Just how good can these UDFAs be for the Chicago Bears?

Chicago Bears - Credit: Katie Stratman-USA TODAY Sports
Chicago Bears - Credit: Katie Stratman-USA TODAY Sports /
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I apparently started an uproar on Twitter yesterday when I asked this question about the Chicago Bears and their new general manager, Ryan Poles:

"Anyone else a little concerned by how much former undrafed free agent (UDFA), now GM of the Bears, Ryan Poles seems to be in love with signing other UDFAs in free agency?"

Now, when I wrote this, I probably should have left out “a little concerned” since no one should be overly concerned with this thought. Some thought that I was trying to make it seem like the Chicago Bears have only signed UDFAs this offseason. No, that is ridiculous and I would not try to make it seems so. The point of my tweet was not to make it seem like this is a flaw of Ryan Poles. I compared it to Ryan Pace not being afraid to trade up for the players he wanted. This turned out to be a flaw, but had he hit on a couple of his trades, he’d probably still be here in Chicago.

Ryan Poles has a type when it comes to free agency for the Chicago Bears

Ryan Poles is attacking free agency in a different way than I would be to some degree, but overall he has had the right mindset. Trading Khalil Mack was the right call. The idea of Larry Ogunjobi on the defensive front was another good call even though it did not work out. Hopefully, once healthier, Ogunjobi will get a chance to put his John Hancock on that contract. If anyone thinks I don’t like Poles as the general manager should read this.

The rest of his moves have been less sexy, to say the least, but I’ll admit that one of the UDFAs he signed is probably my favorite signing thus far this offseason. That signing I’m referring to is Byron Pringle. Pringle is coming off a career year in Kansas City. He saw more action due to injuries, but he just proved he can be a legit option in a wide receiver group. In fact, he’s currently the WR2 on this roster.

The other undrafted free agents signed by Ryan Poles include Lucas Patrick, Nicholas Morrow and Khari Blasingame. Ryan Bates would have been another had his offer sheet from the Bears not been matched by the Buffalo Bills. The rest of the free agents signed were drafted at one point or another. Again, this was not the point. The point is that as a former undrafted free agent, hearing the way that Ryan Poles speaks about UDFAs, it’s okay to admit he has a soft spot for them.

I took a quick look at the numbers though because I was attacked by many also saying things like, “do you know how many UDFAs are in the NFL?” and “Plenty of UDFAs have become stars in the NFL.” If we do some very simple math and only count the “53-man roster”, there are roughly 1,696 players in the NFL. Reports are that roughly 500 undrafted free agents were in the NFL last year. This means approximately 30% of the NFL consists of UDFAs.

This shouldn’t be surprising. Teams only draft around five to 12 players each year. The question is, how many of these UDFAs actually become great? Well, only 17 undrafted free agents have been inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame — that’s roughly 5% — not a large amount. This isn’t saying that guys cannot make huge impacts without making the Hall of Fame. I’d love to know how many have made Pro Bowls or been selected to the All-Pro team. I could not find a source on this, but should someone find it, leave it in the comments section.

Scouting and drafting will be extremely important for Ryan Poles. With only a few draft picks in the upcoming draft and still plenty of holes to fill, Poles will probably hit the UDFAs coming out of college hard this year to help fill out the roster. It’s possible that a few not only stick around but also become playmakers. Now, to answer the question at hand. The undrafted free agents of the Chicago Bears can not only help with depth or just as camp bodies, but some could surprise us all and become weekly difference makers. The only problem is it’s too early to know for certain.