Naturally, this is peak “lying season” in the NFL. Still, not a single moment from today’s meeting between Chicago Bears GM Ryan Poles and the media stood out as any intentional efforts of creating misinformation. No “clickbait” worthy items here.
You can watch the full press conference via the Bears’ official Twitter account.
To kick off the recap let us get the most obvious statement out of the way first.
Justin Fields is QB1 for 2023 - Like what we’ve been saying for months
Ryan Poles doubled down today and voiced his commitment to Justin Fields when asked about where he stands with the young franchise quarterback. Ryan Poles also shot down the rumors that teams have reached out to him regarding Justin Fields’ availability. No such conversations have been held, per Ryan Poles himself. And he’s remained in constant communication with the player throughout the offseason.
Now, in that same answer, Ryan Poles also mentioned they are “doing their due diligence” with this current draft class. Players included are Bryce Young; CJ Stroud; Will Levis; and Anthony Richardson. News flash - every team will evaluate all position groups for the upcoming draft class. It’s standard practice. For the Bears, they own the number one overall pick and will do their homework regardless.
Plus it makes trade negotiations that much easier when 1) you know the players XYZ team(s) want and 2) which teams want said player(s).
The Number One Pick is up for Auction - and potential offers may include premium players as well as picks
The single most interesting line from today’s presser is Ryan Poles’ openness on what kind of offers they’re looking for when discussing a likely deal for their top draft pick. In fact, he stated that such a deal could be finalized before free agency opens on March 15th. Especially one that involves a group of young players that Ryan Poles and company have their eyes on as trade targets.
To sell the top overall draft pick “just” for more draft picks would be a massive mistake. Teams that may be hellbent to take a quarterback early — Houston Texans; Indianapolis Colts; Carolina Panthers; Las Vegas Raiders among others — could sweeten the pot by including players seen as young building blocks already under contract with each organization. I feel for Ryan Poles to drop that statement is a less-than-subtle suggestion for what his asking price is in any negotiation involving his prized pick.
As to whom those players are is anyone’s guess. I’d figure those players will be identified as long-term answers at positions of need who are up for a contract extension soon. Brian Burns of the Carolina Panthers would be a great example.
Regarding their actual plan for the first overall pick itself, it really seems their top goal is to trade out of that pick completely. While maintaining a high enough slot in the selection order. When asked if trading back is the most ideal scenario, Ryan answered, “yeah, we have a lot of holes. And it just depends on how far you move back.” The intention is to move back, just not too far to miss on blue chipped players. Which likely suggests he wants to stay within the top ten as much as possible. Unless an absolutely ludicrous deal is offered.
“We are always looking to add” to the O-line
The above statement should come as surprise to no one. Ryan Poles and assistant GM Ian Cunningham are both former NFL linemen in their respective careers. Nothing has changed in where they feel the biggest point of emphasis besides the quarterback position belongs.
What has changed between 2022 and 2023 is the wealth of resources available to rebuild the trenches.
As I wrote previously in my “extravaganza” series the value in free agency isn’t particularly high on offense as a whole. However, significant upgrades for such a beleaguered unit are still plentiful between free agency and the draft. The only two players identified as the likeliest long-term building pieces are right guard Teven Jenkins and left tackle Braxton Jones.
Earlier this morning the Bears finalized the hire of new assistant O-Line coach Luke Steckel. Speculation will involve former Tennessee Titans Pro Bowler Taylor Lewan as a result. Personally, I do not see this signing happening due to age and injuries, yet nothing can be ruled out. Particularly for a position group that Ryan Poles is fixated on improving.
“Violence. Tenacity. Length.” - The identity for the Bears’ D-Line
Each side of the trenches will be overhauled this off-season. When asked about the defensive line, a specific description was provided. Free agency stacks up more favorably at both defensive tackle and defensive end.
It was curious to hear just which of those two position groups have priority as well. When asked about whether end or tackle were more important, Ryan Poles stated that having a dominant player from the interior changes protection plans on offense significantly. It also reinforces the idea that the 3-tech is the motor of which drives the engine on defense.
Whether they back up the Brinks truck in free agency, or they spend their first pick on a stud at defensive tackle, remains to be seen. Premium resources will be spent either way. Don’t rule out major moves at end, either.
“We’ve got to do something magical.”
To wrap up his presser, Ryan Poles acknowledged that everyone in this organization knows what’s at stake. Where they have the biggest cornucopia of picks and cap space available comes the responsibility to capitalize on their opportunity. Otherwise, things will turn ugly quickly.
He maintained his preference for being selective in free agency. That includes not spending insane amounts of money on temporary stop-gaps — players who are well past their prime or are significantly prone to injury. Plenty of money will be spent in free agency, you can rest assured on that. Ideally, that will include several long-term deals for players at the O-Line, D-Line, and WR corps. Doing everything in their power to place Justin Fields in a position of success.
Buckle up for an epic off-season.