Kyle Fuller's rollercoaster career in Chicago took another unexpected turn on Tuesday when the Bears hit him with the seldom-used transition tag, giving the two sides a chance to hammer out a long-term deal in the coming months as well as providing the team with an opportunity to match any offers that Fuller generates on the free-agent market.
The transition tag comes at a cost of a fully-guaranteed $12.97 million contract for the 2018 season, as NFL Network's Ian Rapoport noted in his original report. The Bears and Fuller will have until July 16 to agree to a longer contract. Unlike the franchise tag, the transition tag permits Fuller to sign an offer sheet with another team. If that happens, the Bears will be allowed to match that offer. And they should be able to do exactly that. According to the Chicago Tribune, they're projected to own roughly $80 million in cap space after cutting . Meanwhile, Fuller can feel like he's getting his value because the market will set his price. It'll be up to the Bears to match any offer. If they don't match, they'll lose him for free.
The bottom line is that Fuller will likely be a Bear in 2018, assuming a cornerback-needy team doesn't make an absurdly lucrative offer that the Bears refuse to match, and the Bears clearly want to reach a long-term agreement that keeps him in Chicago beyond 2018.
"Kyle is a player we value," Bears general manager Ryan Pace said in a statement. "This allows us to continue to work together on a long-term deal."
Fuller's career began under the previous Bears regime when then-GM Phil Emery took him 14th overall in 2014. He immediately looked like a star, securing three interceptions in his first three games. But Fuller faded over the next few seasons. In 2015, he struggled mightily. He missed all of 2016 with a knee injury and entered last season on shaky ground. It looked like 2017 would be his final year in Chicago, especially after the team declined to pick up his fifth-year option.
He proceeded to experience a career-best season, notching only two picks but racking up a career-high 22 passes defended. According to Pro Football Focus, when opposing quarterback threw at Fuller they posted a 69.0 passer rating (14th among qualified cornerbacks). He was nearly impossible to beat deep downfield.
At 26, Fuller still holds upside and that makes him a perfect fit for the Bears, who are nearing the final stages of their rebuild. They're in need of good young players and more specifically, they need cornerbacks. That's exactly what Fuller is. No one's going to mistaken him for a star shutdown corner, but he's good with a chance to become even better.
As they hammer out a long-term deal with him, the Bears can now redirect most of their attention to providing young quarterback Mitchell Trubisky with some weapons. Specifically, they need to fix their wide receiver problem (they have none). With Allen Robinson and Sammy Watkins avoiding the franchise tag,