Bears Criticized for One of the ‘Worst Decisions’ of Offseason

The Chicago Bears have arguably had one of the most eventful and exciting offseasons of any NFL team. They’ve added a potential franchise quarterback in No. 1 overall pick Caleb Williams, and they’ve added multiple talented wide receivers in veteran Keenan Allen and rookie Rome Odunze.

The Bears also signed several new players on defense, including inking veteran safety Kevin Byard to a two-year contract.

Alex Kay of Bleacher Report ranked the six “Worst Decisions of the 2024 NFL Offseason,” and he included Chicago’s signing of Byard as one of them.

“With Byard now entering his age-31 season, his best days are likely well behind him,” Kay wrote. “The eight-year veteran is likely to further regress rather than improve in his first Bears season, which makes this a poor signing. It could come back to haunt the Bears as they look to turn a corner in 2024.”

Will Kevin Byard & His Contract Prove to Be a Bad Choice for the Chicago Bears?

You know what’s going on, @KevinByard! pic.twitter.com/8qgHQsCpsZ

— Philadelphia Eagles (@Eagles) November 21, 2023

It’s a bit early to gauge at this point, but it’s certainly possible. Kay made his list of questionable decisions “based on the potential damage to a team’s salary cap, draft capital and future outlook.”

Kay doesn’t have much ground to stand on regarding his point about the salary cap, however.

The Bears released their own veteran safety when they let Eddie Jackson go this offseason. Jackson had a salary cap hit just over $18.1 million. Considering Chicago signed Byard to a two-year deal worth $15 million ($7.4 million guaranteed), the move to Byard wasn’t a fiscally debilitating one. In fact, the Bears are saving money with the move while still keeping a veteran on the roster.

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Byard’s contract also didn’t dent the team’s cap that much. His deal is Chicago’s 10th-highest contract in 2024. Had Jackson still been on the roster this coming season, he would have been tied with Keenan Allen for the second-highest cap hit on the squad.

Per Over the Cap, the Bears have just under $23 million in cap space on the books, so they still have funds to make a few additions while also signing their rookies.

Byard’s age could be an issue, though, which speaks to Kay’s point about future outlook. A two-time All-Pro selection in 2017 and 2021 with the Tennessee Titans, it’s fair to argue Byard’s best playing days are behind him. He also looked a tad spent at times during his brief tenure with the Philadelphia Eagles last year.

Still, he should be an upgrade over Jackson at strong safety.

Ex-Bears Safety Eddie Jackson Is Still a Free Agent

#Bears safety Kevin Byard played all over the field last year. He had:

• 551 free safety snaps
• 378 box snaps
• 234 slot snaps

That versatility, along with his run defense, should make him fun to watch in Chicago’s defense. More well-rounded and flexible than Eddie Jackson.

— Jacob Infante (@jacobinfante24) May 15, 2024

The Eagles traded for Byard on October 23, but released him in a cap-saving move this offseason. In 10 games with Philadelphia last year, Byard had 75 tackles (50 solo), three pass breakups and an interception.

In coverage for the Eagles last season, Byard gave up 32 receptions on 38 targets, per PFF. His 79.7 receiving percentage last season was the highest of his career and he also gave up more yards (502) and yards-after-the-catch (197) than he had in any season prior.

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Still, opposing QBs had a 106.4 rating when throwing Byard’s way, while Jackson allowed a 121.1 passer rating to opposing signal-callers. Jackson allowed three TDs in 417 coverage snaps; Byard allowed two in 683 snaps in coverage.

Byard turns 31 in August of 2024. He’s a year older than Jackson, who will be 30 in December. Neither veteran safety is in his prime, but Byard has a versatility playing the middle that Jackson lacks, as Windy City Gridiron’s Jacob Infante noted in the above post.

Jackson has been a free agent since February, and has dealt with foot injuries in each of the last two seasons, while Byard has been healthy.

It seems clear Byard is no longer an All-Pro player, but it seems equally clear that his contract isn’t going to be any worse for the Bears than Jackson’s was.

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