Has this not been the most Ryan Pace of Ryan Pace’s weeks, maybe ever? On Sunday, the team he assembled needed 58 minutes to beat the Vikings’ backups and finish a wildly-underwhelming season at 8-8. Two days later, his end-of-year press conference with Matt Nagy was panned for being, at best, tone deaf.
Then on Thursday, details of the deftly-restructured Kyle Fuller contract emerged – another commendable example of Pace showcasing his ability to maneuver through tricky cap situations. And finally, in what may end up being the smartest move of the Bears’ offseason, the team has reportedly agreed to a 4-year, $58 million extension with Eddie Jackson.
“I’m not a patient person,” George McCaskey said on Tuesday. “That’s where it’s really helpful to have Ryan. He talks about not getting too high or too low, trying to keep an even keel.”
The immediate flurry of moves isn’t surprising – Pace was adamant that the moment his press conference ended, “The next four to five months are about hard decisions – the decisions that require a real, honest assessment of our roster and our entire football operations.” While a coaching shakeup was apparently the most pressing of those decisions – someone’s gotta get fired – an extension for Jackson makes sense as a next step. Maybe the biggest surprise (or maybe not?) is the Bears apparently couldn’t wait until Labor Day weekend to announce it.
The Bears aren’t any closer to figuring out what their starting safety duo is going to look like next season, but keeping Jackson around through at least 2025 is an objectively good mark for Pace’s tenure in Chicago. The 26-year old has been elected to the Pro Bowl twice in three seasons and already has been named a first-team All-Pro. Pro Football Focus ranked him as their top safety in 2018, though he was ranked considerably lower (86) this year.
More importantly, the signing is the latest example of why it’s so tough to confidently judge the success of Pace’s six years in charge. Jackson’s extension is another feather in the cap of Pace and his staff, who deserve credit for building a talented Bears core. He now joins a group of players who are contracted through the 2022 season: Khalil Mack, David Montgomery, Kyle Fuller, Riley Ridley, Bobby Massie, Charles Leno and Roquan Smith (team options), Cody Whitehair, Eddie Goldman and Duke Shelley are the others. Not every NFL team can say they have that much young talent under contract for that long.
Obviously the other side of the coin is none of those players are quarterbacks, and Pace’s time in Chicago is directly tied to fixing that. He’s been on record in the past stating he’d like to draft one every year, but backpedalled from that on Tuesday, saying, “You have philosophies, but you’re also taking best player available and you don’t want to deviate from that.” He also noted that rebuilding a roster from scratch required a different approach.
Trubisky still seems like The Guy in Halas Hall, and that decision will outweigh every single prudent extension handed to other positions. Maybe Pace is bluffing, though it was interesting to compare his answers to the ones in Tampa Bay and Indianapolis. The fact that he’s even in this position casts such a large shadow over an otherwise-good resume. It’s also starting to draw the ire of fanbase growing impatient – and at a seemingly faster rate than the owner.
“... I react like a fan,” McCaskey added. “That’s no way to run a football team.”
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