Is it time to question Ryan Pace’s free agency plan?

Chicago Bears (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
Chicago Bears (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images) /

With Justin Houston signed, the Chicago Bears don’t have any significant moves they could make, with their free agency mostly over, is it time to wonder if Ryan Pace handled this properly?

The 2018 Chicago Bears offseason was a legendary accomplishment by Ryan Pace.

Forget 2018, it’s 2019 and Ryan Pace had a bad offseason.

In one offseason, he added Khalil Mack, Roquan Smith, Allen Robinson, Taylor Gabriel, Trey Burton, Bilal Nichols, Anthony Miller, James Daniels and, oh yeah, hired a new coach in Matt Nagy.

He added eight starting caliber players in just a few months. If you want to know how a team goes from last to first in one season, improve 8 out of 22 positions and you’ll see most teams make significant strides.

After 2018, it’s natural for fans to expect big things again in 2019. To be fair, without much space available in cap room, Ryan Pace wasn’t going to be able to do too much. The Bears converted some money with Eddie Goldman and Khalil Mack, so there was some speculation that the Bears might be trying to make a splash, but there’s just about a week left in March and that didn’t happen.

Not only didn’t it happen, with Justin Houston headed to the Indianapolis Colts, there isn’t an impact player left on the open market. The Bears will still add a couple of low-level veterans, and maybe even land an edge like Nick Perry or Ziggy Ansah that could end up being sizable contributors if they can stay healthy, but there’s no reason to expect anything splashy in the Bears future.

Perhaps, after last season and a tight cap this season, it was unfair to expect much of anything this offseason, but that’s not the way fans should look at it.

Fans shouldn’t be unrealistic, anyone that was screaming that the Bears should have added Landon Collins or Le’Veon Bell didn’t quite understand where the Bears were with cap space, but fans had every right to expect more than this.

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Anyone who reads my writing knows that I am the biggest Ryan Pace supporter there is, but it’s my job to be objective, and with the dust almost settled, this is what I have to say:

Forget 2018, it’s 2019 and Ryan Pace had a bad offseason.

I was highly critical of Pace’s decision to let Cam Meredith walk, and that certainly proved to be the right decision by Pace, but this offseason? It leaves a lot to be desired.

Let’s start with the positive. Replacing Adrian Amos for HaHa Clinton-Dix was the right move. Amos was replaceable and not worth the high AAV that the Green Bay Packers gave him. Cinton-Dix is a different type of safety but comparable to Amos’ skill level, but the Bears are paying him $6 million less this season than they are Amos. Cinton-Dix should also fit better into what Chuck Pagano wants to do on defense. This move made plenty of sense.

Mike Davis is an incomplete move. I’m hoping the Bears still add another low-level veteran running back (paging TJ Yeldon), but Davis is here to replace Howard. Davis had a better 2018 than Howard did, but Davis was dreadful his first three years in the league. Which Mike Davis shows up in 2019? The Bears certainly hope they got the 2018 variety.

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Clearly, the Bears want to draft a running back in the draft this year, and with their third or fourth round pick they could find a gem, but if they don’t, Mike Davis is going to be featured in the Bears’ offense and that may hurt the development of that unit. The Bears running game is a major question right now.

Defensively, the Bears chose not to re-sign Bryce Callahan. Callahan clearly got more guaranteed money than the Bears were willing to give him, but they had enough money available that they could have made that happen.

Buster Skrine is a downgrade to Callahan. Skrine seems to be more durable, but he has had some past concussions, so that’s always worth questioning, and Skrine gets penalized frequently. That’s going to be a problem for a Bears’ defense that was very disciplined last year.

The Bears young players should improve, and because of that, the team should improve. Mitch Trubisky should get better. Bilal Nichols should get better. Roquan Smith should get better. Because of several ascending players, the Bears roster should improve from 2018 to 2019, but the additions and subtractions that Pace chose to make have weakened the team in that regard.

Pace was limited with what he could do, but the question is, what did he attempt to do? The Bears locked in Skrine very early. They locked in Mike Davis very early. They passed on Callahan. They passed on Tevin Coleman. They passed on Justin Houston. They passed on Terrell Suggs.

We have no idea if the Bears were in on these and players chose elsewhere or if Pace never made a legitimate effort to try to land them. All we know, is that none of them are members of the Chicago Bears.

Yes, the Bears have players they need to give new contracts to. This offseason they need to extend Cody Whitehair (and you can expect that to happen this summer). Next offseason, they’ll be staring at extensions for Leonard Floyd, Eddie Jackson and Tarik Cohen. The summer after that it’ll be Mitch Trubisky.

Money is tight and plenty more players need extensions, but good teams don’t stand pat. The Rams are constantly looking to add impact players. The Patriots aren’t afraid to make a splash when Bill Belichick deems it necessary. No team ever stayed on top by standing pat.

The Bears moves’ this offseason don’t make them better. Pace just tried to fill in gaps with decent players. He didn’t get creative. He didn’t do anything that makes you think the Bears are all in on 2019.

The Bears have a two-year window right now with this core, the Bears should have spent this offseason trying to figure out how to get better. Instead, Pace just tried not to get worse. That’s not a championship mentality, and Bears fans should expect more from their franchise.