Bears match Packers’ offer sheet for cornerback Kyle Fuller

March 17, 2018

GREEN BAY — The Green Bay Packers took a shot at solving their cornerback conundrum Friday when they signed Bears cornerback Kyle Fuller to an offer sheet — an offer sheet Chicago reportedly matched immediately.

First-year Packers general manager Brian Gutekunst had said earlier this week there were a number of avenues he would pursue to improve the troublesome position.

Signing Fuller to an offer sheet was certainly an out-of-the-box idea, even if it turned out to be a fruitless one.

The NFL Network reported Friday evening the Bears were matching the offer, which reportedly was a four-year deal worth $56 million.

The Packers’ offer sheet included $18 million in guaranteed money, the report said.

Earlier Friday, an NFL source confirmed the Packers had signed Fuller to the offer sheet, which was first reported by the Chicago Tribune.

The Bears, who placed the transition tag on Fuller before free agency opened, had five business days to either match the Packers’ offer or let Fuller leave for their NFC North Division rival. Evidently, Chicago saw no reason to wait that long.

Because the Bears opted to apply the transition tag to the 26-year-old Fuller instead of the franchise tag, they would have gotten no compensation if they had chosen not to match the Packers’ offer.

The Bears have roughly $66 million in salary-cap room, which made it easy for them to match the Packers’ offer.

“I don’t think it’s imperative (to sign a cornerback),” Gutekunst said during a news conference Tuesday to announce the release of longtime Packers wide receiver Jordy Nelson. “We’re going to look at every avenue. This isn’t something that will happen (immediately). This is something that really between now and the start of training camp that we’ll be looking at.

“There’ll be many avenues to upgrade that group. Like I said, I think we have some good young players there that’ll be competing for those spots, but it is something that we’re focused on.”

Fuller, the Bears’ 2014 first-round pick (No. 14 overall), missed all of the 2016 season after undergoing arthroscopic knee surgery in training camp. The Bears declined his fifth-year option as a result, and Fuller responded with his finest season, intercepting two passes and breaking up 22. He has eight career interceptions — having picked off four as a rookie in 2014 and two in 2015.

According to football analytics site Pro Football Focus, Fuller allowed a completion rate of just 51.3 percent and quarterbacks had a passer rating of 56.7 when throwing against him — the lowest among free agent cornerbacks.

The one-year transition-tag tender for Fuller was worth $12.9067 million, which is calculated by taking the average of the top 10 salaries at his position. Had the Bears opted to use the non-exclusive franchise tag on him, they’d have been on the hook for $14.975 million as the tender offer but would have received two first-round picks as compensation had a team signed Fuller to an offer sheet and they had declined to match it.

Getting Fuller from the Bears would have been Gutekunst’s biggest move among several. The team added veteran defensive end Muhammad Wilkerson (one year, $5 million) and tight end Jimmy Graham (three years, $30 million) this week in free agency.

Instead, the Packers still have a dire need at cornerback after shipping Damarious Randall to Cleveland last week in a trade for backup quarterback DeShone Kizer.

Most of the other high-profile free agent cornerbacks have found homes, including ex-Indianapolis Colts corner Rashaan Melvin, who got a one-year, $6.5 million deal from the Oakland Raiders on Friday after the Packers had expressed some interest in him.

At the moment, the Packers’ top two cornerbacks — second-year man Kevin King (shoulder) and fourth-year man Quinten Rollins (Achilles’ tendon) — are coming off surgeries and might not be ready until training camp. Behind them, they have special teamer Demetri Goodson and youngsters Josh Hawkins, Lenzy Pipkins, Donatello Brown and Herb Waters.

Davon House, who returned to the team on a one-year deal last year, and Tramon Williams, who spent eight seasons with the Packers (2007 through ’14), might be options as well.