Bears

GM Ryan Pace confirms draft role in Bears’ free-agent deliberations

GM Ryan Pace confirms draft role in Bears’ free-agent deliberations

When the Bears backed away from the escalating prices for free-agent cornerbacks A.J. Bouye and Stephon Gilmore, and safety Tony Jefferson, it wasn't entirely about the money.
 
The Bears had the cash and cap space to sign more than one of the consensus top players at positions of critical need for the Bears. But GM Ryan Pace had laid out well before the negotiating and signing periods arrived that the Bears would be aggressive but not desperation-driven to the point of squandering money.
 
And Pace explained another crucial factor in the Bears' step back from the apparent best available options at those positions. It lies in the 2017 draft class, considered one of the best ever for cornerbacks and including safeties graded so highly that they were expected to be gone within the top 10 – possibly one to the Bears at No. 3.
 
The strategy is one of integration; a barren draft class likely would have ratcheted up the Bears' efforts on the players they passed on.
 
"You try to balance [draft possibilities] out a little bit," Pace said on Friday in advance of introductory press conferences for the newest four Bears free-agent signings. "Obviously we say we're taking best player available, but when you know that there's a position in the draft that's extremely deep, I think you can think, 'Hey, there might be a chance to address that there,' especially if something gets way out of whack, price-wise in free agency."
 
Something did get out of whack price-wise when contracts for Bouye and Gilmore guaranteed the cornerbacks money in the range of $40 million. The position commands a premium but elite money spent on non-elite talent is a mistake that extends beyond that one position.
 
"I said this before: you can recover from the player you didn't sign," Pace said. "You can't recover from the player you signed at the wrong price. We have to recognize that. I think if you look at most good teams around the league, they're usually built through the draft. There are a couple exceptions here or there, but we have to be mindful of that. and it's easy, guys, in these moments to say, 'let's do this extreme thing here.' I think a lot of times when you do that you're paying a player that amount of money, it's almost impossible for that player to reach those expectations."
 
Additionally, the Bears invested fourth-round picks at cornerback (Deiondre Hall) and safety (Deon Bush), both of whom figured prominently in plans before suffering injury setbacks. Pace and the Bears targeted a cornerback (Prince Amukamara) and safety (Quintin Demps) and are expected to return to the draft for top-end talent for their secondary.
 
"I think the best thing about free agency is if we can address some of our needs again. it opens up the draft for 'best player available,'" Pace said. "And then when we do that, it's just increasing out odds."

Brett Favre says Nick Foles should start for the Bears

Brett Favre says Nick Foles should start for the Bears

Former Green Bay Packers quarterback and Chicago Bears nemesis, Brett Favre, offered his opinion on the Bears' quarterback competition during a recent appearance on Da Windy City Podcast, and suggested Nick Foles is the better option to line up behind center for Chicago in 2020.

His logic is based on an old-school approach to the game: wins.

"I look at it this way: How will Nick Foles play in Chicago? I don't know," Favre said. "I just base it off how they both have performed when they have been given the opportunity, and Nick Foles, I think, has performed better. 

"If you just based it off how they've performed in real game situations, obviously, Nick Foles won a Super Bowl. And played lights out. Just based off of that, Nick Foles is the better player."

Talk about a straightforward opinion. And it's one the Bears' brass might agree with, too. They wanted Foles so much that they traded for him in an offseason that included several quality free agents who wouldn't have cost the team a draft pick to acquire. That said, none of them had a Super Bowl win on their resume (sans Tom Brady) either.

How much stock should Bears fans put into Favre's opinion? It depends. If you're a believer in 'game recognizing game,' then Favre's opinion on Chicago's quarterback competition is as valid as any.

With no preseason games coming this summer, Matt Nagy and Ryan Pace will have less tape to use in their decision-making process. As a result, they'll be forced to rely on a blend of  training camp performances and existing tape from the last couple of seasons. 

If they go back as far as 2017, it'll be hard imagining a scenario where Foles doesn't come away the victor. 

Why Bears don't see need for 'voluntary bubble' amid COVID-19 pandemic right now

Why Bears don't see need for 'voluntary bubble' amid COVID-19 pandemic right now

The Bears will not follow the New Orleans Saints and Tampa Bay Buccaneers in creating a voluntary bubble, coach Matt Nagy said Wednesday, although it’s possible the team’s stance on one could change.

The idea of a “voluntary bubble” was first floated by the Saints, which have one set up during training camp. Players and staff can choose to sequester themselves in a hotel, only going to and from the team’s facility, allowing for something much closer to the true bubbles that’ve worked so well in the NBA, NHL, MLS and NWSL. Buccaneers coach Bruce Arians said this week the team has a hotel set up where players/staff can stay during the season, too.

Because they’re voluntary, these team-sanctioned bubbles do not run afoul of the NFL-NFLPA’s agreement on the 2020 season. Although if one were set up, it's likely most (if not all) Tier 1 and Tier 2 individuals would opt into it. 

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If the Bears wanted to set up a bubble, it wouldn’t seem to be difficult – there are plenty of hotels close to Halas Hall in Lake Forest (anyone up for an extended stay at the Marriott Lincolnshire Resort?). But for now, the Bears remain confident in two pillars of their COVID-19 protocols: Their setup at Halas Hall, and their continued education of players, staff and their families about how to pull of a football season in the midst of a pandemic.

“I think for us, we feel really good right now with our quote-unquote ‘bubble’ that we have here,” Nagy said. “It feels very safe. There’s been a lot of hard work behind the scenes to get this set-up that we have. But also, we’re growing, too. I mean, if you came in here five days ago and looked at this complex at Halas Hall and the Water Payton Center, it’s totally different than five days ago. We keep adding to make it better.

“Ryan (Pace) and I joked, it’s like one of those whiffle balls that has all the holes in it everywhere. We keep finding holes and patching them up. That’s probably going to continue for the whole year. 

“So if there’s something that players bring to us or that we feel we can keep ourselves safe in one way or another, we’re gonna do that.”

The Bears, like every other NFL team, may need to be flexible, especially as cases of the novel coronavirus continue to rise in Illinois. What sounds farfetched now may not be so crazy in a month.

But Nagy believes the Bears can avoid an outbreak inside Halas Hall by following strict mask-wearing guidelines, social distancing whenever possible and preaching the importance of responsible behavior away from the facility.

“It always comes back to when you’re outside of this bubble of Halas Hall, you need to be able to be smart and be selfless, not selfish,” Nagy said.

MORE: Should the Bears quarantine a quarterback in 2020?

The Cubs can be viewed as a prime example of how to navigate a season without a bubble, having not had a member of their traveling party test positive for COVID-19 since returning to Wrigley Field in early July. It’s not impossible to pull this off so long as everyone buys in to an extreme level of personal responsibility – and, too, gets lucky in dodging such an infectious, insidious virus.

That kind of commitment (and luck) might just mean the Bears wouldn’t need to create a voluntary bubble somewhere in the northern suburbs of Chicago.

What also can help the Bears here too is their coach’s persistent messaging about and policing of mask-wearing inside Halas Hall, which hopefully will carry over into interactions away from the building. 

“The mask deal is real,” Nagy said. “This is my opinion, and just from what we see and what we hear. You hear a lot of people say, 'Well, you've gotta treat it like everybody has (COVID-19).' In my opinion, you've gotta treat it like you have it, right?

“If you treat it like you have it, you wear your mask and the percentages of spreading it can be a lot lower. When you treat it like you have it, that means everybody has their mask on in this building and that's what you're seeing with a lot of the teams having low test rates with positive tests, and that's how we're going about it.”

 

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