Mike Sando, Senior Writer and Insider for ESPN, recently talked with fifteen NFL executives, coaches and talent evaluators, to help him grade the offseason from all 32 teams. As expected, there wasn’t many kudos being handed out for what the Chicago Bears did. Sando and his crew of experts, gave the Bears’ offseason a D+, which placed them 29th. Only the Houston Texans (D), Baltimore Ravens (D) and New York Jets (D) received a lower grade than the Bears.
Chicago general manager, Ryan Pace, has had his share of detractors this year, after generally being praised his first two offseasons. Pace was shut out on some of his higher profile free agents he was targeting, and his 2017 draft class is made up of mostly projects. If these high ceiling rookies pan out, the re-grade on this offseason will be much higher.
Here’s what Sando had to say about giving Chicago a D+.
The Bears joined the 49ers in making a flurry of moves involving mid- and lower-level veteran free agents. Unlike San Francisco, the Bears bet big on a couple of quarterbacks, especially second overall pick Mitchell Trubisky. Of course, this Bears offseason will look much different if Mike Glennon and/or Trubisky become front-line players. The grade suffers for now because the strategy seemed to be an odd mix of planning for the long-term future and scrambling to plug holes by questionable means.
Once the decision was made to release quarterback Jay Cutler, the Bears didn’t have any QBs under contract. Their hand was forced to look for the future and to shore up the present at the position.
"They are trying to find lightning in a bottle with all these signings," an exec said. "Sometimes you get lucky and go 7-9 or 8-8 to save your job. That is all you're trying to do. Then you go back to 4-12 the next year."
If the Bears can find a couple long term players in the group of mid-level free agents they signed, I think they’ll take that as a win. Good teams build through the draft, and Pace is setting this team up for his draft classes to shine.
In the Bears' defense, they ultimately recouped much of the draft capital they sent to San Francisco in the trade-up for Trubisky. That move was unexpected after the Bears paid starting money to Glennon in free agency. An evaluator said he thought the Bears would exceed outside expectations because Glennon will avoid turnovers.
Head coach John Fox wants to have a running/play action offense, with a play-making and opportunistic defense. Having a quarterback that will manage the game is what he’s always coveted.
"I am totally cool with the Glennon signing and will never object to someone spending on quarterbacks or investing in quarterbacks," a different exec said. "But the rest of their signings look like they are just scrambling to get to 6-10, 8-8. I don't see many good players that they added. It looks like a lot of mediocre players on mediocre deals."
I think Pace is just plugging holes until his draft picks pan out. I’ve said all along that I compare this rebuild to the five year rebuild that took place with the Oakland Raiders. Both franchises were in a horrible place, and it took getting the quarterback right, before Oakland turned it around.
The QB of the future is now in place for the Chicago Bears, so let’s see what the future holds.