One of my biggest frustrations with the Ryan Pace regime was how the Bears spent money and got little bang for their buck.
Think about it.
Using data from Spotrac, Chicago’s football team spent $408.2 million the last two seasons for a team that had one (1) playoff appearance, zero (0) postseason wins, and a total record of 14-20 in games of consequence. In other words, not only were the Bears not getting bang for their buck, their spending came with a net loss in the record books. As if you were needing another reason to be glad Pace is no longer running the show in Chicago.
With that being said, I present to you a fun factoid: The Jacksonville Jaguars spread $59 million in guarantees to Christian Kirk, Zay Jones, and Evan Engram … and still have a receivers room so bad that Pro Football Focus ranks it on the same tier with the Chicago Bears.
Yes, PFF ranks the Bears dead last. And that is important to note in our discussion. Checking in at No. 32 in a 32-team league is no fun. But misery loves company. And seeing the Jaguars and Bears pass-catchers in the same bottom-feeding tier in its preseason rankings puts some things in perspective.
For me, the big takeaway is that this is a reminder that activity doesn’t equal progress. The two concepts aren’t one in the same. Jacksonville was spending like mad this offseason. The Kirk signing threw the entire market for a loop. And it surely impacted a receiver-needy team like the Bears. But at least it wasn’t the Bears mucking up the market and damaging their own cap situation after years of mangling by the previous regime.
Again, the Bears being dead last stinks. Seeing analytically leaning site put Chicago football team’s collection of pass-catchers on the bottom rung of its rankings is an eye-opening splash of cold water on what is otherwise a warm and fuzzy part of the offseason. But imagine our reaction if the Bears spent nearly $60 million to still be perceived as having a poor receiving corps. On second thought, maybe let’s not do that.
So while the Bears didn’t make any splashy signings or an unexpected trade-up to draft a receiver, they weren’t inactive. First-year GM Ryan Poles successfully addressed depth concerns by adding Equanimeous St. Brown and Byron Pringle. Signing post-hype sleepers such as Tajae Sharpe and Dante Pettis creates competition. Drafting Velus Jones Jr. provides the offense with a rookie who has some upside. Even the additions of Ryan Griffin and James O’Shaughnessy give the tight ends room some fresh faces. Overall, this receivers room is incomplete, but it has potential.
And if it doesn’t live up to it, the Bears can go back to the drawing board with draft capital (which includes its own first-round pick) and gobs of money (because they’re nearly $100 million under the 2023 cap).
If it is any consolation, the Bears aren’t alone in this tier of teams with receiver rooms PFF’s Ben Linsey sees as “likely a weakness” going into the season. The Green Bay Packers, who traded up for Christian Watson and brought in former top-10 pick Sammy Watkins into the mix, rank 31st. No, those Packers aren’t at the bottom of the barrel, but they’re not too far off.
It almost makes me wonder if we’ll see an old-school ground attack featuring David Montgomery and Aaron Jones when the Bears and Packers square off in Week 2 at Lambeau Field. Wouldn’t that be something?