High praise continues to roll in for the Chicago Bears in an offseason that has been aggressive and productive to this point, with the latest tip of the cap coming from GM Ryan Pace’s peers.
ESPN’s Mike Sando surveyed NFL insiders, coaches, and front office executives from around the league to get the scoop on what has been an active start to the new league year. Some of the most rave reviews came from executives lauding the Bears’ move to retain cornerback Kyle Fuller.
Pace’s application of the transition tag was labeled a “textbook” example of how to use the little-used tag to the team’s advantage, said one executive surveyed for Sando’s piece. The Bears’ use of the transition tag led the Green Bay Packers to draw up a deal Chicago did not hesitate to match. Even though it will pay Fuller up to $29 million up front for the first two years, it’s still less than what they would have paid had they used the franchise tag in 2018 and 2019. The deal is also in the ballpark of the projected cost of two years of the transition tag.
All things considered, the Bears seem to have come away with everything they wanted in a new deal with Fuller without having to do any of the grunt work or pay a price that could have been a financial handcuff. That’s a win-win and I’ll hear no arguments to the contrary.
Pace’s first three years as a general manager were rocky, to say the least. But it appears as if he is learning and evolving, and the timing couldn’t be better.
His drafts have improved to the point where eight players (nine, if you want to count Tarik Cohen as a special teams starter) from the last two classes are projected to be starters in 2018. Things have improved in free agency, evidenced by a one-year turnaround going from overpaying quarterback Mike Glennon to signing receiver Allen Robinson to a contract at fair market value.
Pace’s hiring of Matt Nagy shows a willingness to take a calculated risk that, if successful, could put the Bears’ offense on the cutting edge of what’s working in modern football. Tack on the skillful use of the transition tag, and you could make a case that the Bears’ GM is really coming into his own. There is no denying Pace’s mistakes in the draft, free agency, and even the initial hiring of John Fox (if you so choose to go down that road), but that means you should also acknowledge the places of noticeable improvement.
Things are changing for the better at Halas Hall, and not a moment too soon.