I have seen many casual statements that Ryan Pace has "had more hits than misses", so I wanted to take a few moments to run down all of Pace's major transactions and see if this statement holds true.
Free agency: Most fans will admit that this has not been Pace's strong point. The problem is that Pace's approach has not changed over three offseason despite meeting with the same results.
Home runs: Akiem Hicks. Great signing, great extension.
Solid additions: Danny Trevathan. Pace paid Trevathan a near premium salary for the position and Trevathan looked like the player we wanted him to be during his second year with the Bears. Some might argue that Trevathan's lack of availability the last two years and only decent play last year make this pick more gray than a clear success. I'm giving Pace and Trevathan the benefit of the doubt here.
Somewhere in the middle: McPhee, Sitton, Amukamara. McPhee and Sitton were both disappointments, but I give Pace some credit because the Bears were arguably a better team with McPhee and Sitton on the roster. Amukamara played well, but was signed to a guaranteed one year contract in a year where the Bears did not seem like they were trying to make a playoff run. While the Bears had plenty of cap room in 2017, this type of move in an era with rollover cap room seems odd (Amukamara's 2017 contract effectively cost the Bears 7 million in 2018 dollars) . Amukamara played well but his two flaws, availability and lack of INTs came through again. The Bears were 0-2 before he got on the field and he failed to record an INT for the second year in a row, which contributed to the Bears' turnover
Bust, but some silver linings. Freeman, Massie, Simms. Freeman was instrumental in keeping the Bears defense respectable in 2016, but the Bears will end up paying Freeman around 8.5 million dollars for less than 13 games of work. Massie was paid like a top 10 RT and while he hasn't been terrible, the guy he replaced, Jordan Mills, has made 38 consecutive starts at RT for Bills (rush offenses were ranked 1,1, and 8 during his tenure) for less than one-third of the cost. I am not a Jordon Mills fan, but it seems like the Bears paid quite a bit for at a modest upgrade. RT remains an area of need. Simms was and is significantly overpaid, but could make a positive contribution to the team as a #2 TE.
Bust: Royal, Rolle, McDonald, Glennon, Wheaton, Cooper, Demps.
Player trades: None of note.
Re-singings: I would argue Long and Young's contracts were mistakes. Understandable mistake, but still wasted money. The Bears had Long under their control for two more years when they extended him and got very little over those two years. The Hicks extension was good business, while Leno's was acceptable if not ideal. Losing his best playmaker in Jeffrey is a major black make on his record.
Bottom line is that when it comes to acquiring talent outside of the draft process, Pace has failed to bring in long-term building blocks. For a number of years now in the NFL, success in free agency and player trades have been instrumental to building Super Bowl contenders. The Bears have added little through either means during Pace's first three offseasons. The 2018 Free Agent field is relatively weak in a number of key areas and the league is flush with cash leaving an uphill fight for offseason #4.
Home runs: None
Solid hits: Goldman, Whitehair, Howard.
Looking good - Floyd, Jackson
Too soon to tell: Trubisky, Shaheen, Cohen. I have high hopes for the first three names listed. Growth in year two will move them into the solid hit category.
Somewhere in between - Kwiatkoski, Amos, Bullard. These guys aren't bad, but are also easily upgradeable. I know some will differ an Amos.
Looking like a bust: White, Grasu, Hall, Bush,
Notable undrafted FAs: Meredith, Callahan, Robertson-Harris. More mixed results. One year of excellent production from Meredith, solid nickel play from injury-prone Callahan and some depth from Robertson-Harris. Downside is that if any of these guys breakout this year the Bears will be on the hook for some major cash.
As a note on the draft, I only dinged Pace for picks in round 1-4. I see anything in rounds five and later as a bonus.
Pace had 14 selections in rounds 1-4 and met with mixed results. The fact that he was picking in the top 10 every year also requires a tougher grading scale. His first draft set the team back with three misses in the first four rounds, while his third draft was filled with boom or bust prospects who will likely be the deciding factor in whether Pace is success of failure.
The fact that Pace has yet to acquire a Pro Bowl player is not insignificant. Pace has made at least 15 significant free agent signings and 14 selections in the first four rounds of the draft.
Current Pace additions moving into the 2018 season:
Elite Players: 0
Above average NFL starters: 4 (Hicks, Howard, Trevathan, Whitehair)
Players who have shown potential but need further development or consistency: 2 (Floyd, Jackson)
Belong on an NFL roster but arguably replacement level players: 4 (Amos, Bullard, Kwiatkoski, McPhee)
May (hopefully!) turn into hits: 4 (Trubisky, Shaheen, Cohen, Meredith)
Overall, Pace has had plenty of draft and cash capital to improve the team, but there are few foundational pieces currently in place. The roster was lousy when he took over, but missing badly on top-ten picks and repeatedly striking out in free agency will create a never-ending rebuilding process. Even more discouraging, areas like the O-Line have seen significant investment through draft and free agency yet still remain unsettled heading into year four.