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Good morning, frents!
The March mailbag hits inboxes of paid subscribers later today and includes everything from discussing the fantasy of Jeff Bezos buying the Bears to which Chicago beer I'd bring to a deserted island to the upcoming Bulls trade season.
If I didn't know any better, I'd think the Bears tank was on.
But I do. Tanking in the NFL usually isn't done so openly and it would require Ryan Pace actually identifying and executing on a plan.
And, hey, why start now?
But Halas Hall was a busy place Thursday afternoon, so let's head straight to the bullet points. Emphasis on bullet.
- Andy Dalton did his first Zoom with Bears reporters since signing a one-year, $10 million deal. His takeaway quote was "They told me I was the starter," which certainly doesn't sound like something that will be really funny whenever the Bears tell us what the real plan at quarterback is. (Because that's still coming, right?)
- We had to say goodbye to our sweet Mitchell Trubisky as he signed a one-year deal to be Josh Allen's backup in Buffalo. The contract is worth $2.5 million and, if my math is right, that's just $447.5 million less than the paper Patrick Mahomes recently signed. I'm still happy for Mitch, though. His style is similar to Allen's, which means the Bills coaching staff might be better able to handle him and set him up for a 2022 in which he goes somewhere else and throws 42 touchdown passes while we boo a broken but affordable Cam Newton.
- The Bears cut Kyle Fuller to save $11 million on cap space, coincidentally on the same day they introduced their new $10 million quarterback no one's in love with. Fuller was one of the better cornerbacks in the league and his replacement isn't in the building unless it's Kindle Vildor. As Art Arkush points out, it also leaves Roquan Smith as the Bears' lone first-round draft pick still on the roster. (Fuller was a selection in Phil Emery's last draft.) Excuse me while I go scream into this pillow.
- Brad Biggs reported that Akiem Hicks has been given permission to seek a trade (sure Ryan, farm out the work to everyone else) which would save the Bears $10.5 million. I actually don't have a problem with this given Hicks' age and injury history, though I question why the Bears couldn't have just cut Hicks and fellow luxury piece Jimmy Graham to spare Fuller instead.
- Allen Robinson finally accepted the Bears' franchise tag because the wide receiver market is as soft as the Bears' secondary will be next season. Oh, and free agent WR Kenny Golladay came in for a visit and it'd be something if he signed here, but I'm guessing he'll fall in love somewhere else on his tour.
So, yeah, it was an emotional week in Bears land. It started with us doing our best Lloyd Christmas ("So you're saying there's a chance") with Russell Wilson possibilities and is ending with the cold-wind realization that this is likely going to get much, much worse before it gets better.
And it really shouldn't come as much of a surprise. All of Pace's short-term decisions the past few years put such a strain on the cap that it was doomsday when a once-in-a-century pandemic shrank that cap even further.
Hey, at least we got to cash a few Graham prop TD bets last year and watched Robert Quinn do ... whatever it was he did for the pass rush.
Look, I think I'd be OK with the Bears bottoming out this year if it meant stockpiling picks and getting right cap-wise for another run in 3-4 years. There are no shortcuts to building a real franchise, which means we'll again have to take our lumps for another olympiad or more. It sucks, yet it comes with the territory.
But there's also no guarantee a GM other than Ryan Pace will be running that show. And of course it comes a year after a possible generational quarterback in Trevor Lawrence plus a few other promising leaders are available at the top of the draft.
Let the games begin!
On a much happier note, the NCAA tournament round of 64 starts today and I've been singing the CBS March Madness theme song at the top of my lungs all week to celebrate. (It's fun. Go ahead and try it!)
- Illinois gets its first game as a No. 1 seed since losing to North Carolina in the 2005 final. As I wrote earlier this week, it's national title or bust for the Illini. They'll start off against No. 16 Drexel of the Colonial Athletic Conference at the Indiana Farmers Coliseum, a 6,500-seat venue that is usually home to the IUPUI basketball team and Indy's minor-league hockey team, which is affiliated with the Blackhawks. The spread is Illinois -22.5 and the O/U is 143.5 if you have a spot to get that action down. Top seeds are 139-1 all-time against 16s, which you probably already knew.
- #8 Loyola will face #9 Georgia Tech a few hours later at legendary Hinkle Fieldhouse, which is where they shot the final scene of Hoosiers. Loyola, coincidentally, has the same team colors as Hickory and I'm going to be disappointed if Porter Moser doesn't have Cameron Krutwig put Sister Jean on his shoulders to measure the rim. Georgia Tech has won eight straight but will be without ACC player of the year Moses Wright so the Ramblers are currently favored by 5.5.
Should both teams wins, they will meet on Sunday for the first time since 2011. Illinois is 12-3 all time against Loyola, though all three losses to the Ramblers (1963, 1984 and 1986) came when Illinois was ranked in the top 10. The Krutwig-Kofi Cockburn matchup will be a lot of fun if we're lucky enough to get it.
Final: Lightning 4, Hawks 2
- Mattias Janmark and Dylan Strome each scored a powerplay goal in the first, but the Hawks let up two in the third to fall to 0-6-1 in the state of Florida this season.
- The Hawks have dropped five of six, and their overall record has sunk to 14-12-5. The Athletic still gives the Hawks a 37 percent chance of making the Stanley Cup playoffs.
- Next: The six-game road trip mercifully ends with a matinee in Tampa Bay on Saturday afternoon.
Final: Sox 9, Royals 7
- Offense has occasionally been a problem this spring, but not on Thursday. Adam Engel came within a single of completing a spring training cycle, scoring three runs to help the Sox (5-9) win for the fourth time in six Cactus League games.
- Recent addition Billy Hamilton hit a two-run double and Andrew Vaughn hit his second homer of the spring. Eloy Jimenez and Jose Abreu had two hits apiece.
- Dallas Keuchel wasn't great, allowing five runs, five hits and two walks over 2 1/3 innings in his first spring start. Cody Heuer picked up the save after striking out three over two perfect innings. Heuer has 10 strikeouts over seven spring innings, allowing three hits and no walks.
- Next: The Sox visit Mariners camp tonight. Lance Lynn faces lefty Marco Gonzales.
Final: Cubs 4, Cleveland 3
- So far, so good for Jake Arrieta. He allowed a run and four hits, striking out five over four innings. Arrieta has a 2.89 ERA in three appearances so far.
- Jake Marisnick hit a go-ahead three-run homer in the sixth against lefty Oliver Pérez.
• David Bote connected for a solo homer in the first, the only scoring damage against Cleveland right-hander Zach Plesac. Bote had two hits, scored two runs and has a 1.054 OPS this spring.
Next: Zach Davies faces Oakland's Frankie Montas at old Hohokam Stadium in Mesa. The Cubs are 9-5 this spring.
— David Brown
- Dan Pompei says Russell Wilson was never coming here and Andy Dalton is better than we think. The Athletic
- Chris Emma reports that the Bears locker room is "pissed" over the way this offseason is going. 670 The Score
- Michael Baumann on the revitalization of Lance Lynn. The Ringer
- Ricky O'Donnell's virtual Western Illinois basketball dynasty is still going strong and our other friend Bobby Loesch got quoted in a national newspaper about it. Washington Post
- Why Patrick Ewing might not be Georgetown's coach if not for Michael Jordan. NY Post
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