The Chicago Bears are in the middle of the next step toward regaining respectability around the league. The 2015-2016 Bears season was filled with double-digit losses. But those losses, for the most part, were within a few points. While they only improved their record by one game from the year before, Bears coach John Fox established an unselfish team attitude highlighted by the exodus of Brandon Marshall and the likely departure of Martellus Bennett. Moreover, Ryan Pace, a rookie general manager, finally understands exactly where the Bears roster is with respect to talent.
Pace signed a number of free agents in his first offseason, all of whom, with the exception of Antrel Rolle, were under 30 years old. He missed more on these signings than hits as Pernell Mcphee, Tracy Porter, and Jarvis Jenkins were really the only signees who could be relied on. Others like Eddie Royal, Antrel Rolle, and Alan Ball proved to be “busts,” at least so far.
Jenkins signed a new contract with the Jets while the Bears re-signed Tracy Porter, both of whom came to Chicago on veteran minimum contracts. Pace emphasized repeatedly that he wants to build the Bears roster through the draft in order to avoid free agency, but with so much cap space and so little talent, Pace is forced to participate in free agency more than he would like to.
With that said, now what?
The Next Step in the Chicago Bears Rebuild
Overall, Bears fans will have to be patient with this team because it hasn’t drafted well enough to have a roster worth getting excited about. Pace’s first year of drafting showed promise in both the players and the future of Pace’s draft picks. With the latest signing of free agent DE Akiem Hicks, it would appear with around $20 million in cap space that Pace could sign another starter, maybe someone along the lines of Tony Jefferson.
So far, Pace has turned one of the Bears’ biggest liabilities, inside linebacker, into a strength by signing Danny Trevathan and Jerrell Freeman. He also resigned a standout from last year in Porter, which creates continuity the Bears haven’t had for a long time. Furthermore, instead of signing a right guard to slide alongside Kyle Long, he moved him back to guard, a position he was elite at in his first two years in the league. New signing Bobby Massie will likely play just as well and inconsistent as Kyle Long last year, but overall the offensive line should be much more balanced and improved.
Not to mention, Pace franchised the team’s best player, Alshon Jeffery, a player that an NFL team simply can’t let go of due to his ability to dominate games. Pace needs to utilize the extremely talented defensive line class and draft one in the early rounds. He might even want to draft another one later for Fox to develop like he did so well with Derek Wolfe and Malik Jackson in Denver. If Pace wants to protect the linebackers he just signed, then he needs to beef up that defensive line.
Bears fans should not jump the gun for this upcoming season and expect the Bears to be a Super Bowl contender, but playoffs are definitely a real possibility. There is a youth movement going on at Halas Hall, and up to this point, Pace looks like a more than capable general manager who has what it takes to bring a title to Chicago if what we have seen so far from him isn’t just beginner’s luck.