For the first time in a long time, the Bears are winners. Just two years ago this team was 3-13 with no sense of direction. Two years ago the Bears entered free agency desperately bringing in talent. Talent that the previous regime neglected to get. In the three years that Emery was the GM the Bears had four Pro Bowlers. One of them is no longer with the team in Alshon Jeffery and the other one has been deterred by injuries in Kyle Long. The other two are first-time Pro Bowlers this year in Kyle Fuller and Charles Leno. After those four and punter Pat O’Donnell there’s a serious drop-off in talent from his picks.
This led the Bears to rely on free agency heavily. In 2014 the Bears brought in Lamarr Houston, Willie Young, and Jared Allen. That’s just talking about Edge rushers. They also brought in Ryan Mundy and MD Jennings. That’s Five Guys brought in for two positions. Because the Bears constantly struck out on picks. In 2015 the Bears dipped in to these positions again with Pernell McPhee and Antrel Rolle.
Emery and Angelo both loved “big free agency splashes” but they made critical mistakes. They paid players for what they did, not for what they could possibly do. There was never a free agent signed that surprised everybody when they turned out to be good. Ryan Pace has already done that. Akiem Hicks became so much more than we could have even imagined and Danny Trevathan is not only great inside linebacker but he’s also the glue guy for this defense. There are some misses as well but he’s not out here throwing money at former all-pros who to be frank weren’t good enough to be brought back by their team.
Over the past four years, however, Ryan pace has been able to draft consistently something that can’t be said for our last couple of GM’s. In 2015 he drafted Eddie Goldman and Adrian Amos. Although Amos is gone Eddie Goldman is still there and just had the best year of his career. In 2016 the Bears were able to get Leonard Floyd who even though he hasn’t lived up to the draft position he’s still pretty good. They also got Cody Whitehair and Jordan Howard in rounds two and five respectively. In the 2017 class, when drafted talent was actually a part of the team instead of just a handful of players, the Bears got franchise quarterback Mitchell Trubisky and franchise safety Eddie Jackson. Add in the All-Pro punt returner and do-it-all running back Tarik Cohen and that makes for a pretty successful draft class.
That brings us to the most recent draft class.
Finally after four straight years of double-digit losses and drafting a solid core the Bears were able to draft who they wanted not who they needed. Although it’s early this draft class looks very promising. But let’s go back to the free agency portion of last season. The Bears got Allen Robinson and Taylor Gabriel at the wide receiver position. Both guys on the right side of 30 not being paid for what they had done but for what they can do. Instead of reaching for a top receiver in the draft class they decided to go after guys that had upside. And it worked.
The Bears are finally in a position with a draft minded general manager who has a knack for finding talent on the third day of the draft. The Bears went 12-4 last year and have a great young core. And yes it does sting that Bryce Callahan and Adrian Amos left but I’m going to give Pace the benefit of the doubt. Bill Belichick is one of the best general managers because he is willing to not pay the good guys so that he can pay the great guys.
A lot of fans are upset with the fact that Justin Houston didn’t sign with the Bears. But he got paid 12 million a year by the Colts. He might have 78.5 sacks but he’s got zero in a Colts uniform. They paid him for what he did.
The Bears could have been aggressive in free agency. But this is the first time in almost a decade that they weren’t and that’s a good thing. Outside of the 2010 NFC Championship, this decade has been forgettable. The teams that win in March rarely win in February. The Bears are done winning in March.
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