The first actual day of NFL free agency has come and gone. Hundreds of millions of dollars were handed out to a number of top-tier players across the NFL.
Standing on the sidelines for the free agent frenzy were the Chicago Bears. It’s been a frustrating position to many as player after player, who could seemingly serve the Bears, signed contracts with opposing teams.
After last year’s free agency, that position is understandable. All of this offseason’s signings combined barely eclipse the average annual value of the contract given to Allen Robinson alone last spring.
However, the Bears last offseason are not the Bears this offseason. The Bears are no longer on the hunt in the NFC North. Instead, they are the hunted. Hunters must arm themselves before going on the offensive, but those at the top, all they need to do is patch holes.
That’s exactly what Ryan Pace is doing in 2019.
That’s not to say some frustration isn’t warranted. Watching teams like the Rams seamlessly transition from LaMarcus Joyner to Eric Weddle is frustrating because that’s the exact kind of tradeoff Chicago wanted to perform with Adrian Amos — whose replacement still isn’t certain.
Even with some potential targets falling through the cracks, Pace added solid talent to the roster, and he did so at a bargain.
Davis was a name that confused a lot of people when he was announced as a Chicago Bear. Is he a feature back? No. What Davis does offer is an instant improvement to the position Benny Cunningham and Taquan Mizzell attempted to fill last season.
Where Cunningham and Mizzell lacked vision, athleticism and burst as a third-down back, Davis brings in droves as evidenced by his film from last season. Coach Matt Nagy loves run by committee, so Pace made a move to add another viable, versatile back to said committee.
Next was perhaps the most frustrating move to Bears fans, the signing of Skrine. He’s not Bryce Callahan, that much is true. With that in mind, no one except Bryce Callahan can be Bryce Callahan.
To an extent, Bears fans likely considered any scenario where Callahan left Chicago to be an absolute and utter failure in free agency. Skrine might be a downgrade from a pure coverage perspective, but he’s far more aggressive in coverage than Callahan. He might give up a penalty or two, but in turn, he could provide more game-changing takeaways.
This aggressive nature especially fits with Chicago’s new defensive coordinator, Chuck Pagano. Another thing that people seem to forget is that Skrine plays both outside and nickel corner. He provides yet another level of versatility to the Bears. Keep in mind, at the time of this writing, Chicago still has around $19 million in cap space, and Callahan is still a free agent.
Pagano would be able to field one of the strongest dime packages in the NFL and also have an excellent backup in Skrine if the Bears were somehow able to pull in Callahan in the second wave of free agency.
The last “big” move the Bears made was to sign Patterson. Some people are frustrated by the $5 million average annual value of the contract, but Patterson’s potential impact on this offense could far exceed that value.
For perspective, Kevin White had a cap hit over $5 million last season.
The overall speed on the field in a package containing Taylor Gabriel, Tarik Cohen and Patterson is hard to fathom. That’s the kind of speed that punishes defenders for even leaning the wrong way at the snap of the football, which is exactly what Nagy does with all of his pre-snap motion.
Add in Patterson’s ability to carry the ball and return kicks, and now it should begin to come clear that this may be one of the best bargain deals Pace has ever signed … which is really saying something!
Other Minor Moves
The Bears also added Ted Larsen and re-signed Ben Braunecker to short term deals. While they aren’t sexy moves, great teams establish depth. These two players have done well in relief with the Bears or elsewhere before, and now Nagy has them in his back pocket.
Is it disappointing that the Bears aren’t going to have players like Le’Veon Bell or Terrell Suggs next season?
I think we’d all be kidding ourselves if we said no. However, Pace’s quieter approach to this free agency period has not only netted them solid talent to this point, but it’s also left them with plenty of room to add more quality talent in the second round of free agency.