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Chalk Talk

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Chalk Talk: When can teams talk to free agents?

Wondering about a player, a past game or another issue involving the Bears? Senior writer Larry Mayer answers a variety of questions from fans on ChicagoBears.com.

I know that unrestricted free agents can't officially sign with new teams until Wednesday. But they can negotiate prior to that, correct?
Phil K.
Minnesota

Yes, players with expiring contracts and at least four accrued NFL seasons can begin to speak with other teams and enter into contract negotiations starting at 11 a.m. (CT) Monday. It's a period that some refer to as "legal tampering." However, unrestricted free agents cannot execute a contract with a new team until 3 p.m. (CT) Wednesday. Players with at least four accrued seasons whose contracts are terminated can sign with new teams immediately. Examples in recent days of veterans who were cut and can join new clubs right away include Seahawks linebacker Bobby Wagner, Bills linebacker A.J. Klein, Titans guard Rodger Safford and Commanders safety Landon Collins.

It appears that a lot of the fastest players in the Combine rarely have successful NFL careers. Is that accurate?
Fidel J.
Gary, Indiana

I would say that's fairly accurate. Of the 11 players who have recorded the fastest 40 times at the Combine—excluding this year's prospects—only three have made a Pro Bowl: Cornerback Champ Bailey (4.28 in 1999), running back Chris Johnson (4.24 in 2008) and receiver/return specialist Jerome Mathis (4.26 in 2005). Bailey is far and away the best player among the 11; he was enshrined in the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2019 in his first year of eligibility after being voted to 12 Pro Bowls in 15 seasons with the Commanders (1999-2003) and Broncos (2004-13). Johnson was a three-time Pro Bowler during nine NFL seasons and set a league record with 2,509 yards from scrimmage in 2009 when he topped the NFL in rushing with 2,006 yards in his second year with the Titans. Others who've had varying levels of success in the NFL include receivers John Ross (4.22 in 2017) and Marquise Goodwin (4.27 in 2013), who played for the Bears last season, as well as cornerback Stanford Routt (4.27 in 2005). The rest failed to make much of an impact in the NFL: Receivers Rondel Menendez (4.24 in 1999), Jacoby Ford (4.28 in 2010) and Henry Ruggs (4.27 in 2020) and cornerback Jalen Myrick (4.28 in 2017).

It seems to me that Jakeem Grant is the latest in a long line of Bears return specialists to be voted to the Pro Bowl. Can you list the others?
Ross P.
Indiana

Yes, the Bears have been well-represented at the return position at the Pro Bowl; this past season Jakeem Grant Sr. became the team's seventh return specialist to be voted to the all-star game since 1999. The others are Glyn Milburn (1999), Jerry Azumah (2003), Devin Hester (2006, 2007 and 2010), Johnny Knox (2009), Tarik Cohen (2018) and Cordarrelle Patterson (2019).

Chalk Talk features fan questions multiple times each week. Email your question to Larry.

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