Ryan Pace’s decision to sign Josh Sitton was nothing short of genius.
So, that’s why Bears GM Ryan Pace keeps all that money available.
For the last year and a half, it’s been widely observed that Pace and the Chicago Bears front office has some of the most flexibility in the league money-wise. While his decision to save money and keep that said flexibility is obviously never bad, it raised a few eyebrows earlier in August when veteran cornerback Antonio Cromarite visited and left Halas Hall without any deal when the defensive backfield was reeling from injuries to Kyle Fuller, Tracy Porter and others.
At the time, it seemed head scratching. If you have the money to sign a veteran which would help the weakest part of your team, why aren’t you doing so? The reality is, Cromartie wasn’t worth the loss of flexibility to the Bears’ cap.
That begged the question: what situation would Pace actually reach into the cookie jar? And furthermore, what is Pace’s strategy?
That answer came Sunday, when the Green Bay Packers released Pro Bowl guard Josh Sitton.
In what may have been the most whirlwind handful of hours the Bears have seen since free agency opened up in March, fans didn’t have to speculate long about if the Bears would chase after their arch-rival’s cast off.
The action first began with the news of Sitton being one of the Packers’ cuts, followed by the report he would be meeting the Bears’ brass.
“You’ve got to do a ton of research on these things, coupled with meeting the player and feeling his personality and getting the medical report,” Pace said in a Chicago Sun-Times article. “We did all our research and felt good about it.”
That alone got Bears fans excited, but that wasn’t the case by the end of the night.
Before Sitton’s signing became official, it was reported long-time kicker, Bears all-time record-holder for points scored and the last holdover from Super Bowl XLI, Robbie Gould, would be released to make room for Sutton.
Thus, Sitton was officially signed.
Talk about being in a glass case of emotion. Fans that spoke about Gould’s release, both long time and causal, couldn’t fathom why he was gone. But, that’s just how it fit into Pace’s plan.
It’s not a mystery that Gould was getting older. You could see it in his kicks; the usually automatic kicks didn’t look so automatic anymore, and his leg was obviously weakening. It also didn’t help that Gould’s contract was a high number, making another con to being on the team.
In the end, Pace valued Sitton and cap flexibility more so than an 11-year kicker. Bears records and fan favoritism aside, letting go the last remaining piece of the Super Bowl your franchise lost 10-years ago isn’t necessarily a bad thing.
I akin Pace’s management of the team the last week to how I play fantasy football; If a player rolls around that can rid yourself of a weak link, you grab said player before anyone else does. Of course, there’s also millions of dollars and player meetings involved, which my fantasy league obviously doesn’t have.
But, in the end, Pace waiting on using the available cap flexibility until a better player becomes available is ingenious. Sitton’s signing strengthens the offensive line, which admittedly was one of the team’s question marks, while getting a younger, cheaper kicker can only help as well.
So far, we’ve seen two major traits of Pace’s on display, which is his patience and discipline. The patience to wait for the right player, in terms of free agency, and the discipline to build an extremely team friendly cap and just when to cash in.
It’s not a stretch to say the signing of Sitton might be the reason the Bears win an extra game or two this year.
With consistent patience and discipline in his good strategy, other players, like Sitton, will find their way onto the Bears roster due to Pace’s skill.