I have had quite a bit of criticism for the GM lately but what is new? Unfortunately if you criticize the Bears GM you'll probably end up being right. I was asked in the forum if there were viable other options for Poles to follow. I posted a response that I didn't want to lose and wanted to develop it a bit, so here we are.
Instead of what they have done, the Bears in 2022:
- Sign Terron Armstead for 5 years and $75MM same as Dolphins and structure it same as Dolphins -- $4MM this year, $26MM next year, and then an out (with dead cap penalty) each year after.
- Sign Ryan Bates for 4 years and $22MM (not $17MM) let's say $5MM in 2022 cap but another $7MM next year, with all the guarantees paid out, with an out after years 2 and 3.
- Sign DJ Chark for one year, $10MM, same as the Lions.
- Don't add Harry, Reiff or Schofield, and save about $6MM.
We currently have $16MM in cap space, do the math above and we still have $3MM, which is a little short of the $5MM or so we'd want in reserve to get through the season. I would have traded Robert Quinn all along and, as I understand it, freed up another $4MM, or you could forego signing Nicholas Morrow for $2.5MM AAV and we're where we need to be.
While each move can be individually criticized, the benefits of these moves come when you do all 3, or at least 2 out of 3:
- Terron Armstead sets the tone at the most important position on the line and helps instill a new attitude. He sets the bar for performance high with his All Pro level play, and raises the entire position group up a notch. So he'll only play 8-10 games, so what? Then you get Braxton Jones out there, instead of putting him out there for 17. But again, the bar and tone have been set by the best player in the group. The plan would be to transition to someone like Jones full time by his 3rd or 4th year but if he's ready sooner then you can probably move Armstead to RT. I like all of this better than Reilly Reiff and Michael Schofield, even for more money and commitment.
- Ryan Bates would solidify our interior to an average-ish group with upside, instead of one with a current big question at RG. Add a solid interior to an All Pro LT, let Jenkins and Borom battle it out at RT, and you're above average with average RT play, or average with below average RT play. That's the kind of protection I'd like to see Fields get.
- DJ Chark would be our starting X, and arguably most talented WR in the group, having a 1000-yard season, a Pro Bowl, and a successful stretch as his team's WR1 in his history, similar to Mooney. Going into the season, you have 2 legit top-2 targets, Kmet becomes your third guy, and Pringle your fourth coming out of the slot, and now we're cooking with gas. Like Armstead, you have to have a backup plan, so you sign ESB and bring along Velus Jones, or personally, I would have drafted someone like Pickens or Pierce in R2, make him compete with a Pro Bowler if he wants to start, but maybe he gets a shot if Chark isn't healthy or isn't effective. If Chark plays well on his one-year deal, you re-sign him. If he doesn't, you move on with the younger guy or prioritize adding someone next year. It only adds to what we have now, it doesn't take away anything besides N'Keal Harry.
- You add those 2 Pro Bowl talents and a third talent to this current roster, and Fields now has an average-ish group of targets and average to possibly above average OL, instead of below average at both. Right now, I'm just hoping he stays healthy and ends his year in the 20-25 range of efficiency, and when others will be saying we should draft someone new, I'll be saying he didn't have the support to do much better than that (you want to say he has the support to do better than 20-25, then you better hold him to that; I know one fan is already prepared to move on from him if he isn't at least in the 15-20 range).
- Available cap space: I hear we currently have about $100M available next year, and my plan commits $34M of that to Armstead and Bates, leaving us $66M. That's still enough room to make a splash at at least one position, lock up another key piece (Roquan) and add more talent to the roster, but the key to it is that we've already added some talent now. There are fewer holes to fill.
- Slightly worse defense: Without Morrow and/or Quinn, the defense is going to struggle a bit, but when you have a second year QB with a big arm and great deep ball but also a long release who likes to hold onto the ball, it is better to have a defense that might struggle than an OL + WR group that might struggle. Furthermore, Head Coach Matt Eberflus has a history of coaching up less talented defenders into competent units. We're asking our coaching staff to do that now with OL and WR, why couldn't we ask them to do it at linebacker instead?
Main thing is, long run, I think Fields is much better off with a plan that includes him having a good Year 2 and $66M to spend next year than having a marginally ok Year 2 and $100M to spend next year. If you think there's an even better plan in place that includes Fields having only a marginally ok 2022, you're entitled to that opinion, but honestly now, if Poles signed Armstead, Chark and Bates, you'd be here right now, saying he screwed up? You would be howling about the contracts, saying it would be better to play young guys, and worrying about the $66M in cap space? As I and others would be telling you how excited we are by the prospect of Fields becoming an above average QB this season, you'd be telling us no, he'll be below average because Armstead and Chark aren't that good and will get hurt, and we shouldn't be getting our hopes up?
Just for funsies (why else do a fanpost?) let's go ahead and change up the draft the way I would have liked, take George Pickens, who has always been my pick(ens), instead of Jaquan Brisker (sucks to miss out on Brisker and with 20/20 hindsight I'd take Brisker over Kyler Gordon). Also, because we've added some security in Armstead, instead of taking all 3 of Zachary Thomas, Doug Kramer and Ja'Tyre Carter, take only one of them, and use the other two late picks on safeties since we don't have Brisker, and also to help with STs, which safeties often do.
With Pickens in the fold, we have yet another weapon for Fields, and an insurance plan in case Chark is injured or ineffective, but Chark is also insurance against Pickens having too big an ego. If he AND Chark can play, you drop Pringle after this year, move Mooney to the slot, and Fields goes into Year 3 throwing to a dynamic 3-WR set that puts pressure on opposing teams even before you get to the tight end and running backs.
The current strategy under Poles does not appear to include Fields having an objectively average or better Year 2, so I'm not aligned. Obviously I'm working with incomplete information so I could be totally wrong about both players involved, but it gives you an example of how we might have done it, and why I'd be willing to accept the risks of injury and financial commitments in favor of lifting the OL and WR units. I would have been super excited about this direction, that is for certain.