The Chicago Bears have definitely raised some eyebrows with their moves in free agency. Around the league, rival teams are baffled by how the Bears have conducted business this offseason, according to Jason La Canfora of CBS Sports. Why did the Bears spend so aggressively on lower-tier, short-term free agents?
GM Ryan Pace’s plan became clear as the first wave of free agency developed, when the team used its sizable cap space to supplement the current roster by adding depth and starter talent. However, part of the plan was clearly to sign players who don’t have much of a history as starters in the league, and pay sizable guarantees to get them.
Most of the deals amount to one-year commitments, however, which don’t do much damage to the team’s big picture plan. To make those deals happen, larger near-term guarantees were probably necessary.
The Bears’ short-term plan of signing free agents with upside to minimal commitments is rooted in the team’s long-term vision of establishing sustained success. Improve weak spots now to take a swing in 2017, but set yourself up not to be limited in 2018 and beyond.
Cornerbacks Stephon Gilmore and A.J. Bouye fit a profile similar to that of Jerrell Freeman and Danny Trevathan when they were free agent additions by the Bears last year. Like Freeman and Trevathan, Gilmore and Bouye were young, yet experienced starters worth targeting in free agency to lock up through their remaining prime years. But when both Gilmore and Bouye were deemed to be too pricey for the Bears’ long-term vision, the Bears shifted gears – but kept the same vision.
Ultimately, the Bears’ commitments to players such as Mike Glennon, Prince Amukamara, and Markus Wheaton won’t preclude the Bears from plucking their long-term replacements at quarterback, cornerback, and wide receiver in the upcoming draft. In the case of Amukamara and Wheaton, they are ideal placeholders who could be replaced by players with more potential and higher ceilings in a draft that seems loaded at both cornerback and receiver. And at a fraction of a cost, too.
However, if things don’t pan out, La Canfora points out the one-year commitments might not be just for the players … they could also apply to Pace and head coach John Fox, each of whom are in the third year of four year contracts.