Kyle Fuller will almost certainly be in a Bears uniform this season.
The Bears all but guaranteed that Tuesday by placing the seldom-used transition tag on the cornerback before the 3 p.m. deadline, giving the team the opportunity to match any offer he might receive. The NFL Network was the first to report the tag for Fuller.
The transition tag guarantees Fuller $12.971 million for the 2018 season and gives the Bears time -- until July 16 -- to work out a multiyear contract, a negotiation that is believed to be ongoing. Fuller can sign an offer sheet with another team, but the Bears would have the right of first refusal and that won't be a problem because they are projected to have about $80 million in salary-cap room when the new league year begins March 14. The transition tag would provide the Bears with no compensation if they opted to not match an offer sheet.
Fuller is the first player the Bears have used the transition tag on since defensive lineman Bryan Robinson in 2001.
The transition tag number of nearly $13 million could be in the range of what the Bears will seek to pay Fuller in terms of annual average salary on a new contract. The franchise-tag figure for cornerbacks was $14.975 million, and although it would have made it less likely for another team to sign Fuller to an offer sheet, the transition tag is slightly more economical and could make it easier to hammer out the multiyear deal that both sides desire.
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The Bears know that Fuller, 26, wants to return, and if the aggressive communication Ryan Pace described last week at the NFL combine has included aggressive offers, it's reasonable to believe an agreement could be reached before free agency opens and the team has a host of other moves to consider. Fuller is the most important pending free agent for the team and keeping him would fill one of the major holes on the roster.
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