Until recently, Bears fans hearing in May that they have reasons to look forward to February mostly would be construed as some kind of sick joke.
After all, the weather (theoretically, anyway) is only now beginning to improve in Chicago, where the Bears too often of late have generated far more buzz in the offseason than on the field. Why, then, would February be of football relevance?
Well, the obvious date — Super Bowl LIV in Miami — is February 2, and for the first time in a decade-plus, it’s not foolish to suggest the Bears are at worst a viable threat to come out of the NFC.
But there’s another reason, one we’ve mentioned on multiple occasions thus far this offseason, that was again pointed out Monday by compensatory pick expert Nick Korte of overthecap.com: The Bears are currently positioned to earn their first comp pick since 2009.
Korte, whose brain we picked for a piece on this very subject earlier this offseason, released Monday at overthecap.com his updated unofficial 2020 comp pick projections, which show that the Bears currently could be in line for a fourth-rounder in return for losing Adrian Amos to the Green Bay Packers.
For those unfamiliar, the compensatory pick formula, while complex, boils down to rewarding the teams that sustained the biggest net losses in free agency, which is determined by a combination of contracts, playtime and postseason awards. Now is an acceptable time to tally up the results because last Tuesday marked the deadline for players added to count toward the compensatory formula, which now only factors in CFA losses.
Interestingly — and perhaps coincidentally — the Bears signed LB Kevin Pierre-Louis one day after the deadline, potentially signaling an organization that has not valued comp picks might finally be willing and/or positioned to alter its philosophy. Again, it could also merely be coincidence, and Pierre-Louis is not someone likely to greatly affect the formula, if at all.
Amos' whopper deal with the Packers currently puts the Bears in play, as it helps offset their biggest additions (Buster Skrine, Mike Davis, Ha Ha Clinton-Dix). But as Korte points out, the situation remains especially fluid in Chicago with several outgoing vets who are helping the Bears remain in the black (Eric Kush in Cleveland, Kevin White in Arizona and Josh Bellamy with the New York Jets) still needing to earn spots with their new teams this summer.
If, say, White doesn’t stick with the Cardinals, it could mean that the Bears would need to make a corresponding cut — HHCD and Davis are the two hypotheticals mentioned by overthecap — to maintain their grip on a potential comp pick. Korte also posits Chicago could potentially open up an additional, fifth-round pick for losing Bryce Callahan by making one of the aforementioned cuts.
That would seem unlikely, especially in the case of the projected Week 1 starting SS Clinton-Dix. Although the drafting of David Montgomery theoretically could relegate Davis to a reserve and special teams role, the Bears promised him $2 million and hardly are in position to waste it.
If nothing else, the comp pick formula — which some of the smartest and most successful teams in the NFL are manipulating more than ever to their advantage — is on the Bears minds again. And it's a good time for it as Chicago's home-grown extension decisions near, magnifying the need to supplement stars with useful players on rookie contracts. The best way to do that is to draft well, which is hard enough but especially without the necessary draft ammo. Remember, the Bears are without their first- (Khalil Mack trade) and fourth-rounders (Montgomery) next year but do have extra selections in Round 2 (Oakland's from Mack deal) and Round 6 (Philadelphia's in exchange for acquiring Jordan Howard).
So consider the comp formula returning to play for the Bears one of the positive byproducts or fruits of GM Ryan Pace's labor in turning one of the NFL's worst rosters at the time of his inheritance four-plus years ago into one of the most talented.
"First of all, your roster has to be at a really healthy state to even consider [compensatory picks], right?" Pace said in March at the owners meetings. "There can be a huge advantage. We kind of knew going into free agency that was a possibility. ... But it’s something we’re mindful of. I think a lot of the good clubs, you see the Rams doing it, they figure out a way to take advantage of that system, and for us the key is to continue to draft well and we’ll be in a position for these compensatory picks."
And the Bears haven't been in this good of a position in a decade.