The Chicago Bears and wide receiver Eddie Royal have agreed to terms on a three-year contract, as first reported by UT San Diego's Michael Gehlken:
Chargers have been informed WR Eddie Royal is signing with Bears, source says. Has familiarity with QB Jay Cutler, coaching staff.The report was quickly confirmed by several reporters in the Bears' media.
— Michael Gehlken (@UTgehlken) March 12, 2015
The 29-year-old Eddie Royal is coming off a 62-reception season for the Chargers, and had 15 touchdowns combined over the last two seasons for the San Diego squad.
Royal really makes sense for the Bears, for some reasons that quickly come to mind:
1. As Gehlken noted, Royal has familiarity with Jay Cutler, and the Bears' coaching staff.
As a rookie with the Denver Broncos in 2008, Royal reeled in 91 catches for 980 yards and five touchdowns. His quarterback? Jay Cutler.
While Royal was with the Broncos in 2009 and 2010, Denver's wide receivers coach was Bears offensive coordinator Adam Gase. And in 2011, Bears head coach John Fox was Royal's head coach in Denver.
So, the Bears' quarterback, head coach, and offensive coordinator know what they're getting out of a wide receiver they're bringing in. And Royal knows what Cutler, Fox, and Gase bring to the table. They all clearly have a great relationship working together. The value of all this familiarity is hard to quantify, but it definitely matters.
2. The 5'10", 185-pound Royal adds slot-receiver and speed elements the Bears' offense greatly lacked. The terrific Matt Bowen tweeted about Royal's ability in the slot:
#Bears get a proven slot WR in Eddie Royal. Fills a need. Should produce in Gase's system. Earns his $ inside the numbers.Royal isn't limited to the slot either; he has a very solid all-around skillset and can play outside, even with his smaller stature. He's elusive and a very good route runner with reliable hands. Gase will be creative with how he uses Royal in this offense.
— Matt Bowen (@MattBowen41) March 12, 2015
3. I'm not sure if you heard but the Bears recently traded Brandon Marshall to the Jets. And with that, the Bears really needed to add an established wide receiver presence to play with Alshon Jeffery and company. We still don't even know what Marquess Wilson is, either. I'd expect the Bears to bring in more veteran camp competition, and they may even consider using their No. 7 pick on Amari Cooper and Kevin White. But the draft topic and such is for another day. At least they have begun the process of replacing Marshall's production (even if they can't truly do that) with the Royal trade.
4. The Bears' return game was miserable in 2014 after letting Devin Hester walk, and Royal has plenty of experience as a punt returner, at least (he hasn't returned kicks since 2009).
Royal returned 11 punts for the Chargers in 2014, with his long return being 58 yards. He has two career return touchdowns as well.
We're still waiting on the financial details of Royal's contract, but the dollar amount shouldn't be too large.
Royal joins Pernell McPhee and Antrel Rolle as Bears signings in the first two days of free agency.
UPDATE: The Bears have made the Eddie Royal signing official.
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