Press "Enter" to skip to content

Column: What approach will new Chicago Bears GM Ryan Poles take into free agency?

After years of attempting to buy their way into contention, the Chicago Bears prepare to enter free agency this week at the beginning stages of a franchise reboot.

New general manager Ryan Poles struck an deal to trade pass rusher Khalil Mack to the Los Angeles Chargers last week. Wide receiver Allen Robinson is expected to sign with a new team when he reaches the open market, and nose tackle Eddie Goldman will be let go if the team cannot find a trade partner.

Those are three of the highest-paid players from last season, and it signifies just the beginning of a long process and roster turnover. Poles doesn’t have a track record in free agency, so we don’t have a history of speculating what moves could be ahead. He has said he wants the organization to be draft-driven. So does every GM, and that’s precisely what his predecessor, Ryan Pace, declared when he was hired in 2015.

The Bears have leaned heavily on free agency for a long time, and the results, save for the 12-4 season in 2018, haven’t matched hype. According to, the Bears have signed 113 unrestricted free agents since 2013, the most in the league, five more than the Las Vegas Raiders. It’s almost three times as many as the Green Bay Packers have signed in that span (40). You can make a case the Packers could have hunted down another Lombardi Trophy with a more aggressive approach to free agency, but the Bears are proof that dollars spent in March don’t always lead to regular-season success.

Poles has said value can be found in the second and third waves of free agency, and that could be where his primary focus is. But the Bears have cap space and needs across the board, so it stands to reason he’s in search of a player or two who won’t last until it becomes a buyers’ market.

The negotiating window — when teams are permitted to contact agents and engage in contract discussions — begins at 11 a.m. Monday, leading to the start of the new league year at 3 p.m. Wednesday, when deals can be consummated.

As much as Poles has talked about improving the offensive line, it would be surprising if he didn’t make multiple moves. Right guard James Daniels is slated to be a free agent and should do well on the open market, with some figuring he could get a deal worth at least $8 million per year and perhaps as much as $10 million annually or more. If the Bears don’t retain Daniels, they need to replace him. Then there’s the matter of potentially replacing center Sam Mustipher and the question mark at left tackle.

A strong group of veteran interior linemen is available. One source said the Bears could be in play for Los Angeles Rams center Brian Allen, a Hinsdale Central graduate who played at Michigan State. Tennessee Titans center Ben Jones also is available. The list of guards includes Brandon Scherff of the Washington Commanders, Laken Tomlinson of the San Francisco 49ers, Connor Williams of the Dallas Cowboys, Austin Corbett of the Rams, Andrew Norwell of the Jacksonville Jaguars and Alex Cappa of the Buccaneers. Daniels is the youngest guard at 24, but Williams is only 25, which could make him intriguing.

The other pressing need is at wide receiver, where the Bears have Darnell Mooney and no one else who is proven. Poles needs to come up with a combination of free agents and draft picks to provide quarterback Justin Fields with an improved lot of skill-position players. That’s a challenge with a thin wide receiver market. Would the Bears have interest in D.J. Chark, who suffered a fractured ankle last season, after he appeared in only four games? The Bears have to do something at the position if they want to give Fields a chance.

Christian Kirk of the Arizona Cardinals excelled in the slot last season and is seeking a huge payday. Like Chark, Juju Smith-Schuster battled health issues last season, and then there is a list of players such as Byron Pringle, whom Poles knows well from the Kansas City Chiefs, Marquez Valdes-Scantling of the Green Bay Packers and Russell Gage of the Atlanta Falcons.

The other area to keep a close eye on is the defense. Coach Matt Eberflus brought four assistants on that side of the ball with him from the Indianapolis Colts, so he could want one or two players the staff knows well. Inside linebacker Anthony Walker Jr., who spent last season with the Cleveland Browns after playing in Indianapolis, and Colts defensive lineman Al-Quadin Muhammad both fit the profile, and neither would break the bank.

The Bears also have to weigh the pros and cons of re-signing some of their

free agents.Safety DeAndre Houston-Carson emerged from being primarily a special teams player to finishing sixth on the team in tackles. He plays with the hustle and intensity Eberflus preaches. Special teams coordinator Richard Hightower has familiarity with long snapper Patrick Scales and punter Pat O’Donnell.

The Bears have been clearing a lot of cap space for 2023, but that figure is deceivingly high because they have so few players under contract. The team could be positioned to make a bigger splash a year from now, but Poles needs to infuse this roster with talent — players who can be part of a rebuilding process and not just stop-gap signings on one- or two-year deals.

Perhaps by Wednesday evening the Bears will have a handful of additions who provide optimism for the future. In the event they aren’t making headline news, that shouldn’t be alarming. Few of those headline signings over the last decade-plus turned into wins.


Source: Berkshire mont

Be First to Comment

    Leave a Reply

    %d bloggers like this: