When a team finishes with as woeful a record as 3-14, most fans are interested in what the general manager has to say after the season concludes. The head coach speaks to the media regularly so having Matt Eberflus speak with the media today isn’t that interesting, but when Ryan Poles talks, the media and fans listen.
Poles addressed the media and covered a variety of topics, mostly about the construction of the roster this year and moving forward. Here are six interesting takeaways from what Poles had to say.
1) Ryan Poles is committed to Justin Fields
Fields is of course the name on everyone’s mind and many in the media have already started wondering if Poles will go for Bryce Young with the number one pick and move on from Fields. Poles spoke very highly of Fields, and that certainly didn’t seem to be much of an idea he was entertaining.
Bears GM Ryan Poles said he plans on Justin Fields being their starter moving forward. On looking at QBs to take with the No. 1 pick: "We’re going to evaluate the draft class, and I would say this: I would have to be absolutely blown away to make that type of decision."— Colleen Kane (@ChiTribKane) January 10, 2023
There are going to be other media outlets that talk about how Poles didn’t close the door completely, which, technically, he didn’t. Also keep this in mind, if Poles closes the door completely on drafting Bryce Young publicly, he loses leverage as to who could potentially trade up to number one to take Young. He has to publicly keep those options open so he can play the dance with the other teams vying for a quarterback.
Poles did talk about the positives and negatives of Fields’ season.
#Bears GM Ryan Poles says he believes QB Justin Fields showed progress & proved to be a playmaker. He did note that Fields’ growth as a passer is the primary focus heading into next year.— Aaron Leming (@AaronLemingNFL) January 10, 2023
I think Poles’ assessment is fair. Yes, of course, Fields has to grow as a passer, but to Poles’ credit, he also mentioned that part of the reason that growth needs to happen is because of the supporting cast around him.
2) Cole Kmet is going to receive an extension
Did Poles say that? No, he did not. But Kmet is eligible to be extended this offseason and Poles couldn’t have had more positive things to say about the local product.
Asked about blue chip players on #Bears roster other than Justin Fields, Poles names tight end Cole Kmet, saying: "I thought he elevated his game."— Larry Mayer (@LarryMayer) January 10, 2023
He also mentioned he thought Cole had a “helluva year.” Kmet was, without question, the most glowing he spoke of any player on the roster not named Justin Fields.
We regularly talk about how there will only be a handful of Ryan Pace players on this roster when the Bears are competitive in a couple years, and it certainly looks like Kmet is going to be one of those players.
3) Darnell Mooney isn’t going anywhere
After Fields and Kmet, the next most positive name out of Poles’ mouth was Darnell Mooney. He said he loved Mooney before he arrived and that certainly doesn’t seem to have changed.
Poles said he "loves (Darnell Mooney) more than when I walked in the door." So the WR could be a candidate for a new deal too. Of course, health would be a factor.— Brad Biggs (@BradBiggs) January 10, 2023
Mooney has been a favorite target of Fields and they are developing some excellent chemistry. Mooney could be the Chicago Bears WR1 in 2023, but if Poles can maneuver, Mooney would be an incredible WR2.
Mooney is another Ryan Pace player but certainly looks like as long as Justin Fields is in Chicago, Mooney is going to be catching passes from QB1.
4) Nothing is guaranteed for Chase Claypool
Chase Claypool did not receive the same glowing reports like Fields, Kmet and Mooney. He hasn’t wavered in his confidence in Claypool and did mention that he believes he can help the team moving forward but did mention that Claypool’s numbers weren’t what they hoped but that there were reasons that played into that.
Ryan Poles expressed confidence in Chase Claypool despite a lack of production from the WR after he arrived in Nov.: "That's the difference between trades in baseball and basketball, it's like plug and play. There's an entire offseason and half of a season of installs and all— Courtney Cronin (@CourtneyRCronin) January 10, 2023
It certainly feels like Poles wants to commit to Claypool but knows he can’t yet. One would say it’s a safe assumption that Claypool, despite being eligible, will not be receiving an extension this offseason, but if he plays well in 2023, that’s something the Bears are going to want to lock up prior to free agency opening up in 2024.
5) No Love for Jaylon Johnson
This may be absolutely nothing, but it could be absolutely something. Ryan Poles did not single-out Jaylon Johnson as a building block for this team. When he asked about blue chippers beyond Fields, he mentioned Cole Kmet, he also spoke highly of Darnell Mooney, but he did not mention Jaylon Johnson (or anyone in the secondary) as potential building blocks.
Johnson just concluded his third year in the league, so he is also eligible for an extension this offseason but Poles did not mention him by name like he did those other three. Was it just an oversight? Or was it a peak into how Poles plans to use his resources around the secondary.
Johnson could absolutely receive an extension this offseason and this press conference may just be an afterthought, but if the Bears don’t plan on committing dollars to Jaylon Johnson this year, this may be the first glance through the window at Poles’ plans on defense.
6) Looks like there will be 3 new starters on the offensive line
When Ryan Poles was hired, he talked about how he wanted to build up the offensive line; he said it was important to him. So after one year, where does he think the offensive line is?
Poles really only discussed two players on that unit, Braxton Jones and Teven Jenkins. The reports on those two were positive, but they weren’t glowing.
Ryan Poles said LT Braxton Jones has "a long ways to go to reach his ceiling." But "He’s got mental toughness, rolls with the ups and downs. I’m hoping he continues to work on his body, his technique and that’s someone that we can play with and be successful with for a while.”— Colleen Kane (@ChiTribKane) January 10, 2023
He also said he thought Jenkins was “successful” in his move to guard. With those two comments in mind, it’s a safe assumption that Poles is going to feel confident with those two starting, at least in 2023, but he’s going to have some work to do at the other three offensive line positions.
It will be interesting to see how much cap space they commit to new starters on the offensive line. It’s a safe assumption that it will be at least two, but would they ink three new starters to go with Jones and Jenkins prior to the draft?
The offseason is just beginning, but it continues to get more and more interesting for Ryan Poles and the Bears.