Ex-Bears All-Pro Signs With Former Coach Immediately Upon Release: Report

Kyle Fuller Broncos

Getty Former Chicago Bears corner Kyle Fuller

The Chicago Bears, for one reason or another, chose to move on from veteran All-Pro cornerback Kyle Fuller, and the team’s loss was immediately someone else’s gain. Just minutes after the Bears officially announced they had released him, NFL insider Tom Pelissero announced Fuller is signing a one-year deal to play for his former defensive coordinator Vic Fangio and the Denver Broncos.

It’s a $9.5 million deal that includes $9 million fully guaranteed, according to Pelissero. The Bears are going to say they let the two-time Pro Bowler walk to save $11 million in cap space, and maybe on some level, they did. But they could have saved as much by letting two older vets (Jimmy Graham and Akiem Hicks) go instead. They could have also chosen to extend and restructure Fuller’s contract instead of risking teams like the rival Green Bay Packers signing him, but, fortunately for the Bears, Fangio, who knows what he’s getting in Fuller, didn’t take long to snatch him up.

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Broncos Signed Fuller in a Matter of Minutes After His Release

As Brad Spielberger of Pro Football Focus noted, Fuller was officially a free agent for a whopping 34 minutes, give or take. The haste in which he was signed by Fangio and company indicates two things: The Bears didn’t know or appreciate what they had in Fuller, while several other teams in the league did, with Fangio and the Broncos chief among them.

We’ll see soon enough how bad the fallout from cutting a player like Fuller is going to be for the Bears. The 29-year-old corner missed the 2016 season with a knee injury, but other than that, he has been the Bears’ starting cornerback since he was taken in the first round in 2014, and he has been as reliable as they come. He should continue his sterling play in Denver based on his past play under Fangio.

In the three seasons he played with Fangio as his DC, Fuller boasted an overall grade of 84.5 from PFF. He had a bit of a down year in 2020, with career lows in interceptions (one) and passes defensed (eight). Still, Fuller is a formidable force, and the Bears are going to miss him in more ways than one.

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How Will Fuller’s Exit Affect Veteran Players, Bears Defense?

By releasing Fuller instead of a few other veterans on the wrong side of 30, the Bears created an immediate need at a position they were fine at last season. Pairing Fuller with rookie Jaylon Johnson gave the team a pair of lock-down corners for at least the next several years. Now, Chicago may spend valuable draft capital on a corner when positional needs at offensive line, quarterback, wide receiver and safety have been far more glaring.

New Bears DC Sean Desai, who served as the team’s safeties coach last season, explained the benefits having a pair of reliable corners can have on a defense, per The Athletic’s Adam Jahns:

If you’re in a defense where the safety needs to be over the top of a corner then he’s got to be over the top of him no matter what. … If he doesn’t need to be over the top, he can play more inside. He trusts that the corner’s going to do his job and be on top. So I think that’s where the impact of having those guys, Kyle and Jaylon, playing at a high level really impacts the trust of the defense, especially on the back end.

You also have to wonder what kind of message cutting a player like Fuller — who was widely respected by the entire locker room — sends. Fuller didn’t have his best year in 2020, but the Bears used to be a team with a reputation for taking care of their best players and veterans. With no extensions for top offensive player Allen Robinson or Fuller, that reputation has been more than a tad tarnished.

“He always plays hard,” fellow All-Pro Khalil Mack said about Fuller last season, via NFL.com. “This guy is an All-Pro player, and you see the professionalism.”

Now, that professionalism and leadership are headed to the Mile High City, while the Bears have a huge void of their own making to fill.

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