Of all of the accusations that could be leveled at Ryan Pace, passive might be the least-accurate. The man has been active in finding talent, signing free agents, and trading players and picks in his efforts to rebuild the Bears into a respectable franchise.
No GM is going to gain unwavering support from a fanbase, and it's unreasonable to expect that the moves of a first-time manager like Pace would be above reproach. However, with the trade of
Brandon Marshall Martellus Bennett, I was curious about whether or not Pace was robbing any other team blind or being robbed, and so I looked to the last two years of trades, plus this year so far, in order to get some perspective. What I learned was that there are a number of unrealistic expectations about what a player can and cannot be traded for.
While there were many trades over the two-plus years I looked at, some of those were so complex that untangling value is anyone's guess. Trades that involved a player on each side (for example, the Bradford-Foles trade) made it very difficult to assess value. Fortunately, Pace's most questionable trades did not involve such maneuvering, and so they are easier to evaluate. Using the famed Jimmy Johnson chart, it's even possible to determine the relative ‘value' gained from each player.
In total, I found 46 trades that had a single player on one side and draft picks to balance the rest out without going so far into the future (or involving undetermined conditional picks) as to make any comparison silly. Although the number is meaningless without more context, the average value of all of these trades was 19.4 points -- or the average traded player was worth pick #180 (in the middle of sixth round).
However, the reality is that players were all over the board in their value. The biggest "payday" for a traded player was when the Buccaneers traded Mark Barron to the Rams for a mid-4th- and mid-6th-rounder, valued at 93.8 points on the chart (almost good enough to be the same value as the 6th pick in the 4th round). At the time, Barron was two years into a five-year contract.
Haloti Ngata, Bryce Brown, Stevie Johnson, and Martellus Bennett round out the top five for the most value recouped in the draft for a player. Ngata was over 30 and was at the end of his contract, but he was also a five-time pro bowler and 2-time first-team all-pro; along with a 7th, he netted a late 4th-round and late 5th-round pick, bringing in a total value of 76.5 points. That is almost exactly the value of pick #109 (that year, that was the tenth pick in the fourth round). Brown and Johnson fetched the value of mid-4th rounders themselves (69 and 68 points, respectively, one offsetting picks are factored in).
Then there's Martellus Bennett. In the last year of his contract and - at the very least - dealing with a recent injury history, Bennett was very obviously on the trading block. Pace turned Bennett and Pick #204 into Pick #127. The difference in value is 35.2 points, or a late 4th-rounder (between Pick #141 and #142). By contrast, Vernon Davis is a two-time pro bowler who is admittedly three years older than Bennett. He was traded along with Pick #228 in order to get back Pick #207 and a 6th round pick from 2017. The maximum possible value earned from Davis, applying no discount for the delayed pick, is 33.6 points, or essentially Pick #145. However, a more realistic determination of value has the Davis trade earning a 6th-rounder at best.
After Bennett, the next three trades in terms of value gained for players are Matt Cassel, Brandon Marshall, and DeMarco Murray. Cassel was traded for a 2017 pick in the fifth round. Various sources suggest that picks that far in the future should be discounted from 10-20%, but the surface value of the trade could be as high as 43 points (or as low as 27.4 points, less any discount for the delayed gratification). To the chagrin of many, Marshall and a seventh-round pick were traded for a fifth-rounder; this basically made his value 35 points, or a lower 5th-round selection. Murray's trade value of 32 points was enough to move up from #113 to #100 (mid-fourth to early-fourth). Mike Wallace and Ben Grubbs complete the top ten in terms of value gained from traded players.
|Picks||Player||Draft Value||2016 Position|
|2015 #109 + #184||Mark Barron||93.8||#102 (4.4)|
|2015 #122 + 2015 #158||Haloti Ngata + 2015 #231||76.5||#109 (4.11)|
|2015 #113 + 2014 #224||Bryce Brown + 2014 #237||69||#112 (4.14)|
|2015 #113||Stevie Johnson||68||#113 (4.15)|
|2016 #127||Martellus Bennett + 2016 #204||35.2||#141 (5.2)|
|2017 5th round pick||Matt Cassel||34||#143 (5.4)|
|2015 #142||Brandon Marshall + 2015 #224||33||#145 (5.6)|
|2016 #100||DeMarco Murray + 2016 #113||32||#147 (5.7)|
|2015 #149||Mike Wallace + 2015 #232||30.2||#152 (5.12)|
|2015 #154||Ben Grubbs||29.8||#153 (5.13)|
In other words, when taking player-to-player trades out of the equation, Pace has made two of the top ten "earned value" trades since 2014. No player earned his former team more than a 4th-round pick by himself, and that is the range of value Pace got for Bennett, who it seems everyone agrees was obviously about to be cut.
It is possible that the Bears will miss Bennett on the field. It is even likely that Bennett will do well alongside Gronkowski and Brady. However, Pace actually managed to get a lot of value out of Marshall and Bennett when they are considered alongside the rest of the market in the NFL.
The rest of his trades follow the same pattern. He got almost twice as much trade value out of Jon Bostic or the last few games of Jared Allen as Percy Harvin earned. Pace's judgment might still be in question with respect to some of his moves, but if he is determined to trade away pieces he doesn't think fit, he is at the very least getting the higher end of market value for them.