Ryan Pace ... what did you do!

The Bears' first day of free agency featured the team bringing in the aging Jimmy Graham

Good morning, frents

A bit of fun news to start before we get into the Bears: It’s not 100 percent official yet, but I think I’ve figured out a way to host a virtual Midway Minute meetup for all of us Wednesday night at 9 p.m.

There are still some technological details to iron out before I divulge more, so check out tomorrow’s Minute or my various social channels (Facebook, Twitter) for an update on how you can join in the fun.

Jimmy Graham is a Bear for some reason

So this is how Ryan Pace starts the most important offseason of his career?

Jimmy Graham is a member of the Chicago Bears and, no, you didn’t go to bed and wake up in 2014, a time when we could all leave our houses without fear of contracting anything and such a signing would have been an occasion to dream big about Sundays in the fall.

The details: Two years, $16 million with $9 million of guaranteed, per Adam Schefter.

What the Bears are getting: A once-great tight end who will turn 34 in November and is coming off a season for the Packers in which he caught 38 balls on 60 targets for 447 yards and three TDs, his lowest totals since his five-start rookie year in 2010.

If you remember anything about Graham’s 2019 season, it’s probably the game-sealing first-down catch against the Seahawks in the divisional round. Ask any Green Bay fan and they’ll tell you that catch shocked them more than had they seen a pair of 10-point antlers suddenly sprout from Graham’s helmet.

Here’s what one of my Packer fan frents said to me in the wake of the signing:

So … yeah.

It goes without saying that Graham is not the tight end that Pace knew almost a decade ago in New Orleans, when he broke into superstardom by catching 99 passes for 1,310 yards and 11 touchdowns for the 2011 Saints.

Nor is he the ultra-weapon and Alex Smith safety blanket that Travis Kelce was during Matt Nagy’s days in Kansas City.

Graham is an aging superstar who started his decline a few years ago and will now be catching balls from either Mitch Trubisky or a quarterback who is not Drew Brees, Russell Wilson or Aaron Rodgers. He will be deficient on the run game for a team that needs a plus at that spot in the worst way.

Now, some will try and sell you on the fact the the once-brittle Graham has played 16 straight games for four seasons running.

There’s also that nebulous “veteran presence” being thrown around. Psssh.

At Graham’s age and production levels, he’s not worth $9 million of cap dollars for a team that needs every available McCaskeyBuck. Not when it already has seven mediocre tight ends on the roster, one of which is going to make $8.5 million himself in 2020. If the Bears were going to go this way, Greg Olsen would’ve come for one year and slightly less guaranteed money.

The Bears were reportedly in on Austin Hooper earlier in Monday’s legal tampering period, but the ex-Falcons tight end is said to be landing with the Cleveland Browns for a super-rich deal (four years, $42 million with $23 million guaranteed). That led to Pace throwing good money after bad for Graham.

Is there any bright side? Well, the Packers cut Graham so they won’t be getting a compensatory pick next April. And Graham did have better totals in 2019 than all of the Bears tight ends combined, though that ineptitude shouldn’t be a yard stick for anything let alone a $16 million signing.

Finally, Bill O’Brien made sure that Pace wouldn’t be the day’s biggest punchline when he traded a wide receiver with Hall of Fame potential for the running back equivalent of Jimmy Graham earlier in the day.

But that’s about it.

Know a Bears fan that needs to read this? Send it to them.

• Before the Graham signing, the lead of the newsletter was going to be Pace’s wandering eyes on Trubisky. An early rumor had the Bears talking with Teddy Bridgewater about a deal that would have him replace #10, another had them kicking the tires on a trade for Nick Foles or Andy Dalton. Don’t stray too far from the news today.  It should be an interesting 24-48 hours coming up.

• We knew it was coming because of the Danny Trevathan deal, but Nick Kwiatkoski signed a deal to be a Raider next season.

• The Vikings were good for some lulz with the news that Kirk Cousins and his agent  got another two years and $66 million out of the team. But I really liked the deal they pulled off on Monday night: Stefon Diggs and a seventh in 2020 for the Bills’ first, fifth and sixth-round picks in 2020 plus a fourth-rounder in 2021.

• The NFL announced the April’s draft will still go on, but that it will be modified in a yet-to-be determined fashion and won’t feature any public events in Las Vegas.

Amari Cooper signed a five-year, $100 million contract with the Cowboys. It’s a deal that doesn’t seem to have anything to do with the Bears — until you see Allen Robinson’s reaction to it.

Major League Baseball released a statement on Monday saying it would adhere to the CDC’s recommendation of no public events of more than 50 people for the next eight weeks. So factor in a 3-4 week spring training and the Cubs and White Sox looking at an Opening Day on Memorial Day or later.

• Could Coronavirus put the Blackhawks into the playoffs? Maybe. TSN’s Darren Dreger reported on Monday morning that the NHL is considering a 24-team playoff when it returns … and the Hawks are currently within that cut.

Have a link for Midway Minute? Email me!

Rocky Wirtz talks about the decision to pay United Center workers throughout the break, said conversation with Jerry Reinsdorf only lasted two minutes. (670 The Score)

How Mark Giangreco and others are adjusting to our new sports-free reality. (Feder)

• A few more Chicago sports YouTube suggestions from various frents:

  1. Nick Anderson (Simeon) and Tim Hardaway (Carver) facing off in the 1985 Public League Championship
  2. The 1983 White Sox clinch the AL West
  3. The entire Disco Demolition game!
  4. Dan Roan recaps the 1983 Illini football team playing Michigan

High Fidelity turns 20 and the Chicago it imagined is gone. (Chicago Mag)

• Chicago Stadium and Comiskey Park are both in this cool “Lost Chicago Buildings” bracket. (WTTW)

• Today’s “Not Chicago, but too good not to share” selection:

• The Coronavirus All-Stars just added a member from Chicago.

Never change, Chicago.

That’s it for today. Thank you for being a #frentofthenewsletter.

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