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Ryan Pace plays free agency right, sets up draft

In the first week of free agency Ryan Pace has made a number of moves to solidify the team's weak spots without hemorrhaging the salary cap.

Dennis Wierzbicki-USA TODAY Sports

Most NFL fans understand that winning free agency rarely wins championships. That's a nice way of saying championships can't be bought.

There is so much history of teams spending huge in March only to see those big-money players released before the end of the contract, often without the production the team believed they were paying for.

That is why it has been so refreshing to see how Ryan Pace has approached free agency the last two years.

Instead of breaking the bank on the top-tier free agents and locking them into huge guaranteed deals that will come back and bite the team's cap down the road, he's methodically attacked free agency with a set plan.

Last year it was locking down Pernell McPhee before targeting a number of second tier free agents to shore the roster up.

This year, he's turned positional weaknesses into strengths by signing Danny Trevathan and Jerrell Freeman to play inside linebacker. Last night it was announced that Pace was able to get Akiem Hicks to a deal before he could continue with visits to the Lions and Giants, as had been reported.

All that was in addition to signing Bobby Massie, who will help solidify the offensive line. He's also re-signed a number of his own successful players such as Marc Mariani, Jacquizz Rodgers, Tracy Porter, Sherrick McManis and Mitch Unrein.

The re-signings all will help with continuity and the rest have turned positions of weaknesses into strengths. He's also done what he's said he would do from day one: set himself up to draft the best available player in April.

The signings the Bears have made from other teams are all players that are under 30. Pace has targeted players that often coming off of their first contract and are still rising players. The money he has committed to them is hardly amounts that will be worrisome down the road.

For the price that Pace could've paid to Malik Jackson, he instead got three players:

Now, with that being said, free agency should be Pace's strong suit: he comes from the pro-personnel side of the front office. He's been as good as advertised with that.

He must also be good int he drafting department. As I said at the beginning of this piece, he's set himself up to take whatever player is at the top of Chicago's board when they get on the clock next month. Will it be another offensive lineman, a defensive back, another five technique? Or could it be a curve ball such as a running back or even a quarterback should the right guy be there?

It's hard to say at this point because of the job he's done to shore up the roster with shrewd free agency moves.

Last year's draft appeared to be a good one with a number of rookies starting despite their top pick sitting out injured. If Pace can prove that his scouts are as good at finding the right guys to draft as he is at identifying free agents, then perhaps the Bears will be much improved soon.

The applause for Pace is loud right now and deserved, but it's important to remember that free agency is only part of the NFL puzzle and the draft is the most important.

Do you think Pace has successfully set up free agency for the draft?