The top pick in the NFL Draft is the league's most valuable asset when the offseason rolls around. In a stroke of good fortune, the Chicago Bears, who hold the first overall pick through fleecing Carolina last offseason, now hold the keys to the offseason for the second year in a row. Naturally, most of the intrigue surrounding the Bears is around the top pick and what the team will do with Justin Fields. However, they also have the eighth-most cap space in the league, which should allow them to be big-time players in free agency.
You could make several significant observations from Ryan Poles' first two years at the helm. For starters, he has been heavily involved in the trade market and has proven that no player is safe from being dealt if he feels it is in the team's best interest (i.e. the Khalil Mack and Roquan Smith trades).
When it comes to free agency, not all of his signings have been hits, but he has also shown the ability to identify gems on the open market. T.J. Edwards signed a three-year deal for only $6.5 million AAV and proceeded to put up a stat line that would make Brian Urlacher blush. Andrew Billings signed a veteran minimum deal and provided elite run defense in the middle of the line. Both players were major reasons Chicago finished with the league's best run defense.
He has also shown conviction in only paying players what he believes they are worth, and (the Bears were favorites to sign Mike McGlinchey last offseason before Denver raised the stakes). However, above all else, Poles has proven that he prefers to go out of the box on the open market. Who would have guessed he'd sign two linebackers to long-term deals after trading Roquan Smith? He also waited until August to add the only significant addition to the Bears pass-rush last offseason with the signing of Yannick Ngakoue.
The upcoming crop of free agents is shaping up to be one of the most talented and well-rounded groups in recent memory. It has a potent combination of talented young players coming off their best season and proven veterans still playing at their peak. While there is no way of knowing Poles' plan of attack, there are a few players the Bears brass definitely should have their eyes on.