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Ryan Poles is treating his first free agency like a first-time home buyer. The 36-year-old general manager is doing his research from the confines of Halas Hall and weighing all his options.
Should he pursue the veteran that has endured some wear and tear over the years but has shown stability or the young player that still has upside but plenty to prove?
Through the two-day NFL free agency negotiation window, the Bears have been relatively quiet. The organization made its first big move on Monday by reportedly signing 27-year-old defensive tackle Larry Ogunjobi to be their prototypical three-tech in head coach Matt Eberflus’ 4-3 defense.
ESPN senior NFL reporter Jeremy Fowler also reported on Tuesday night the Bears will be signing former Raiders linebacker Nicholas Morrow.
(Update: 10 minutes after this article was published, the Bears agreed to terms with offensive lineman Lucas Patrick, according to NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport.)
Besides those two moves, Poles is taking a wait-and-see approach – not rushing what is just the start of a rebuild in Chicago.
Although it’s painful witnessing what seems like every other team in the NFL but the Bears make moves to improve their roster, it might be best for the team.
When Ryan Pace was in his first year as the Bears’ general manager back in 2015, he also signed a young defensive player as his initial free-agent signing: Ravens outside linebacker Pernell McPhee to a five-year, $35 million contract.
The McPhee signing was initially reported on March 9, 2015 from the Baltimore Sun. Two days later on March 11, Pace went out and finalized deals with safety Antrel Rolle and wide receiver Eddie Royal.
Rolle signed a three-year, $11.25 million contract with the Bears, but he was released after playing in just seven games. Royal also signed a three-year contract with $10 million guaranteed. He was released after playing in just 18 games.
McPhee lasted longer than Rolle and Royal, but the pass rusher only registered 14 sacks in three seasons with the Bears and was released Feb. 26, 2018.
Those acquisitions didn’t work for Chicago. Poles is clearly taking a calculated approach in his first free agency. So far, the Bears haven’t been linked to any potential deals that would indicate an obvious overspend, which is what happens consistently in the first wave of free agency.
Imagine if the Bears were the team that offered Christian Kirk a four-year, $72 million deal like Jacksonville did.
(Obviously, this would be unlikely considering – again – all the needs on the team.)
Some could argue that at least the Jaguars are adding weapons for their young quarterback in Trevor Lawrence, which is valid, but the Bears came into free agency with about $30 million less in cap space than the Jaguars. Jacksonville has money to spend.
Now, with the Bears losing James Daniels to the Pittsburgh Steelers, Chicago would be wise to see how they can upgrade the offensive line. The Browns released center JC Tretter after his five-year run in Cleveland, where he didn’t miss a single snap while he was there. Even though he is 31 years old, he would be an upgrade over Sam Mustipher.
Also, adding another playmaker for Justin Fields wouldn’t be a bad idea either. Javis Landry – another former Browns player – could provide stability to the slot position, something the Bears currently don’t have at this moment. And sticking in the AFC North, JuJu Smith-Schuster could be another receiving option to consider.
For now, Poles is still browsing the market, but the hope is that with time, he will continue adding the pieces necessary to build a sturdy foundation.
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