The Bears can pitch stability and upside, but can Ryan Pace find the right targets in free agency?

The Bears can pitch stability and upside, but can Ryan Pace find the right targets in free agency?

As Ryan Pace enters the free agent market for the fourth time as a general manager, he does so with the full backing of Bears’ management. The Bears have their quarterback of the future in place, and hired a young, offensive-minded coach in January. The point: The Bears can pitch a much more stable future to free agents this week than they could a year ago, when Matt Nagy and Mitch Trubisky had yet to join the organization. 

And that means the Bears are in a better position to convince a top free agent — like Jacksonville Jaguars wide receiver Allen Robinson — to sign with them as negotiations begin Monday and contracts can be signed on Wednesday this week. 

Pace put forth competitive offers to two of last year’s top cornerbacks on the open market, but A.J. Bouye and Stephon Gilmore signed with the Jaguars and the New England Patriots, respectively. Bouye, in particular, signed with Jacksonville for less money than the Bears offered him, seeing an ascending defense as the best fit for him to continue his career. Previous losing wasn’t a prohibitive factor, either: Jacksonville averaged 12.3 losses per year in the previous six seasons before going 10-6 and reaching the AFC Championship in 2017. 

Maybe the Bears’ pitch to a free agent on the offensive side of the ball can be similar to what Jacksonville did to convince Bouye last year. Pace will have to sell upside and stability to free agents and hope that pitch resonates for a team that’s 14-34 since he took over as general manager. 

The Bears felt that Pace remained the right man for the job when they inked him to a two-year extension on Jan. 1, a move that ran concurrent to the firing of coach John Fox. Pace is now under contract through 2021 and is tethered to Nagy and Trubisky — the success or failure of those two men will ultimately determine how successful Pace’s vision will be. 

But Pace has to give Nagy the right players and Trubisky the right help to give them the best chance to succeed. And that’s where president/CEO Ted Phillips and chairman George McCaskey placed their bet on Pace when they extended his contract despite a string of high-profile whiffs in free agency. 

“He did a great job in particular last year of having a lot of younger players add value to the roster,” Phillips said in January. “We want to do that again, whether it's in free agency — obviously the draft is younger players — to look at more younger players in free agency. And even with some of the players that didn't work out last year, the contracts that were signed did not hamstring us past this season.”

Indeed, the Bears were not hamstrung financially by contracts given to Mike Glennon, who will officially be released this week, or Dion Sims, Markus Wheaton and Marcus Cooper, should the Bears choose to move on from any or all of those three players. The Bears enter the free agent market with about $64 million in cap space, according to Spotrac, which could scrape $80 million if all three of those aforementioned players are released (even if they aren’t, it’s still a healthy figure). 

Pace isn’t under a significant amount of internal pressure to have more success in free agency, at least from the standpoint of his contractual status and how he’s viewed by Phillips and McCaskey. 

“He’s not afraid to take risks in player personnel – my opinion,” Phillips said. “It’s a business where you don’t get a 90-percent success rate. If you’re getting a 60-, 65-percent success rate, I think most general managers would be considered successful. So you’ve got to take risks. You can’t be afraid to fail. So I would say that’s one area where I’m really proud of his growth.”

Pace, though, doesn’t have a 60-to-65 percent success rate in free agency. Of the 19 players he’s signed to contracts worth $1 million or more, only four fall under the “success” category (21 percent), while 11 can be considered “misses” (58 percent). Maybe you dispute those numbers a bit, but it's hard to dispute there being more misses than hits in the last three years.  

That ratio will have to change, or Pace will begin to feel internal pressure — as well as, of course, an immense amount of external pressure on him to get it right for Nagy and Trubisky, assuming he got those decisions right as well. 

That process begins this week. Pace can sell the Bears’ stability and upside, and now has to identify the right targets for that pitch. 

“One of the things that I think has been most impressive about Ryan is that through all these difficult times, he's kept a very even keel,” McCaskey said back in January. “He doesn't get rattled, people look to him for leadership and he's a dynamic leader and outstanding communicator and has excellent organizational skills and analytical skills. And we're looking forward to better things.”

Where are Bears skill players being selected in fantasy football drafts?

USA Today

Where are Bears skill players being selected in fantasy football drafts?

For fantasy football players planning their annual summer draft strategy, reviewing a player's average draft position (the average draft slot where a player is being selected in fantasy drafts across the country) is a great place to start.

It's also a great place to look to gauge the national opinion of the Bears' skill players on offense. For example, Todd Gurley, the Rams' feature running back, currently sits atop fantasy draft boards with an ADP of No. 1 overall. Le'Veon Bell is second, and Dallas' third-year runner, Ezekiel Elliott, is third. Essentially, they're considered three of the best -- if not THE best -- running backs in the NFL by fans.

So where do guys like Jordan Howard, Allen Robinson and Mitch Trubisky rank? Let's take a look.

Note: Average draft positions are from Fantasy Pros.

Jordan Howard:  ADP = 25 (RB15)

Players ahead of Howard include Bengals second-year back Joe Mixon, Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski and Packers receiver Davante Adams. Call it a hunch, but Howard will outproduce this ADP.

Allen Robinson: ADP = 42 (WR17)

Robinson trails players like Josh Gordon, Doug Baldwin and Stefon Diggs on draft boards. This seems fair with Robinson coming off a torn ACL.

Mitch Trubisky: ADP = 168 (QB26)

Trubisky has a chance to be one of this year's fantasy football league-winners if he quickly takes to Matt Nagy's offense. He's being criminally underrated in fantasy circles.

Tarik Cohen: ADP = 77 (RB32)

Unless Cohen becomes the Bears' feature back, which is a long shot, this ADP and overall ranking seem about right. The only way he makes a jump up fantasy rankings is if the Bears use him like the Saints used Alvin Kamara, with similar results.

Trey Burton: ADP = 94 (TE9)

Burton is one of the Bears' favorites among fantasy GMs. He's expected to become Chicago's Travis Kelce this season. If he does, he'll be a fantasy star.

Anthony Miller: ADP = 206 (WR65)

Fantasy players like Miller the most of all receivers opposite Robinson this season. He's got a chance to prove them right with his blend of inside and outside receiver traits.

Taylor Gabriel: ADP 357 (WR110)

Yikes. Gabriel is essentially undraftable in fantasy leagues this season, according to this ADP. No one is suggesting Gabriel will be the next coming of Tyreek Hill, but this seems awfully low.

Kevin White: ADP 328 (WR105)

White has a slightly higher upside in the opinion of fantasy owners than Gabriel, but he's still nothing more than free agency fodder at this point in summer drafts.

Jay Cutler is the most unsurprising 'breakout star' of 'Very Cavallari'


Jay Cutler is the most unsurprising 'breakout star' of 'Very Cavallari'

After producing one-liners as amusing as “I’m looking to do the exact opposite of work,” in his reality TV debut, Jay Cutler was at it again.

The former Bears quarterback had more gems to offer in the second episode of his wife’s reality show, “Very Cavallari.” Cutler’s general apathy towards, well, everything continued.

In one of the more unintentionally funny lines of the show, Kristin Cavallari, Cutler’s wife and the star of the show, said Cutler has no game. Keep the giggles to yourselves, Bears fans.

She wistfully talked about how much fun the couple used to have early in their relationship until Cutler cut her off and said “You decided to go to bed at 8:45 every night.”

“He can be a little s*** sometimes, but he makes me laugh,” Kristin Cavallari said of her husband on the show.

That line might be something Bears fans can relate to.

While the show has plenty of your standard reality show drama, Cutler’s scenes are a humorous change of pace. The way things are going, Cutler could be in for a bigger part. In the meantime, maybe Bears fans will skip around until Cutler appears on camera.

Who knew? Bears fans, Kristin. All Bears fans knew.