With NFL free agency under a week away from starting, the work is cut out for Chicago Bears general manager Ryan Pace. The Bears have nearly $80 million dollars of cap to spend, and plenty of holes to fill. Today the TLS staff is getting together to discuss what moves the Bears need to make in order to move forward.
The Bears have almost $80 million dollars of cap space, what would you like to see them do with it?
David Wildman: This one is fairly easy for me. For once in his life, I would like to see Ryan Pace actually SPEND the money he has. He’s had huge cap space every year since he’s started with the team and has never done anything with it.
Dan DeYoung: I agree with David, but at least Pace has done a good job making sure not to set us up poorly in the future with bad contracts. I think this is the year we make a splash in free agency.
Jack Soble: I think that this is also the first year in Pace’s tenure when heading into the offseason, the quarterback of the future is on the roster. That should go a long way towards helping the Bears lure some big money guys into Chicago.
Kedar Raman: I agree with Dan, Pace has done a good job making sure that we have a manageable salary cap situation for years to come. He also has to keep in mind that, if his draft picks pay off, he is going to have to pay big to retain them and keep the core of this franchise together. Thus, even if we have $80 million of cap space, I don’t expect Pace to use all of it. I do feel that he will be much more aggressive in targeting free agents this year, and I feel he will get more involved in bidding wars than in the past.
Nick Petrusevski: Pace has done a decent job of bringing young talent to Chicago. With that being said, his free agent signings have been horrible and that’s putting it nicely. With $80 million to spend, the time is now to get it right. It’s time to put up or shut up.
Jack: He should still be somewhat calculated with the risks he takes, but I do agree that he should be much more prepared to shell out top dollar to top targets. He can’t afford to lose bidding wars like he did the last couple years, or else it might become time to start talking about the hot seat for Pace.
Dan: The big thing that was mentioned by Jack earlier is that we have our quarterback of the future now, and Pace is now going to be more comfortable going after some of these big-name free agents knowing that the quarterback situation is solved. Pace does need to show that he can sign these big guys as Pace mentioned, and I think this is the year it gets done.
David: I agree with Nick, this is a major offseason for Pace in terms of him showing his ability to actually scout and sign free agents. He’s missed on nearly all his signings since he took over. That needs to end this offseason or he can kiss his job goodbye.
Kedar: I think Jack brought up a key argument when saying that we have our quarterback of the future. One of the big reasons why free agents weren’t coming to Chicago was the uncertainty at the quarterback and head coaching positions. With Mitch Trubisky and Matt Nagy entrenched in their respective roles for the next few seasons, there is finally something attractive to playing in Chicago.
Jack: Kedar brought up another important point and that is the coaching situation. Very few guys are gonna want to come to a team with a lame duck head coach like Fox was last year, and now that the head man isn’t in a win or die situation it should help lure available talent.
Who is your number one target in free agency?
Dan: I don’t think I’m going to have an unpopular answer for this one. I think the guy that we have to go after is Allen Robinson. We need to get Trubisky a weapon next season, and I am not comfortable drafting one in April with all the other holes to fill. I believe that Robinson is the top target for Pace knowing the connections with Adrian Amos (Penn State Teammates) and Charles London (Coach at Penn State).
Jack: The answer I would give for this is Sammy Watkins, but at this point, it’s becoming clear that the Bears are going to go all in on Allen Robinson, which I sure wouldn’t complain about, so I’ll go with him. That being said, watch for Tyrann Mathieu to be cut, which has been speculated on, and the Bears to bring him in. Kyle Long has already started recruiting him on twitter and he would be an excellent new toy for Vic Fangio to utilize in the secondary.
Kedar: Tyrann Mathieu would be a welcome addition to this team, but is he more of a luxury or a necessity at this point? The Bears already have a good safety tandem in Adrian Amos and Eddie Jackson, and paying extra for Mathieu, despite his game-breaking ability, may be a luxury that the Bears cant afford with so many other holes all over the team.
Jack: Mathieu is more than just a safety, he can play all over. He has experience at outside corner and slot corner and would be best categorized as just a weapon for Fangio and a takeaway machine. This defense needs playmakers anywhere they can find it and if they bring the Badger in on a somewhat affordable deal with all the cap space they have I’d go all in.
Kedar: I agree with that- if he is brought in on an affordable deal, I’m all for it. I just wouldn’t overpay for him when there are so many other holes that need to be filled.
Nick: ALLEN ROBINSON–case closed. Sammy Watkins can catch the deep ball and that’s about it. Robinson reminds me of Anquan Boldin. He’s great on the outside, while also being physical on the inside. He’s also young and there shouldn’t be much concern coming off a fairly common injury in an ACL tear.
David: Well, I was going to say Allen Robinson, but for the sake of being different I’ll go with one of the top corners aside from Kyler Fuller. Pace made a good move by transition tagging Fuller, but we still need another top corner for our secondary to be fearsome.
Kedar: Allen Robinson is the no-brainer- he has Pro-Bowl potential and will get paid as such. The question is will it be by the Bears. But since this is such an obvious answer, I’ll take a different route- what about Trey Burton? He would add a lot of versatility to this offense. Pair him up with Adam Shaheen, and the Bears could have a two-headed monster at Tight End. Burton would take over the role of Daniel Brown but in a much more effective way.
Jack: Burton would be a more than a good addition to Nagy’s offense. As would Albert Wilson, who is all but a given to come to Chicago at this point. On the defensive side, I already mentioned the Honey Badger but I’d watch for them to sign a nickel back/#2 cornerbacks like Aaron Colvin, EJ Gaines, Bashaud Breeland, or Nickell Robey-Coleman.
Nick: If one more person tells me the Bears already have a tight end I’m going to lose it. Burton is more of WR than a tight end anyway. Having as many competent pass catches for Trubisky is a must.
Dan: I am all in on bringing in Burton as well. Nick is correct that he is basically a wide receiver, and he would help give Trubisky another big target.
David: Jack actually wrote a good article on Burton’s fit with the Bears. Anyone that missed that should check it out.
Jack: Thanks, David. TLS did a whole bunch of free agent profiles, any of which are well worth your time.
How aggressive do you see Ryan Pace being this free agency?
David: In a word, very. I know I got on Pace earlier for not being aggressive enough, but I do think he’s going to be very aggressive this year. His job depends on it.
Dan: This is Pace’s time to show that he is going to be the GM for a long time in Chicago. With the ample cap space that he has to work with, I see no reason why Pace is not very aggressive this free agency. He has his quarterback now, no more excuses.
Jack: Let’s just say that if Allen Robinson isn’t a Bear, it better not be because they didn’t offer him enough money. If he really really wants to play with Garoppolo, fine. But if they lose another bidding war, it’s torch and pitchfork time.
Kedar: Pace isn’t going to deviate much from his norm of not breaking the bank unnecessarily. I do expect him to be more aggressive than in past years, given that the Bears have some potential to lure free agents without big money. I would expect 1 or 2 big signings, followed by others that shore up holes.
Nick: Pace should get off to a fast start in FA. I expect two or three quick signings. He is still going to want to build mostly through the draft, but I believe he will spend more than usual this year. I’m with Dan, it’s time to shell out the money especially for a guy like Robinson.
Kedar: Pace has been aggressive when he finds a player he loves (trading up for Mitch Trubisky and Leonard Floyd). He cites that when he has conviction to get a player, he wants to make it happen at all costs. This year, he must apply that principle in free agency and sign a big fish like Allen Robinson. If he likes a player enough, the Bears’ have the ability to get them without paying an unreasonable amount. One underrated note is that last year, players like Stephon Gilmore and A.J. Bouye rejected the Bears’, not because of money, but because of questions surrounding the franchise. Pace has shown he is willing to spend, players just have to want to come here.
Does Pace’s history with free agents concern you?
Jack: On some level, yes, but at the same time, no. Let me explain. Pace has been willing to give big money to guys in the past but has missed out due to QB troubles and coach troubles, so I won’t blame him for missing out on them. That being said, we can’t afford to see any more Coopers or Wheaton’s or Simses or Rolles or Balls… I can go on. So it does concern me, it concerns me quite a bit, but not as much as you’d think.
David: Absolutely, how can it not? He’s missed on guys, the guys he has gotten have been bad, and he’s bidding against himself. That’s not to say I don’t think He can’t buck the trend, but he has a ton to prove. The theme of this chat has been, it’s time for him to put up or shut up. That cannot be emphasized enough.
Dan: I would be lying if I say I wasn’t a bit concerned. I agree with Jack though that some of the hate is overblown, but he has done poorly on it. Luckily he has not given out contacts that really hurt our future too badly, but he hasn’t done enough to affect us positively. With a quarterback and a head coach not on the hot seat, the excuses are over if Pace doesn’t get it done this offseason.
Nick: Hell to the yes. I’m not sure if it’s entirely his fault though. He has offered players money, but they have declined because of where the team is at. With a young head coach and young roster, I can see free agents wanting to come to Chicago again. Time will tell.
Kedar: There are parts that concern me and others that don’t. Pace doesn’t seem to be able to pick up the right players when he is looking in the bargain bin. Signings such as Markus Wheaton, Pernell McPhee, and Antrel Rolle reflect this. However, when targeting a big name, it has been more the Bears’ reputation than money. If Pace can lure a big name, then his past shouldn’t be a cause for concern, as a big-time player has shown the potential to produce, unlike the bargain-bin players Pace has been forced to target over the past few years.
Jack: I don’t have as much anger towards the McPhee signing as some do. He was a monster when he was healthy. Unfortunately, he hasn’t been healthy since November of 2015.
Kedar: McPhee was good when healthy. But he was barely healthy, and that has been a problem that has plagued nearly all of Pace’s free-agent signings. He needs to be more careful with players with an injury history, and that is something that could cause concern with players such as Allen Robinson.
We’ve seen a flurry of trade activity leading up to free agency, are you disappointed the Bears have not been involved?
Dan: I have seen quite a few Bears fans complaining that the Bears have not done anything yet this offseason after Cleveland wowed us all yesterday, but as was mentioned before, he is a build through the draft guy, so he isn’t going to be trading those picks away easy. However, just because he likes to build through the draft doesn’t mean he won’t spend in free agency, and I think he will this offseason.
Jack: If Robinson or Watkins were not available, I would be. But since the FA market is strongest at 2 positions of need – receiver and corner – it doesn’t concern me very much. That being said, if neither of the aforementioned receivers are Bears by Wednesday or Thursday, then it’s panic time.
Kedar: Not at all. When you think about each of the players that were involved in trades this past week, there is a reason why they were traded. Aqib and Marcus Peters have character concerns. Jarvis Landry’s price tag is extremely high for a slot receiver. And why would the Bears trade for DaMarious Randall, DeShone Kizer, or Danny Shelton?
Nick: I agree with the rest of the boys here. What trades were the Bears going to make? They have a young core and need to continue to add to it. You do that by accumulating draft picks (which the Bears have). There is no need to start trading those picks for players with low upside.
Jack: Also, and I may be in the minority here, but while the Browns didn’t do poorly last night it’s not like Landry, Taylor, and Randall are gonna get them to the playoffs. All this “Browns are good now” talk is quite overblown. This is still a 0-16 team we’re talking about.
David: Personally, I’ve felt like some of the guys that have been traded so far should have been guys the Bears were in on. The draft pick capital we’ve seen exchanged for Jarvis Landry and Damarious Randall were deals I think the Bears could have swung.
Dan: I liked the guys that the Browns traded for but the Browns had so many draft picks that the value of them was much lower. If we traded what the Browns did for Landry, we would only have 5 going into this draft. For a guy like Pace who builds through the draft, that trade was never going to happen. It would’ve hurt us in the draft quite a bit, and we would be paying Landry a ton of money when we could sign a guy like Robinson who better fits what we need and we don’t need to give anything up for him.
Kedar: It’s plain and simple- the Bears need draft picks, not to give them away. This draft is full of talent at positions that the Bears need to target- WR, CB, EDGE. Trading for an older player with less potential wouldn’t help this team as much as using those picks come draft day.