Bears training camp opens in 12 days, and their first preseason game kicks off in 30 days.
In other words, a GM like Ryan Pace (one looking to supplement his rosters before the regular-season), should be aware of what is happening around the league. Because while so much of the heavy lifting is done in March (free agency) and April (NFL Draft), the best teams do work around the margins in the summer to supplement the roster. And with cap space being limited, this is an area where the Bears could make some noise.
For what it’s worth, Pace has had a number of summertime additions pay off over the years. Offensive lineman Josh Sitton and cornerback Cre’Von LeBlanc come to mind as players who came to Chicago in the summer months and were solid contributors. Sitton was a late-summer sign in 2016 after the Packers let him go as part of a round of August cuts. LeBlanc came along in September 2016 on a waiver claim after preseason came to an end. No, the 2016 season didn’t end how anyone would have wanted. But those transactions remain as examples of how a proactive GM can round out a squad.
In that vein, I found it interesting that Bucky Brooks lists the Bears as one of the three best fits for N’Keal Harry on the trade market.
Harry, 23, is on the block after his agent made a request that his client be dealt by the Patriots. The 2019 first-round pick hasn’t done much in terms of showcasing why he was a highly-thought-of receiver prospect coming out of Arizona State. He has just 45 catches, 414 receiving yards, and 4 touchdowns in 21 games over two seasons. Not exactly the résumé a team goes out of its way to acquire, but Harry still has age on his side. And in Brooks’ eyes, he still makes sense for the Bears despite his shortcomings:
Matt Nagy and Co. need to find weapons to complement Allen Robinson in the passing game. Despite Harry’s struggles, he is a big body with the size and physicality to win one-on-one matchups down the field. With Robinson routinely commanding double-coverage, the young pass catcher could carve out a niche as a WR2/WR3 while learning the nuances of the position from the Bears’ No. 1 option.
On the one hand, Brooks is spot on in his assessment. The Bears need to find weapons to surround whomever is quarterbacking this team this season. Whether it’s Andy Dalton for the short-term or Justin Fields for the long haul, Chicago needs pass-catchers. Able-bodied receivers who can run routes, haul in passes, and help the offense put up points should be at the top of the Bears’ shopping list.
And, let’s be real with each other, the allure of a one-time hot prospect is intriguing. While at Arizona State, Harry put together consecutive 1,000-yard receiving seasons and scored 17 touchdowns over the course of 25 games in 2017 and 2018. Harry’s NFL.com Draft profile compared him to Allen Robinson and envisioned he would be a starter within his first two seasons. And who better to learn from than Robinson himself, right?
Here’s my hangup: I struggle to see a fit for the Bears and Harry beyond the obvious. Chicago has a real need for players at the position. Harry has a desire to get out of New England. But beyond that, where is this going?
The Bears have obvious needs at the position, to be sure. But they also need the right type of player. Harry is a work in progress, and I’m unsure if Chicago can take on another pass-catching project. In a more stable receivers room, it would make sense. But with Allen Robinson II playing on the Franchise Tag, Anthony Miller, Riley Ridley, and Javon Wims in “prove it” years, and Darnell Mooney still developing, fitting in a high-profile flier looks tough. It is unfortunate Harry hasn’t shown an ability to translate his collegiate excellence into pro success. But more troubling than that is how Harry has been unable to stand out in a depleted Pats receivers room. This feels like it should count as a red flag. At minimum, it’s a cautionary data point.
All of this before discussing the cost of doing business leaves me with reservations. The Patriots don’t just give good players away. New England is well known for jettisoning players at the right time. And because I imagine they still value a recent first-round pick, it’s tough to envision a true buy-low scenario. In other words, a Bears team with limited draft capital might find it tough to deal for Harry (at least in a way that’s a net benefit overall).
Maybe a time will come later in the summer when it makes more sense to talk this type of trade. But for now, this doesn’t seem like the best fit or use of assets. Then again, Ryan Pace can be a rogue wild-card on the open market. And he has a trade history with the Patriots that includes deals for Martellus Bennett and the Anthony Miller trade. So, I guess we’ll stay tuned to see what happens.