What the Chicago Bears can learn from the 2016 NBA Free Agency

Chicago Bears - Credit: David Banks-USA TODAY Sports
Chicago Bears - Credit: David Banks-USA TODAY Sports /

The Chicago Bears are looking to dramatically rebuild their roster over the 2023 offseason with the number one overall pick in this spring’s draft and over $100 million to spend in free agency. However, there is a precedent that shows that it’s not always wise to spend big just because you can.

The Chicago Bears need to avoid overpaying for free agents this offseason

For a quick thought experiment, let’s look at a completely different sport that had one of the weirdest free agency cycles to date, and learn why the Bears should not be tempted to spend their money on overpriced contracts.

In 2016, the NBA Free Agency class was headlined by two big-name players who were both still in their primes; Cleveland Cavaliers forward Lebron James and Oklahoma City Thunder forward Kevin Durant. Two MVP candidates, it is well documented that James resigned with his hometown Cavaliers, while Durant signed with the Golden State Warriors, who just blew a 3-1 lead to James and company.

Outside of these two signings, the free agent list was a collection of older stars and good-to-great role players including 34-year-old Dwyane Wade, forwards Nicolas Batum and Chandler Parsons, centers Timofey Mozgov and Hassan Whiteside, and Chicago Bulls legend Joakim Noah.

The players listed above, as well as a slew of others, were signed to monster deals in 2016, and while some of them seemed like good signings at the time, a decent percentage of these players failed to live up to their deal with their new teams, and usually ended up either traded or released before they could play through the duration of their contract.

Obviously, the NFL and NBA are two completely different leagues, especially when it comes to how much players make. For example, Dwyane Wade, who was past his prime in Miami but still a good NBA player, signed a two-year deal that gave him almost $24 million per year with the Chicago Bulls (Wade was traded before the end of his first season in Chicago). This deal is a higher yearly average than the deal Roquan Smith just signed with the Baltimore Ravens — making him the highest-paid linebacker in NFL history.

Batum, Parsons, Mozgov, Whiteside, and Noah, all of these players were signed to four-year deals that gave out a minimum of $68 million total. None of these players were high-quality starters after these deals, but the teams were locked into the athlete (and their salaries) for years to come.

What is the overall takeaway here for the Chicago Bears? Simply put, just because you have money doesn’t necessarily mean you should spend it, at least right away. It is hard to build a team through free agency, as a lot of the really good players who may be available could likely end up just resigning with their teams before a team like the Bears could even talk to them.

If general manager Ryan Poles and the Chicago Bears front office went out and overpaid for decent players who failed to live up to the super-star worthy contracts they were signed to, it could set the Bears back for years to come. Hopefully, the front office can be smart and disciplined in who they target, and could still have room to sign some more quality free agents in 2024 and beyond.