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Are Too Many Free Agents Saying No to Chicago?

While Chicago fans celebrated some early victories in free agency, word keeps getting out about the ones who got away. Is it time to get worried, or is it just the nature of the NFL?

Kamil Krzaczynski-USA TODAY Sports

Ryan Pace seems to have mixed results selling the Bears to potential free agents. Over The Cap reports that the Bears have just over $24million in cap space, but Pace seems to be in no hurry to throw out a massive contract to either outside free agents or home-grown talent. In this, Pace has stayed true to the philosophy he explained in January: "I don't like to put all our eggs in one basket in free agency. We can be a little more targeted now that we really know our team extremely well. I don't think you're going to see us make one splash free-agent signing. I think it's going to be kind of spread out your resources a little bit."

If various reports are to be believed, Pace was hoping to spread his resources around even more. First, Pace supposedly offered $19million over four years to C.J. Anderson (close to the $18million he got from the Dolphins). Now, Jermain Gresham is reporting that the Bears offered Jermain Gresham $23million over four years with $12mllion guaranteed. There's pretty good reason to be skeptical of some of the details of these reports, if for no other reason than that offer would be giving Gresham Greg Olsen-level money in terms of total value and guaranteed money, and it would be giving him a per-year value above Antonio Gates. This is a lot to offer to a guy who was not even the most productive tight end on his own team last year.

However, even if the details are a little off, they probably aren't too far off. Bobby Massie was given a 3-year, $18million deal with $6.5million guaranteed; that gave Massie the fifth-largest contract by cap hit among right tackles, per Sportrac. Danny Trevathan signed a 4-year deal worth $24.5million, with $12million guaranteed (7th among ILBs). Freeman, on the other hand, got a 3-year deal worth $12million with half of it guaranteed (17th among ILBs). So, those reported "phantom" contracts would have taken up some cap space but plugged holes without making anyone the top-paid anything. It sounds like Pace's self-reported approach, and it sounds like the kind of deal he seems to favor.

So why didn't it work? Is it simply that Pace is sticking to his guns and refusing to overpay? Are players and agents listening to offers, waiting for Snyder-like deals, only to then make decisions that match their own inclinations more? After all, supposedly Anderson went to Miami at least in part to be reunited with Gase.

When thinking about the Gresham report, is Chicago that bad of a place to come to work that a guy will take a $3million discount? I've been to Arizona, and while the weather is nice, it's not (to me) 8-digits nicer than Chicago. In the six years Gresham has been in the league, the Bears have had two winning records, two losing records, and two 8-8 seasons. They have gone 0.500. In other words, they have not been good, but there are a lot of worse teams out there.

Besides, if it's just the team and its chance to win, what do we make of the fact that Jerrell Freeman left when the Colts made him a similar offer to what the Bears gave him?

I think the real question is, why would a player pick to come to the Bears? Money is one motivator, certainly, but Pace doesn't seem to be the type to drive up numbers just to make a deal. That means that the Bears need to sell themselves, and that makes this next year crucial. The Bears need to convince more players to take the leap that Freeman made, and they need to do more than just use their cap space to do it. I'm not worried about it yet, but I think next year needs to see a turnaround.

How about you? Are you worried about the free agents who have gotten away?