller, who, after a overblown “falling out” with Fangio at the end of the 2016 season, was viewed as a player on the bubble. He put all that to rest in 2017.

Cornerback was a big question for Chicago coming into the year and general manager Ryan Pace made a significant splash bringing in Prince Amukamara on a one-year deal. Amukamara was set to be the teams No. 1 corner, but got flat out outplayed by Fuller.

Fuller’s numbers don’t paint the whole picture, but they give you an idea of how good he was. The fourth-year corner had 60 tackles, a career high, and had two picks. While the interception number isn’t quite where the Bears want him, he created opportunities for the rest of the secondary. Remember Adrian Amos’ 90-yard pick-six against the Baltimore Ravens? Yeah, give the credit to Fuller who made a fantastic play on the ball and batted it up in the air.

Speaking of batted passes, Fuller was second in the league this season, tied with Los Angeles Chargers corner Casey Hayward, with 22 passes defended, another career high. Fuller only trailed the Detroit Lions’ First-Team All-Pro corner Darius Slay who had 26.

The Money

Fuller is set to get a big pay day. Pace isn’t known to break the bank during free agency, but Chicago should be willing to give him a blank check.

Washington Redskins corner Josh Norman is the leagues highest-paid corner, making $15 million a year. After his career year, expect Fuller to demand that kind of money. That $15 million is a little much, he’s good, but Fuller isn’t at Norman’s or Richard Sherman’s level yet.

Pace will want to float more around Slay’s contract, which is $12 million a year. That’s a good benchmark. Maybe even a tad lower because Slay has an All-Pro and a Pro-Bowl, which nowadays doesn’t really mean that much, under his belt. Plus, he led the league in interceptions.

With a couple of cuts, Mike Glennon, Jerrell Freeman, Pernell McPhee, Willie Young, Quintin Demps and Markus Wheaton, the Bears will be sitting pretty with just over $77 million in cap space. They’ve got plenty of dough to throw around.

The Prediction

The short and sweet answer? Four years, $46 million.

A nice $11.5 million a year should be good enough to keep Fuller around in The Windy City for the next few seasons. Pace should lead with $9.5 million, Fuller’s starting number will probably be in that $15-14 million range. They’ll meet in the middle.

That’s what would happen in a perfect world. However, the business side of the NFL is not perfect. Things get nasty quick, but don’t worry Bear fans. If things go south, remember that Pace has that trump card in his back pocket. The dreaded franchise tag.

For those that don’t know, the franchise tag is some a team can apply to a player set to hit the open market and contractually binds them to the team for a year. The salary is the average of what the five highest paid players at the position make.

In 2017, the number was $14.212 million. It will float around that again in 2018. If it comes to that, both sides will be content. Fuller will make his money and the Bears get to keep their young, stout corner, but it will come with mixed feelings.

Fuller has to play on a one-year contract, a situation no player wants to be in, and Chicago will feel like it’s overpaying, but fans will rejoice.
Barring some unseen issue, there is little to essentially no chance that Fuller isn’t sporting the navy and orange in 2018.

This article first appeared on isportsweb.com and was syndicated with permission.

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