It's been a very busy week at Halas Hall with the NFL Draft, veteran minicamp, and the Matt Forte and Martellus Bennett drama. When Chicago Bears' general manager Ryan Pace met the media following day two of the draft he hit on all these topics and more.
He opened his presser talking about the two newest Bears.
"Two good players today. Obviously, in the second round, Eddie Goldman. This is a young player, third year junior, two-year starter. When I think about the standout traits with Eddie Goldman, it's strength, stout at the point of attack. He's very instinctive. He's strong. He gets off blocks. I really like the pad level he plays with. He steps up in big moments. Up at the Clemson game this year, there's three game-changing plays he makes to basically win that game for Florida State. This is a stout, strong nose tackle that anchors the middle of your defense. I think he is an ascending player.
"In the third round, Hroniss Grasu, a center, four-year starter at Oregon. Very athletic. The standout traits for this guy is his quickness and his balance. He's excellent at the second level. He's quick on reach blocks. His makeup is outstanding. When you talk about work ethic, team captain, leadership, all those traits that we stress around here, he brings those to the table. We got two good players. We're excited about it. We've got a lot of work to do tomorrow, not just in the draft, but in free agency. We're excited moving forward."
Pace was asked about the expectations of how second and third round picks can contribute as rookies.
"It depends on the position a lot of times. If you took a quarterback or something, it would be different. Our expectations are high for these guys. There's a lot of opportunities in front of them. We had consensus on all these players. That's what I liked about these two picks. From our coaches to our scouts, we're all on the same page. There's going to be a lot of competition. Hroniss Grasu, he can play center, he can play some guard. I know we got Will Montgomery there, but they'll all be competing, all fighting for starting jobs.
"Eddie Goldman too. A nose tackle, he's also played end. I know [Jeremiah] Ratliff's got some flexibility to move around. So it's up to our coaches to get these guys in their best positions and I know they'll do that. But both these guys have flexibility and we're excited to have them."
Kyle Long played with Hroniss Grasu at Oregon in 2012, so Pace was asked if he spoke with Long about Grasu.
"Actually, I did. It was kind of later in the process, we had our evaluations in. Hroniss is easy. When you guys meet him, his makeup is off the charts. There are certain guys on our board that we'll check a Bears' box. There will be a little Bear that pops up on their magnet. To us, that's a guy who has every trait we're looking for. His makeup is outstanding. Grasu is one of those guys. Kyle Long just confirmed all those things when we talked to him.
Grasu has already talked about his willingness to play anywhere he's asked, but Pace was asked if Grasu will have an opportunity to play guard.
"We do. His ideal position is center, but he could do it. His ideal position is center."
Pace was asked how long it takes for a center to become a starter in the NFL.
"That's a good question because it is a strong, intelligent position. His intelligence is really, really high, so we feel - I know what you're saying and that is the case, but this guy is off the charts in regards to that."
Eddie Goldman played all along Florida State's defensive line, but Pace was asked what Goldman's natural position is.
"Nose tackle. He's a true, low, strong nose tackle. He's played all over the d-line, I think his best position is nose tackle; I really think he's natural at that. Some guys just have a natural ability to play with a low center of gravity and leverage and he definitely has it. It's easy for him to get underneath blocks."
Pace was asked about the Rose Bowl match-up between Oregon's Hroniss Grasu and Florida State's Eddie Goldman.
"A good battle. Those are two great players going at it and they'll be doing it again in practice. They're both competitive; you saw it throughout the game. A couple games that stand out with players that you watch - like I mention with Goldman, the Clemson game stands out to me with him. And Grasu, Michigan State he played well. There's games when you think back that really jump out in your mind, but that was a battle."
Since he mentioned the Clemson game, Pace was asked what specific impact plays Goldman made against them.
"He forced a fumble, he had a tackle for a loss, I think there was a sack. The game was going into overtime and he made three game changing plays that really just stick in your head. Big moments."
He was asked if picking the best player available becomes more difficult the later it gets in the draft.
"The boards come off best player available for us the whole way honestly right now. If it's close and we might have a guy graded just one little bit [higher than the next guy], we'll lead towards need a little bit, but right now it's been best player available honestly all the way through for us."
At this point the questions started spraying to all fields, and he was asked if Jeremiah Ratliff can play anywhere along the defensive line.
"I just think he's so athletic so he's versatile to do all that. He's got quickness, athleticism, balance. That's what I like about Jay (Ratliff), is his versatility so that will all sort out, but we will get our best players on the field and Ratliff will definitely be out there and I like his position flexibility."
Pace was asked if his new defensive lineman, Eddie Goldman, is a three-down player.
"We'll see. I don't want to get to that yet. I know he can push the pocket. I know a lot of people say ‘when you say nose tackle, you just think this a two-down guy'. He can collapse the pocket. He's got strong power to bull rush, so he can provide that too. That's going to help a lot. I know it helps the outside linebackers when they're coming off the edge, if you've got some push in the middle and he can provide that."
Jeremiah Ratliff missed this weeks minicamp while sorting out a legal issue, and Pace was asked if Ratliff will participate in the next phase of off season workouts.
"Yeah, yeah. Definitely, definitely."
Speaking of Bears missing workouts, Pace was asked if Pro Bowl tight end Martellus Bennett will participate in the next phase of offseason workouts.
"With him, its individual choices. I've been talking to him and his agent and we'd love for him to be here right now, competing, especially with what we have going right now. That's his individual choice and it's voluntary and hopefully he'll be here sooner than later."
Pace was asked if Bennett requested a trade.
But it was reported that the Bears were listening to offers for Bennett.
Pace was asked if he felt any anxiety from picking two offensive players since he is a defensive guy. (Pace played defensive end at Eastern Illinois)
"No, you think back to in free agency a lot of our moves were on defense as well. So whether it's Antrel Rolle or (Pernell) McPhee or Alan Ball, also, there's been moves over there - Mason Foster. I think the discipline to stay in the best available player on your board and that's what we're doing and all the scouts and coaches are on board with that."
Grasu, his new center, played in Oregon's up-tempo offense and Pace was asked the demands and stresses of playing that style of football.
"He has to make a lot of identifications. Again, he's a highly intelligent player. Those things jump out to me. His athleticism really jumps out guys. Just his quickness and his balance. And the things you look for in a center - lateral quickness is important for a center, the ability to reach a nose tackle, he's got all those traits. Physically he has everything we're looking for and then mentally, the intelligence-factor at center is huge and he definitely has that."
This is Ryan Pace's first Draft Room running the show, so he was asked how things have been working out for him.
"It has been really smooth. Again, all the hard work in the months leading into it, our board is stacked. It's been really calm. It's good to sit next to John (Fox) and bounce ideas off of him and talk things through. It's been really smooth."
Ego Ferguson was drafted by Phil Emery and he played the anchor tackle (NT) in Mel Tucker's 4-3 last year, so Pace was asked if he sees Ego playing the nose in Vic Fangio's 3-4 D.
"We've talked about that a lot. We project him as, really, nose and end. He can be both for us, so we don't have him set at one position right now. He has position flexibility there too."
For what it's worth, the first roster of the off season lists Ferguson at DE.
Pace was asked if Matt Forte was back at Halas Hall today.
"Was it yesterday or today? All these days are running together. Yes, he was here today. This morning."
And if he has talked to Forte.
"I have talked to him. Me and him talk a lot so those are kind of our conversations, but yes."
The Bears have only three picks in the final day of the draft so Pace was asked if he felt any pressure or need to get an extra pick on Saturday.
"It'd be great. If there's an opportunity for us to move back and get some more picks, definitely. We have a lot of needs so the more picks, the better. So far in the Draft the players that have been there for us, we've been really excited about. Again, there has been a consensus so we didn't want to risk going back and missing out on those guys. Like I said, sometimes you get trade offers that don't really necessarily make sense. So we feel good with where we're at. But that'd be great if we could get some additional picks, no question."
That's a lot of info to digest, but what are your thoughts on the state of the Bears?