Hoyer leaving as Chicago Bears close in on QB Mike Glennon

Though nothing in the free-agent frenzy becomes official until Thursday at 3 p.m., the Chicago Bears have been linked to several players during the "legal tampering" period, which began at 11 a.m. Tuesday.

The biggest contract and, if the numbers are accurate, the biggest gamble, involves Tampa Bay Buccaneers backup quarterback Mike Glennon.

NFL Network reported late Wednesday morning that a deal between the Bears and Glennon "is all but done."

A third-round pick in 2013, Glennon has thrown just 11 passes since the 2014 season, after which the Bucs drafted quarterback Jameis Winston first overall and handed him the job.

Despite his recent inactivity and pedestrian numbers, Glennon was looking for a deal that averages $15 million a year, and it appears he will get it from the Bears.

Those numbers are shocking to many. But NFL teams are flush with a $167 million salary cap, and too many of them are chasing too few competent quarterbacks.

While a (possible) three-year, $45 million deal for Glennon sounds extravagant, the most important number in any contract is the signing bonus/guaranteed money. Such a deal could be structured so the Bears could get out of it with relatively low cost after a year or two.

For example, in the final two years of his current contract, Jay Cutler would have a salary-cap number of $20 million in 2019 and $21.7 million in 2020. But when the Bears cut him, which should be soon, they won't be on the hook for any of that money.

Backup Brian Hoyer was by far the Bears' most effective quarterback last year with a 98.0 passer rating. But he has agreed in principle to a two-year deal with the San Francisco 49ers, according to NFL Network, so the Bears' options are dwindling.

Cutler's release will save the Bears $13 million, but would leave inexperienced Connor Shaw as the only quarterback on the roster, since Matt Barkley also is an unrestricted free agent.

Hoyer made $2 million last season on a one-year deal. Terms of his agreement with the 49ers have not been revealed, but his annual salary will be less than half of what the 27-year-old Glennon will receive.

The Bears believe Glennon has more upside, though, and he's four years younger than Hoyer.

The Bears still are expected to draft a quarterback next month, most likely in the early rounds.

The 6-foot-6 Glennon is big and has a big arm, but he lacks mobility. He started 13 games as a rookie in 2013 with 19 touchdown passes, 9 interceptions and an 83.9 passer rating. He started five games the following season and had an 83.3 passer rating before losing the job to Josh McCown.

Several other players have been linked to the Bears in free agency.

Shutdown cornerback Stephon Gilmore would be a godsend for a secondary that is the team's biggest concern after quarterback. The Bears were considered a likely landing spot for him early Wednesday, but there were reports later in the day that discussions had cooled.

That could increase the Bears' interest in New England Patriots cornerback Logan Ryan, the Green Bay Packers' corner-safety Micah Hyde or the Jacksonville Jaguars' Prince Amukamara.

Gilmore has been a starter in each of his five years in Buffalo, and he had a career-best 5 interceptions for the Bills last season, when he was voted to his first Pro Bowl. He would be a welcome addition to a defense that had a total of just 8 interceptions last year and just 11 take-aways, a league-record for futility.

The former first-round pick (10th overall) is just 26 and, at 6-feet-1 and 190 pounds, he has the length to match up against the biggest wide receivers in the game.

Arizona Cardinals safety D.J. Swearinger is far from a household name, but he immediately would become the Bears' leader at a position where the team has swung and missed numerous times over the past decade. The 25-year-old Swearinger had 3 interceptions last year, 2 more than all the Bears' safeties combined. He was a second-round pick of the Houston Texans in 2013.

Aside from Eddie Royal's 65-yard punt return touchdown, the Bears' kick-return game last season was uninspiring.

Their interest in the Minnesota Vikings' Cordarelle Patterson could change that in a flash. The 6-2, 220-pound Patterson has been the biggest and the best kickoff-return man during his four-year career, with 5 touchdowns and a superb 30.4-yard average. He also provides some depth at wide receiver, where he languished in 2015 but caught 52 passes for 453 yards last year.

• Follow Bob's Bears reports on Twitter @BobLeGere.

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