Bears still praise Leonard's quiet performance, but will they pay him top dollar next year?

                                                                                                                                                                                                   
  • Chicago Bears outside linebacker Leonard Floyd (94) plays against the New York Giants during the first half of an NFL football game in Chicago, Sunday, Nov. 24, 2019.

    Chicago Bears outside linebacker Leonard Floyd (94) plays against the New York Giants during the first half of an NFL football game in Chicago, Sunday, Nov. 24, 2019.

 
By Arthur Arkush
aarkush@profootballweekly
Updated 12/2/2019 7:31 PM

It's hardly a revelation to point out that Bears outside linebacker Leonard Floyd's production isn't commensurate with his draft status.

The ninth overall pick in the 2016 draft is stuck on a career-low 3 sacks and has yet to get his hands on a football, much less force a takeaway, which he did at least once in each of his first three seasons.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

Considering this is Floyd's first full season in the enviable position of lining up across from Khalil Mack -- and no defender was pumped up more by a new coaching staff and many of his old teammates than Floyd this off-season -- it's fair to say he has failed to fully capitalize.

Of course, the Bears are always quick to say that Floyd does so much more for their defense than rush the passer. From setting sturdy edges for the NFL's No. 8 run defense to playing sound in coverage for a pass defense also ranked in the top 10, Floyd's versatility and consistency, if not his sheer pass-rush production, help key the unit.

Fittingly then, it was Floyd earning the Bears' latest Sweep the Sheds Award, given weekly to one unheralded performer, for his work in the Thanksgiving victory at Detroit. He finished with a nondescript 3 tackles -- and a bad roughing-the-passer penalty -- but it was Floyd's ability to finish the game, period, that garnered him the award.

"He got the (crud) kicked out of him on a play or two, and our trainers came up and said he's probably not going to come back," defensive coordinator Chuck Pagano explained Monday.

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"Because he got some type of rib injury or whatever it was. And they took him in for some X-rays, I guess. So he came back out and he said there would have to be bone showing for him to come out of the game."

Unfortunately for Floyd, Sweep the Sheds Awards create little negotiating leverage if or when his representatives get together with the Bears, perhaps this off-season, regarding a potential new contract.

The Bears exercised their fifth-year team option last spring on Floyd for $13.2 million next season, but it's guaranteed for injury only, raising questions among fans and analysts as to whether the team could rescind the offer and seek more bang for the buck opposite Mack, whose cap charge more than doubles next year, from $11.9 million to $26.6 million.

What surely would be pointed out by Floyd's reps is the fact he has started 29 consecutive games over the last season-plus, after appearing in only 22 combined because of various injuries in his first two seasons. The toughness Floyd showed last season playing with a broken hand, like enduring whatever malady on Thanksgiving, certainly illustrates his commitment.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

Ultimately, the Bears will have to decide whether Floyd's selfless and rounded play, albeit with inconsistent contributions as a rusher, are worthy of a top-10 salary at his position at a time when better players also will be looking for new deals, including receiver Allen Robinson and safety Eddie Jackson.

And the Bears will get a reminder Thursday with the Dallas Cowboys visiting of a less conventional way it could look to provide a new bookend for one of the game's very best edge defenders.

After paying Demarcus Lawrence this spring as one of the NFL's few guys in Mack's stratosphere with an extension averaging $21 million and maxing out north of $105 million, Dallas cut its own disappointing former first-round edge, Taco Charlton, and replaced him via more established veterans via trade in Robert Quinn and Michael Bennett.

The Cowboys actually were willing to eat nearly $2 million of Charlton's remaining guarantees and committed an additional $10 million combined for ready-made rushers to supplement Lawrence.

Bennett has 3 sacks in five games with the Cowboys -- equaling Floyd's total in 12 -- and Quinn has not only been the most disruptive defender on the NFL's best four-man pass-rushing front, he's been among the best in the league.

"Demarcus Lawrence has done some really good things for us, and we wanted to keep him here for a really long time," Cowboys coach Jason Garrett said this week. "But you have to bring other people to the defensive front so you can attack a lot of different ways with different guys.

"Having a chance to get Robert Quinn ... I thought was really important for our team, and he's come in and done a great job and those two guys are a great tandem together."

In what's expected to be a robust free-agent market for edge rushers, will the Bears stick with Floyd or follow in the Cowboys' footsteps by coveting a pass rusher with more quantifiable accolades to pair with Mack?

"I really like where he's at. Again, for me, I love production, I love numbers, I love all the fantasy stuff," head coach Matt Nagy said Monday. "He's done a lot of great things, and I'm proud of him for it."

Whether making Bears brass proud without consistently producing will be enough for Floyd to get paid is among the more pressing off-season questions Nagy and general manager Ryan Pace must answer.

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