Chicago Bears: Could Ryan Pace find his groove through compensatory picks?

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

The Chicago Bears have their first compensatory Draft pick since 2009. Can Bears’ executive Ryan Pace pull out another rabbit with the extra fourth-round selection?

Front office executives — in my football viewing experience, at least — have always been a lot like defensive backs. If you hear their name an abnormal amount, they’re either doing something historically good (interceptions, locking down No. 1 receivers) or something historically bad (getting “roasted” on defense).

Depending on how long you’ve been watching the Chicago Bears, the way you view general manager Ryan Pace has no limits on that spectrum. Five seasons into his reign in the Windy City, Pace has gone 34-46, and his lone postseason appearance netted him an Executive of the Year award in 2018-19.

Along the way, complaints have come by the boatload. Pace’s pride has come into question, whether it be his refusal to pull the plug on quarterback Mitchell Trubisky or head coach Matt Nagy, or some of the questionable trading up for Draft selections. But one new area Pace can historically carve his nichè? Compensatory draft picks.

Yesterday, the NFL officially awarded the Chicago Bears with a compensatory Draft selection — the No. 140 pick — for the first time since 2009. Chicago will now be working with eight total picks, six of which coming on Day 3, a place the Bears have been major hit-or-miss in the past.

For those unsure of how this process plays out: compensatory picks are awarded to teams who aren’t as active in the free agency, instead opting to build their team through the NFL Draft. Since 1994, the Chicago Bears have received 18 of these picks, No. 26 among all NFL teams.

The Bears earned the pick because of losing Adrian Amos to Green Bay and had to cut running back Mike Davis in November in order to do so. The trade-off in itself is neat; the Bears received a fourth-round pick for a player they selected in the fifth round.

Because the Bears have been so active through trades and free agency — Chicago has been among the top seven in free agent spending in all but one season in Pace’s tenure since 2015, according to Spotrac — they haven’t had the benefits of teams like the Ravens or Packers. In fact, before this year, the Chicago Bears were the only team to not receive a single compensatory Draft pick in this decade.

The ins-and-outs of this current Chicago Bears roster will give Pace the opportunity to be set up for this next decade. Over the Cap has the Bears’ roster set with 25 free agents during the 2020 offseason, 16 of those being unrestricted. If the Bears can cut ties with mainstays — think Danny Trevathan, HaHa Clinton-Dix, and Nick Kwiatkoski — not only do they approach the summer with deeper pockets, but they also set themselves up for additional Draft picks.

One of the underrated questions of the 2020 offseason centered around what Chicago planned to do about its inside linebacker depth. The Chicago Bears had three of them set to hit the unrestricted market in Trevathan, Kwiatkoski, and Kevin Pierre-Louis.

The first two were the most difficult. Trevathan stood pat as the emotional leader, and one of its most productive players until injuries derailed his season. Kwiatkoski took full advantage of filling the stat sheet to the tune of 76 tackles, 3 sacks, an interception, and a safety last season for a top-tier defense.

There’s no doubt that Trevathan can still go at a near-elite level. But this year, he turns 30 and has missed 20 games in four seasons as a Bear. Chicago had a situation of having to pick between one of the two, or letting both walk in free agency, in search of something cheaper. As of last night, Pace decided Trevathan is going to stay and it seems Kwiatkoski is the odd man out.

And then, there’s the secondary. If you’re the Chicago Bears front office — or just a football fan in general, you have to love what Chicago’s Alabama connection did a season ago, in Eddie Jackson and HaHa Clinton-Dix.

Together, the two were targeted 87 times, and opposing quarterbacks seldom found success in their direction. Throws toward Jackson only produced a 57.6 quarterback rating, and Clinton-Dix had a 67.0, both ranking among the top-30 among defensive backs.

But just like Kwiatkoski, odds are, Clinton-Dix performed too well to continue playing on such a bargain deal. He signed a one-year, $3 million deal, citing his desire to be a part of a “special defense,” but the market figures to be much larger this time around.

Factor in that, and the fact that the Chicago Bears probably benefiting from having Eddie Jackson roam free while having a run stopper in the box (Chicago went from the No. 1 run defense to No. 12, a 25-yard difference per game), and you wonder how things work out if the Bears do decide to let Clinton-Dix walk.

If there’s one area Pace has been historically excellent, it’s come on those Day 3 selections. That serves as probably the most inspiring aspect of this. Since 2015, Pace has drafted two Pro Bowlers — Eddie Jackson and Tarik Cohen — as well as notables like Kwiatkoski and former running back Jordan Howard.

The Bears will have a chance to use the compensatory pick to shore up the position right away. Ohio State’s Jeff Okudah sits atop the food chain, with Alabama’s Trevon Diggs, Clemson’s A.J. Terrell, and Florida’s C.J. Henderson also making first-round appearances on the latest mock. Once you get into the fourth round, you start to see some of the names Chicago could target with that No. 140 selection.

If Iowa’s Michael Ojemudia, Southern Illinois safety Jeremy Chinn, or Reggie Robinson of Nebraska are on the board, the Bears can kill the suspense early, picking up a big, physical corner for the future. One player that’s stuck with me for quite some time has been Kyle Dugger. There are red flags; he’s played Division II at Lenoir-Rhyne in Georgia, and he is 23-years-old. But, he’s done enough on tape to warrant major consideration, should he be there on Day 3.

As CBS Sports writer Chris Trapasso brought out, Dugger could be perfect for the ever-needed safety-linebacker hybrid at 6-foot-2. Dugger has the vertical and speed needed to cover, as well as the power to reinforce as a run supporter. suggests that he will be a starter within his first two seasons.

One could make the case for just about any mid-Draft selection for the Bears; the team has just that many holes. But in the event that Chicago plans to let one of their talented linebackers or safeties go, and plan to use its first two selections on offensive players, the feasible thing to do is to find someone who fills in those holes immediately.

Next. Pro Bowl lineman Pace could sign. dark

If you’re Ryan Pace, hopefully, this is the mindset. Over the last five years, he’s been vilified by the Bears fan base. If he can at least find his groove here, it could go a long way toward buying himself some time with more critical supporters.