Kanye West’s “Can’t Tell Me Nothing” is one of my favorite music tracks of all time. And I can’t get it out of my head as I try to sort through the NFL’s free agency madness.
La la la la
Wait ’til I get my money right
I had a dream I could buy my way to heaven
When I awoke I spent that on a necklace
I told God I’d be back in a second
Man, it’s so hard not to act reckless
I’m not sure if Trent Baalke drew inspiration from Kanye. But I’m not NOT saying it.
The Jaguars are VERY CLEARLY doing what we all felt the Bears needed to do in free agency — spend every bit of the team’s available assets to surround a young quarterback with pieces to try and develop and succeed. That they’re doing it in a reckless manner is irrelevant. Instead, it’s the process that has me up in arms. It stings to watch others do for their team what logically makes sense for the one we obsess over on a daily basis around here. Obviously, Ryan Poles’ predecessor didn’t leave him in a place to do exactly what the Jaguars have done. Nevertheless, I see what others are doing and wish that for this team. Thankfully, free agency isn’t over in one day.
Ryan Poles Told Us What Kind of Players He is Looking to Sign
Here is what Poles had to say about free agency, when discussing it at the NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis (via the Chicago Bears’ official website):
There are a lot of spots we’ve got to fill, so that volume piece is important and it really comes down to our evaluation, to make sure that we’re right on there,” Poles said. “And the other thing, too, that I’ve always loved is, usually in that volume piece, you’re going to have some players that, they’re motivated, they’ve got a chip on their shoulder and they want to get back into free agency and go at it again. So they play with a purpose.”
All right. So, when discussing attacking the second and third tiers of free agency, Poles gave us a window into what kind of players he will be targeting in free agency. Given that perspective, perhaps you can understand why the team wasn’t trying to make waves like the Jaguars. This isn’t to excuse the team for not making moves. But patience is a virtue. And the Bears are being quite virtuous right now.
In the end, Poles is looking for players with an edge, who play with a chip on their shoulder, who play with a purpose. Who isn’t? But he also looking for value deals. And that he notes that he has eyes on players who want to play their way into bigger paychecks gives us added perspective as to whom he might be angling for as we move on in the process.
The Needs Haven’t Changed…
An updated look at a projection for the Bears’ starting lineup in 2022, but based on players under contract with relevant playing experience.
QB – Justin Fields
RB – David Montgomery
WR – Darnell Mooney
WR – ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
WR – ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
TE – Cole Kmet
LT – Teven Jenkins
LG – Cody Whitehair
C – Sam Mustipher
RG – ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
RT – Larry Borom
DE – Robert Quinn
DT – Khyiris Tonga
DT – Larry Ogunjobi
DE – Trevis Gipson
LB – Roquan Smith
LB – Danny Trevathan (he remains under contract, but is still a prime post-June 1 cut candidate)
CB – Jaylon Johnson
CB – Thomas Graham Jr.
CB – Duke Shelley
FS – Eddie Jackson
SS – ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
As you can tell, there are holes that need filling on this roster. Again, I’m glad free agency is still only in its infancy stages.
… But the Available Players Have
By not going bonkers like the Jaguars, the Bears have positioned themselves to (1) make strikes at multiple positional needs and (2) do so while fulfilling Poles desires. And as an additional bonus, the Bears could come out on the net positive end when it comes to the NFL’s compensatory draft pick formula. Yes, the Ogunjobi signing will help offset James Daniels’ departure to Pittsburgh. Nevertheless, there are options who make perfect sense as possible bears fits.
The following players are among the free agents whose signings wouldn’t count against the compensatory draft pick formula:
Wide receiver: Jarvis Landry
Offensive linemen: J.C. Tretter (C), Daryl Williams (G), Billy Turner (T), David Quessenberry (T)
Linebackers: Bobby Wagner, Myles Jack, Anthony Hitchens, Jordan Hicks, A.J. Klien
Defensive backs: Tavon Young (CB), Landon Collins (S), Janoris Jenkins (CB), A.J. Bouye
Sigh. The lack of notable receivers here bugs me. And it makes me wish the Bears were more aggressive in a pursuit of Amari Cooper. All things being equal, trading a fifth-round pick to pay Cooper’s contract (3/$60M, but no guaranteed money left) feels like a steal when Christian Kirk is getting a contract that freezes the market place.
Using PFF’s rankings, here are the top-5 free agents still available at this time at various positions of need for the Bears (overall ranking in parenthesis):
WR: Allen Robinson II (10), Odell Beckham Jr (20), Antonio Brown (31), JuJu Smith-Schuster (44). Will Fuller V (96)
OT: Terron Armstead (2), Duane Brown (34), Morgan Moses (60), Eric Fisher (61), Trent Brown (85)
G: Andrew Norwell (59), Daryl Williams (69), Trai Turner (127), Quinton Spain (137), Oday Aboushi (146)
C: Bradley Bozeman (102), Matt Paradis (140), Ethan Pocic (201), Austin Blythe (206), Austin Reiter (2017)
LB: Bobby Wagner (13), Alexander Johnson (58), Myles Jack (62), Leighton Vander Esch (67), Josey Jewell (70)
CB: Stephon Gilmore (16), Darious Williams (38), Steven Nelson (48), D.J. Reed Jr. (51), Bryce Callahan (71)
S: Tyrann Mathieu (18), Marcus Maye (47), Jordan Whitehead (76), Jayron Kearse (78), Xavier Woods (114)
Not all of these players are fits for the Bears. Player age, scheme fit, contract considerations, and player preference are among reasons the Bears wouldn’t be a fit for any number of players listed above. However, laying out the free agency field in this way gives us an idea of who’s on the board now at the top of the market. But, as a reminder, the market is changing and fluid. So stay tuned. You never know what tier free agent will jump up or slide down someone’s board. Or if the Jaguars’ capologist has found another way to unexpectedly shell out another few million.