It’s just strange, the 2019 offseason. Right Chicago Bears fans?
At the end of August in 2018, there one one thing I was sure of regarding the future of the Chicago Bears... the 2019 draft would be all about a first round edge-rusher, the one big hole on the Bears team.
Then Jon Gruden happened, and somehow the Bears ended up with Khalil Mack and no 2019 first round draft pick (plus swapping a 2020 first for a second round).
Mack came in and everybody knows what happened. Suffice to say from the moment Khalil walked in the door at Halas Hall, edge rusher was no longer a priority.
That’s a really good thing, because not only had Ryan Pace traded away his first pick (for a player who would end up All-Pro in his first Bears season) but Pace had earlier traded away his 2019 second round pick for Anthony Miller (a second for a second, plus some change).
The Miller traded worked out well for the Bears, as they ended up with guy who looks like a bona fide star in the making.
Two huge holes on the roster filled, and both players were key in helping Chicago win our division for the first time in a very long time.
All in all, the Bears ended up the season young, solid and healthier than we probably had a right to be. After so many years of injury, we finally got a bit luck in 2018.
Everything was cruising right along until somebody double doinked us out of the playoffs. We all know that there were indications of trouble in the kicking game all year, as a big money (for a kicker) guy under performed in his field goal kicking. Say what you want about Ryan Pace building a Super Bowl caliber team from the ashes (and truth is, he has) but Pace absolutely sucks at finding a kicker who can kick.
Doink. Doink. Now here we are.
I think everybody feels this was a year we could have won the whole thing, and that left us with an unbelievable hangover from the abrupt end of the season.
It also left us with very little to look forward to for the usual off-season events. The Bears have committed most of their money and it’s hard to argue that most of that money has been spent wisely. Yes, there are guys here and there that may look a bit overpaid, but there are some outright bargains on the team as well.
Coming into the offseason there were several player concerns that needed to be dealt with. There were three key free agents and one guy that needed to be fired.
The most critically important free agent issue we had was Bobbie Massie on the offensive line. Nobody will confuse Massie as the best right tackle in the NFL but he’s still not an old guy, he’s improved every year he’s been in Chicago and he had a really good year in 2018 under the coaching of Harry Hiestand.
The Bears were able to sign Massie to a fair extension, leaving only two big problems left and a limited amount of money to fix them. strong safety and starting nickle back.
This is where it gets strange for Bears fans.
Usually, right before the early negotiating period of free agency, we are all going bonkers wondering about who the Bears are going to sign. How many of the top players are going to get phone calls from Chicago? Which huge name would fill our headlines this week?
Although you never know for sure, in 2019 the answer is probably nobody.
We have enough cap space to fill our two glaring needs (strong safety and nickle), but that’s about it. We won’t be seeing any big-name wideouts or running backs. There won’t be any high profile young edge rushers heading our way.
There’s a good chance we see one or both of Bryce Callahan and Adrian Amos return to the Bears, but there’s also a good chance we will lose both of them. It all depends on how much other teams value their services.
My personal guess is that Ryan Pace keeps what powder he has dry, and does nothing early on until he can see how Callahan and Amos are playing out, so that he knows where he’s going to have to fill holes. Having said that, Ryan Pace is a man who has surprised us many times over, so who knows?
What makes this winter even stranger is the fact that Bears fans are thinking differently about the future. In the recent past, we had all kinds of cap room but most players didn’t want to come here. Those days are gone. We are not a destination that somebody who’s willing to take less for the chance to play for a ring will go to.
We are also a destination that is chock full of young players who are on their rookie deals who are going to need to be paid. Going forward, the majority of our spending money will go to people like Cody Whitehair, Tarik Cohen, James Daniels, Roquan Smith, Mitchell Trubisky... homegrown players who have earned their big second paycheck.
Pace has been proactive in locking these kinds of guys down (Eddie Goldman, Charles Leno, Jr.) early and often, and I think that’s a trend we can expect.
There’s one last strange thing that enters the conversation this year as well. If we sign no free agents and lose Callahan or Amos, then chances are we will get one or more compensatory picks for the first time in a VERY long time.
Of course, there are other offseason Chicago Bears dramas to watch play out, most notably the eventual fate of Jordan Howard’s Bears career. Will he stay> Will he be traded? If so, when?
This time last year we were all screaming for outside linebackers who could rush the passer and wide receivers who could both get separation and catch the ball.
This year? Strange.