With their 2019 offseason program commencing Monday at vastly expanding Halas Hall, the NFC North champion Bears further solidified their edge depth with Roy Robertson-Harris and Isaiah Irving signing their exclusive one-year free-agent tenders.
Robertson-Harris, an underrated cog on last year’s top-rated defense, brings rare size and a bit of positional versatility back to the fold and could position himself for a big 2020 payday in Chicago or elsewhere. The 25-year-old outside linebacker-turned-end trailed only Khalil Mack and Akiem Hicks in quarterback hurries last season despite playing one-third of the total defensive snaps and was thought until the re-signing of Aaron Lynch as a candidate to be the top reserve outside linebacker.
Irving, 24, has turned heads in his first two NFL preseasons, piling up five sacks, which trails only Robertson-Harris’ 5.5 over that span. But Irving has been solely a reserve in the regular season, when he’s had one sack in his first 20 games. Yet his effort is a plus, and at a premium position without any game changers behind the starters, the former San Jose State star remains an intriguing player entering Year 3.
Monday marks the start of Year 2 for reigning NFL Coach of the Year Matt Nagy’s Bears, who arrived to begin a voluntary three-phase, nine-week offseason program. The first phase spans two weeks and includes only strength-and-conditioning and rehab work between players and the strength staff.
The second phase allows coaches on the field and individual instruction but prohibits contact and offense vs. defense drills over a three-week period, including rookie minicamp (May 3-5).
Phase 3, which spans four weeks and includes 10 OTAs (May 21 to 23, May 29 to 31, June 4 to 7), permits players to wear helmets and continue receiving individual instruction in drills, but no individual or offense vs. defense competition is allowed. The Bears hold their mandatory vet minicamp June 11 to 13.
The Bears unveiled on social media Sunday their new, shiny weight room that’s been expanded by more than 2,000 square feet as part of the 162,500-square-foot addition to Halas Hall, set for an August 2019 completion.
The additions include an equipment room, recovery space and nutrition/fuel station that have doubled in size, a sports medicine space that has quadrupled and now includes a hydrotherapy pool and a 13,000-square-foot turf space with an adjacent massive video projection wall and virtual reality room. Position meeting rooms, a new draft room, the coaches’ offices, locker room and players’ lounge have received the special treatment, as well.
Indeed, new fancy digs for one of the NFL’s new up-and-comers, under Nagy and general manager Ryan Pace. And Monday’s news of two important depth edge pieces in Robertson-Harris and Irving returning doubles as a reminder: The Bears think they now have the necessary edge not only with their roster – from 1 to 53 – but in the game-changing training and performance resources required to embark on their centennial season as legitimate Super Bowl LIV contenders.