Leonard Floyd finished the 2019 season with more disappointment. The former first-round pick (9) hasn’t been able to put it all together and step up his game in his 4 seasons with the Bears. A strong argument could be made that he’s actually gotten worse since he joined the league. He’s on his way to being another first-round bust for GM Ryan Pace.
Last season, when the Bears needed him to step up after losing Akiem Hicks for much of the season, he didn’t. Defenses were able to double team Khalil Mack on nearly every play and the team had some issues getting to the quarterback. Now in Floyd’s defense, the rest of the defensive front didn’t step up a whole lot either, but they weren’t the 10th highest cap hit on the Bears’ roster like Floyd was. They also didn’t come with the title of “former first-round pick”.
Fast forward to this upcoming year, and Floyd is going to be the 3rd highest-paid player on the team behind Mack and Robinson. Something is wrong with that picture. Luckily, they can shed that cap hit like the did with Prince Amukamara ($9.5 million) and Taylor Gabriel ($6.5 million) just a few weeks ago. If the Bears were to do the same with Floyd (or find a trade partner), they would free up just over $13 million. At this point, it’s looking like that might be the route they need to go.
The Bears need to either find some cheap help on the edge or release Floyd and completely re-vamp that position. I vote for the latter.
One way to do that is through the draft, another area where the Bears are going to struggle. By going this route, they would theoretically be able to keep Floyd on board. The only problem is some of these top prospects might not be around by the time the Bears pick since they don’t pick till the middle of the 2nd round. Nevertheless, the Bears have been doing their homework at the combine. Here are some names of players they’ve met with or shown interest in during the combine:
K’Lavon Chaisson (LSU)
Chaisson was a member of the National Champion LSU Tigers, specifically a part of that defense that held Trevor Lawrence in check. As a redshirt sophomore, he made the All-SEC first team and finished the season with 13.5 tackles for loss (which were a team-high) and 6.5 sacks. His torn ACL that caused him to gain the “redshirt sophomore” title, didn’t seem to slow him down in his comeback season. The full report on him can be found on NFL.com here.
Jonathan Greenard (Florida)
Like Chaisson, Greenard was also an All-SEC first-teamer. Greenard transferred from Louisville and was a blessing for the Gators in 2019, recording 15.5 tackles for a loss and 9.5 sacks in 12 games. He was a part of the Gator defense that was in the Top 10 (7) in points allowed. That defense simply didn’t let other teams into the endzone and he was a huge reason why. The full report on him can be found on NFL.com here.
Jabari Zuniga (Florida)
Another Florida boy. He may be coming from the same school as Greenard, but he hasn’t performed like him. After a good junior year in which he finished with 11 tackles for a loss and 6.5 sacks, he took a step back while dealing with injuries all season. He finished the 2019 season with just 5.5 tackles for a loss and 3 sacks in 6 games. There was something off about his high ankle injury all season. As a Florida fan, I watched just about every one of their football games and he would always dress, but would never play. Or he would come in for a handful of plays and never return. So “playing in 6 games” can be a bit deceiving. Regardless of his injury struggles, he’s definitely got some talent and could make a big impact in the NFL. The full report on him can be found on NFL.com here.
Yetur Gross-Matos (Penn State)
Gross-Matos was another player that earned an All-Conference honor this past season. I’m sensing somewhat of a trend here… In his junior season, he finished with 15 tackles for a loss and 9.5 sacks. He appears to be pretty reliable, appearing in 10+ games each of his 3 seasons at Penn State. Reliability in that area can go a long way in the NFL. The full report on him can be found at NFL.com here.
Although getting a Floyd replacement can very well come via the draft, but it’s not the only way. If they were to release him and create some much-needed cap space, here are some other free agent options, that could be more expensive, but also but more effective right off the bat (last season’s team):
- Jadeveon Clowney (Seahawks)
- Shaquil Barrett (Bucs) (after an absolutely monster season he’s likely wayyyyy out of the Bears’ price range but we can dream right?)
- Yannick Ngakoue (Jaguars)
- Dante Fowler (Rams)
- Bud Dupree (Steelers)
- Matthew Judon (Ravens)
Some of these guys, if not all, will more than likely get franchised or secure a new deal with their latest team. Either way, all of the names mentioned above are slated to get PAID this off-season, so they may not fit into the Bears plans. Recent releases of some high dollar players could mean the Bears are gearing up to make a big splash in free agency, buttttt the problem is, that money might need to be spent on a QB…. I won’t even go there, this is a defense blog.
The Bears have got till March 18th to make a decision on Floyd. Let’s see if Pace gets rid of yet another first-rounder, or gives him one last shot to shine.
Should the Bears release Floyd to gain the cap money and make moves? Trade him? Build through the draft? Keep him? Comment below with your thoughts.