The Chicago Bears acquired a unicorn on Saturday. Generational pass rushers with resumes that put them on a trajectory for Canton, Ohio, don’t get traded often. They definitely don’t get discarded for their age 27 seasons.
Khalil Mack is the newest arrival to the NFC North and his presence will significantly elevate the rest of the defense. It also changes the expectations quite a bit in the short and long-term and has our own David Wildman apologizing to Ryan Pace. It was a whirlwind of a weekend.
— The Loop Sports (@TheLoop_Sports) September 5, 2018
The Bears General Manager has a penchant for big moves of late and while Mack was always a distant possibility, actually acquiring him was a stunning development for an organization often perceived as risk-averse.
“When a guy like this becomes available in the prime of his career and not just the physical talent; the person that he is, too, and I think you felt a little bit of that, today, you’ve got to be willing to act,” Pace said. “We’re never going to be a team that’s going to sit back — we talk about, (don’t) sit on your hands. It’s very easy in our league to play it safe and play it cautious, and not that we’re going to be reckless, but we’re going to be aggressive.”
#Bears draft picks the next two years: 2019- 3rd, 4th, 5th, 7th. 2020- 2nd, 2nd, 4th, 5th, 5th, 7th.
They also have Khalil Mack though.
— James Fox (@JamesFox917) September 1, 2018
Due to his wheeling and dealing, Pace has left the cupboard open in regards to draft capital. In 2019, the Bears have picks in rounds three, four, five and seven. In 2020, they have two choices in round two as well as a pair in round five in addition to their original picks in rounds four, six and seven. They also have Khalil Mack however and the draft pick losses are just the price of poker in this instance. The Bears aren’t worried about it and fans shouldn’t be either.
“When we look at this next draft, right, our first-round pick is Khalil Mack and our next round pick is Anthony Miller,” Pace said. “The next draft we have two (second-round picks). I’ll take that,” Pace said. “We can do some damage there.”
This obviously ignores the fact that those future picks would also be used on players making a modicum amount of the salary cap but that’s not really the point. Pace alluded to the fact that his scouting staff has proven that they can acquire high-quality players in the second round.
In 2015 and 2016 respectively, Pace selected Eddie Goldman and Cody Whitehair. Goldman is one of the better nose tackles in football and Whitehair is a three-year starter on the interior of the offensive line. James Daniels and Anthony Miller were acquired with day two picks this past April.
Daniels is a 20-year-old technician that looks like a potential long-term starter next to Whitehair and Miller will be expected to contribute immediately on the offensive side of the ball in 2018. Tight end Adam Shaheen was taken in the 2017 second round and while he’s an intriguing option, the jury is still out on that particular pick. Pace is correct that they’ve generally hit on players in that round though.
It’s not just about the second round either. The jury is out on some of Ryan Pace’s first-round selections. Kevin White could finally contribute this year but won’t live up to the lofty expectations of a #7 overall pick. Leonard Floyd needs to stay healthy. Mitch Trubisky is the hopeful franchise quarterback and Roquan Smith should be unleashed next Sunday. Three of those four picks could hit in a big way but that’s still to be decided.
The scouting staff won’t have another first rounder to worry about until 2021 now unless trader Pace makes another splash. That might just be fine though, especially if the front office can continually unearth as many talents in the middle rounds as they have so far.
Adrian Amos, Eddie Jackson, Jordan Howard and Tarik Cohen were drafted with day three picks and they are major contributors on the Bears. Nick Kwiatkoski, Deon Bush, and DeAndre Houston-Carson should also offer weekly contributions.
Bryce Callahan, Roy Robertson-Harris, and Rashaad Coward are rostered players that were signed after their respective drafts were completed. Joel Iyiegbuniwe, Bilal Nichols, Kylie Fitts, Javon Wims and Kevin Toliver II are looking to join this group in the coming year. As a bit of a silver lining, the third round hasn’t gone particularly well for Pace so upgrading that 2020 selection to an earlier pick could be a coup for Pace as well.
The organization will be able to add pieces to the periphery of the roster over the next few years. They have the salary cap space to do so. They can’t add a ton and only have the draft capital to worry about the addition of tertiary pieces. The meat of the Chicago Bears’ next playoff team is on this roster though. This is Ryan Pace’s roster. And they expect to win and win this year. You don’t add a generational edge rusher and guarantee him $90 million if you feel otherwise.
“You’re talking about draft capital and also financial resources that you’re giving up, but fortunately we’re in a really good space with our salary cap, and so our roster can handle this right now,” Pace said. “We’re a young team with a lot of depth we feel good about. I think the youth of our team, the depth of our team, the financial health of our team and then getting that second round pick back was important.”
Expectations have been raised and the Chicago Bears should compete for the playoffs in 2018. Their Super Bowl window is right damn now and excitement is in the air. Ryan Pace has made some emboldened decisions along the way but his fingerprints finally constitute the bulk of the roster. There’s no longer a need to have draft picks and financial flexibility on the forefront of the mind. It’s time to win and that’s what the Chicago Bears’ actions have told us all.
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