What an exciting day it was for one where zero free agent agreements are allowed to be made (wink).
At least until the season starts, and hopefully not long after, March 13 will be remembered as the most exciting day to be a Bears fan in the Ryan Pace era.
And you know what, it should be. It began in the wee hours of Tuesday morning, with the 1 AM breaking of the three-year, $42 million contract given to Allen Robinson. As many had speculated and reported, he was the Bears’ top target all along. And as the $14 million per year deal indicates, they were hell-bent on making him a Chicago Bear.
Nine or ten hours later, the Bears locked up their kicker, Cody Parkey, and their “move,” or “joker” tight end, whatever you want to call it, Trey Burton. The latter especially enthused the fan base even further, including myself, as I have been a strong advocate of signing him.
Then around 3:30 PM, Taylor Gabriel started to tell reporters that he agreed to a four-year deal with the Bears and excitement came to a peak. All of a sudden, the receiver position turned from a weakness into a strength. Robinson, Burton (more of a receiver than a tight end), Gabriel, and incumbent Cameron Meredith make for an intriguing, if not potentially dominant, cachet of weapons. It’s easy to see why some Bears fans are thinking big.
However, let’s all slow our roll.
The first thing that fans need to realize is that none of these signings are without risk. Allen Robinson is coming off a torn ACL and, let’s face it, has had one season (out of four including the one lost to the knee injury) of number one receiver production. He has suffered from an at times incompetent quarterback situation, and definitely has the most potential out of any wideout in free agency. If healthy, and if he reverts to 2015 form, Robinson could very well be a superstar. But like with all free agents, there is a reason he was available.
Burton is a good get, but that is a lot of money for a relatively unproven player. So is Gabriel, but it’s not like he’s a star. Both are very solid players but won’t be the difference between 5-11 and 11-5.
Secondly, and this bears repeating numerous times, championships are not won in March. They are won in April. Allen Robinson is awesome but he is not the most important player on offense. Burton and Gabriel are probably sixth and seventh, not including offensive linemen. We all know who is.
The aspect that makes or breaks the 2018 season and beyond is the franchise quarterback, Mitch Trubisky. If he develops into a stud, which hopefully is an “if” whose odds increased dramatically with the extra weapons today, the Bears are set for a decade.
The overall point is this: while today went a long way to making the Bears a contender, there is still a lot of work to do. There are holes on the roster, at guard, edge rusher, and cornerback. Chicago is not a playoff team. Yet. Check back there in the next 9 months. And there’s still the matter of their competition.
While Chicago got considerably better, so did Green Bay and Minnesota, with the signings of Jimmy Graham and Kirk Cousins, respectively. Detroit will be a playoff contender; I love the Matt Patricia hire. And in the larger view of the conference, it’s going to be a tough one. The Eagles are going nowhere. Neither are the Saints, Rams, Panthers, or Falcons, as long as their quarterbacks remain in place. Russell Wilson will always have Seattle in contention. And who could forget Cult Leader Garoppolo?
The point is this: be careful not to buy too much of the hype. Remember how excited we were in March of 2014? They still have not quite recovered from that exact time period. Don’t make it so the Bears fall into the bin of classic “offseason champions,” complete with the likes of Tampa Bay, every Eagles team up until last season, and oh god why are the 2011-2016 White Sox in here too?!
So tread lightly, my friends. Until Mitch Trubisky shows significant signs of growth (and I wholeheartedly believe he will), the Bears will not be playoff contenders. Until that day comes, and come very soon it hopefully will, there will be no Bears football in January.
Nothing that Ryan Pace did today was the wrong decision. But for now, don’t expect a championship run. I’m not ready to say that this team, albeit a team that is set up well long term, is a playoff caliber team.