TAMPA — Don’t let the terms of that three-year, $45 million contract Chicago gave him fool you. The Bears don’t know what they’re going to get from quarterback Mike Glennon.
The way in which they structured the contract tells you that.
Of the $26 million Glennon is “guaranteed’’ to take home from the deal, the Bears are really only on the hook for the $18.5 million Glennon is guaranteed to receive this year.
The Bears can avoid paying the rest simply by cutting Glennon before the start of the 2018 league year next March, making the contract more or less a one-year, prove-it deal.
In that regard, this contract isn’t much different from the one-year, $9.5 million deal wide receiver Alshon Jeffery signed with the Philadelphia Eagles or the one-year, $8 million deal defensive tackle Dontari Poe signed with the Atlanta Falcons.
The difference, of course, is that Jeffery and Poe have established track records, pretty good ones in fact. Glennon, who went 5-13 in 18 starts his first two years in the league but has thrown just 11 passes since, does not.
That’s why expectations for the former Buccaneers backup are all over the map. Some scouts believe Glennon is the next Matt Ryan. Others think he has Brock Osweiler written all over him.
In the end, Glennon will likely fall somewhere between those two extremes. Some scouts have suggested his ceiling is such that he’ll be a poor man’s Andy Dalton, which may not be the slight that it seems to be.
The unfortunate part for the Bears is that during that critical first year in Chicago, Glennon is more likely to look Osweiler or that poor man’s Dalton than he is Ryan.
Check out the latest NFL power rankings. It doesn’t matter which one you look at, they all have the Bears somewhere in the bottom five of the league. Guess where the Buccaneers were when Glennon started those 18 games for them?
They were a bottom-rung team that had a potentially dynamic running back but lacked the weapons in the passing game to rack up a lot of yards and points.
That sounds an awful lot like the projections for the 2017 Bears, at least as they stand now, except the Bears no longer have the kind of big-play wide receiver that Glennon and the Buccaneers had back then in Vincent Jackson.
Jeffery is gone and while the Bears have added some younger replacements through free agency in wideouts Kendall Wright and Markus Wheaton, there is little if anything to suggest either will prove to be an upgrade.
The situation at tight end isn’t much better. At 32, Zach Miller is still one of the game’s more productive pass catchers, but newcomer Dion Sims doesn’t appear to be on the brink of breaking into the elite category.
Now throw in the fact that the Bears offensive line is a bit of a mixed bag – strong in the middle but weak on the outside, especially when it comes to protecting the passer – and you see where the problems lay.
Scouts love Glennon’s arm strength because it allows him to attack zone schemes and beat defensive backs in man coverage by firing tight spirals into small windows.
They like his ability to adequately diagnose a defense, both before the snap and after, and some even like the knack he’s shown for extending plays and making throws outside of the pocket.
But most also agree that, at least at this stage of his career, Glennon is a quarterback who needs a lot of help from the talent around him to make the impact the Bears are expecting him to make.
Again, it’s been two years since anyone’s had a chance to take a really good look at him, so Glennon may have improved markedly since, but the last time scouts broke his game down, they found some glaring deficiencies.
Though he did prove to be far tougher than most believed, Glennon showed a tendency to get rattled by the rush, often retreating and throwing passes off-balance and off the wrong foot.
The result during his first two years in the league was a 48.6-percent completion rate against the blitz, which was second-worst in the league to E.J. Manuel (45.2), and 9 interceptions.
And while Glennon showed more mobility outside the pocket than many thought he would, he failed to show the kind of in-pocket mobility that’s needed to make good throws when the pocket is still breaking down but not yet broken.
The good news is that all of the areas where Glennon appeared weakest are areas that can be coached and improved on as he gets more playing time, which is sure to come now that he’s been named the Bears starter.
Those offseason, training camp and even preseason game reps will be critical for Glennon, whose first order of business is reacquainting himself with the speed of the game.
It’s the speed that seemed to rattle Glennon most when he was playing with the Buccaneers. When the Buccaneers were able to slow the game down and create manageable situations for him, he was solid, sometimes even special.
One game in particular that stands out was against Seattle in 2013. Facing arguably the league’s most feared defense but supported by a superb running attack (38 carries, 205 yards), Glennon completed 17 of 23 passes for 168 yards and 2 touchdowns.
He had a couple of other outings that were impressive that year. In each case, Glennon was not required to make a lot of throws but was asked to simply manage the game and make plays when situations dictated that he needed to. Surely the Bears have taken notice.
Though no quarterback wants to be known as a game manager, that’s pretty much what Glennon was at that stage of his career, and the lack of playing time he’s had since suggests that’s what he will be in Chicago.
At least through the early going.
That could change over time if the Bears are willing to give Glennon the time he needs to develop his game. But for the time being, Glennon will likely only take the Bears as far as his teammates take him.