One major component in Ryan Pace’s background makes the Bears’ efforts in free agency particularly worth noting. Pace comes from the pro-personnel side of the game, meaning for most of his career in New Orleans his chief task was scouting and scouring other NFL rosters, which he should know almost as well as his own.
Pace made a play for rush-linebacker Pernell McPhee, a Baltimore Ravens backup because of the talent (Elvis Dumervil, Terrell Suggs) ahead of him. Finding a starter-grade addition a little ways down someone’s depth chart is a knack, and Pace’s experience prior to taking over as Bears general manager was heavily on the Saints’ pro side.
In other words, he’s had files on NFL free agents long before they became free agents.
Shifting DL targets
With Denver Broncos defensive lineman Malik Jackson going to the Jacksonville Jaguars after flirtations with the Bears, Broncos and Oakland Raiders, the Bears and others begin tightening focuses elsewhere.
The Saints drafted massive defensive lineman Akiem Hicks in 2012 when Pace was a member of the Saints’ personnel department. Now that Pace is Bears general manager and Hicks is a free agent, few would be totally surprised if the two got together again this offseason.
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The Bears have been linked to Hicks, rated No. 2 among free-agent interior defensive linemen by CSNChicago.com, and the prospect of pairing Hicks (6-5, 324) with nose tackle Eddie Goldman (6-4, 335) conjures up thoughts of a run-proof defense.
And be in no doubt as to the importance of immovable objects to a pass rush, even someone like Hicks, who has 9.5 total sacks in four NFL seasons. Richard Dent once told me that no one fully appreciated what William Perry meant to him: “With Fridge inside next to me,” The Colonel said, “I never had to worry about anything to my left.”
When the Bears opted to commit toward Ka’Deem Carey and Jeremy Langford and away from Matt Forte, one worst-case scenario for the Bears was the prospect of Forte going to the Green Bay Packers, as Steve McMichael, Jim McMahon, Jim Morrissey and a handful of others have done.
According to ESPN’s Adam Schefter, the Packers are sniffing.
It wouldn’t be an NFL offseason without the Bears scouring the league for help at safety, and 2016 is another safety quest. David Bruton, who played 77 plays on a broken leg in a late-season game with Denver last season, has been with the Broncos since being drafted out of Notre Dame in 2009 and played for John Fox during Fox’s four Denver seasons. Bruton reportedly has seen interest from the Bears, Broncos, Giants and Dolphins (where ex-Broncos assistant Adam Gase is now head coach).
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What makes Bruton intriguing is his leadership of Broncos special teams (three-year captain) , his age (28) and his potential. Normally “potential” is no longer in the discussion after seven NFL seasons, but Bruton has started just nine games, meaning low mileage, but partly because the Broncos have had some safety play from the likes of T.J. Ward, Rahim Moore and Brian Dawkins in recent seasons.
On guard: J.R. Sweezy a three-year Seahawks starter
Not that this means anything about how 2016 offseason will play out for the Bears’ offense, but efforts to upgrade the offensive line didn’t go all that well last offseason, meaning that Bears have to do some of the same work again.
The Bears used one-year contracts to bring in guards Vladimir Ducasse and Patrick Omameh (via waiver claim). Neither settled the right-guard spot and the latest effort is reportedly in the direction of J.R. Sweezy, who’s started the past three seasons at right guard for the Seattle Seahawks.
The guard/tackle market did get a little weird on Tuesday when the Oakland Raiders threw $60 million over five years toward former Raven lineman Kelechi Osemele. The Bears weren’t seriously in that discussion, though.