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From dwellers to contenders; a transformation of the Bears

It is loud and clear. The Monsters of the Midway are back.

Ryan Pace introduces his latest addition to the new Monsters of the Midway.
NBC Sports

What a time it is to follow the Chicago Bears. Never, and I mean never, have we seen such a transformation of the franchise take place. What we are witnessing in Chicago is on the edge of becoming historic.

Earlier in the off-season, I detailed the moves that Bears general manager Ryan Pace had made prior to the beginning of the NFL preseason. If you want a quick recap of my thoughts for every move made, then the entire three-part “A New Age” series is available below.

(Part One, Part Two, Part Three.)

To think, plenty of people — myself included — assumed that the Bears were done with making major transactions. Especially since we’re one week before kickoff weekend of the 2018 regular season. That’s when Pace made perhaps the biggest trade in the founding franchise’s history.

On September 1st, 2018, Ryan Pace and his staff sealed the deal for Khalil Mack. Not just for a one-year rental, but for the long-term too. Prior to Mack even getting on his final flight to Chicago, the team at Halas Hall negotiated the record-breaking deal to lock him up for the foreseeable future.

I couldn’t believe the news at first. I was waking up from the previous day’s celebration of my birth, and instantly thought I was still dreaming as I slowly woke up to my phone blowing up from the news. It was the ultimate birthday gift.

Khalil Mack’s arrival doesn’t just make the Bears’ defense a potentially elite unit: he completes their entire football team. Seeing Mack added into a front seven featuring Akiem Hicks and Eddie Goldman on the defensive line; Danny Trevathan and Roquan Smith at inside linebacker, and pairing him with Leonard Floyd off the edge makes for a dominant lineup. Coupled with a young and aggressive offense, they should be able to take the league by storm.

Coming off the 2017 season, the Bears didn’t exactly have much “star power”. There were plenty of promising players on the roster, headlined by the likes of Mitchell Trubisky, Jordan Howard, Tarik Cohen, Kyle Long, Leonard Floyd, and Akiem Hicks. Yet, they didn’t have any true game-breaking players.

Heading into 2018, they have added two such veterans. The leading receiver of the 2015 season in Allen Robinson II, and 2016 Defensive Player of the Year, Khalil Mack. Chicago’s two biggest positions of need — receiver and edge — fixed with two of the best players in football. They also signed an assortment of veterans to diversify their arsenal of weaponry on offense, while retaining key members to their defense. And let us not forget their draft class, with names like Anthony Miller and Roquan Smith.

These aren’t your ordinary Bears. These are Monsters.

Everything about this franchise screams change in every sense of the word. No more hoarding draft picks in the hopes they become something great. No more bargain bin shopping. No more hiring of older, uber-conservative coaches. No more tolerating mediocrity. This franchise has gone for broke, smartly might I add, and in the most methodical way possible.

Common sense has truly taken over.

How was all this possible? In all likelihood, Pace has been planning this whole series of moves since last year. From the moment he traded up to get his franchise quarterback in Trubisky, he revealed his master plan.

With his young quarterback under his pre-slotted rookie contract, Pace is able to spend to his heart’s content. Never mind the need to turn around from a 14-34 record in three years, Pace has positioned himself for his moment to strike big after his first three years. We may never see such a monumental shift in philosophy again. If everything works out according to plan, players like Mack, Robinson, and Trubisky will be worth every penny and pick spent. If not, it won’t be for a lack of effort.

The best part about every Bears move made this off-season: they are all constructed with failsafes included within the overall philosophies. There’s little chance of “salary cap hell” being developed in Chicago. They could still look to extend more of their young players in the coming weeks, too. This is a roster built to win now, and well into the future.

It’s worth noting that almost every projected starter on offense and defense is under 30-years-old, and locked up for at least the next two years.

The expectations for the 2018 season and beyond have been changed permanently. It’s no longer about progression or development. It’s about the playoffs: winning games and championships. Anything less will be a disappointment.

The pressure is on, and I believe these new-aged Bears are up for the task. I can guarantee the rest of the NFC North division has taken notice. More importantly, their highly paid quarterbacks in Aaron Rodgers, Kirk Cousins, and Matthew Stafford have likely asked for new insurance policies within their respective contracts.

Get ready. The Monsters of the Midway are officially back.