After watching Eagles running back Jordan Howard abuse the Bears' defense for 89 yards and a touchdown in Week 9's loss in Philadelphia, it's worth asking what GM Ryan Pace was thinking when he initially tabbed free-agent signee, Mike Davis, as Howard's potential replacement.
Remember: The Bears signed Davis in free agency and had no guarantees that a player like David Montgomery would be available for them in the 2019 NFL draft. Had Montgomery not fallen in the third round (and had Pace not been aggressive and traded up for him), Davis would've been trusted to carry the load for Chicago's running game.
But here we are, eight games into the regular season, and Davis has been a complete non-factor. He's played a total of 71 snaps, per Pro Football Focus, and has just 11 carries for 25 yards. Total. As in, for the entire year.
All this from a player who's making more money in 2019 (he signed a two-year, $6 million deal) than Howard was ever paid by the Bears.
Look, free-agent signings don't always work out. And in an average offseason, Pace's whiff on Davis wouldn't be the end of the world. But heading into 2020, it could have some significant consequences.
The Bears were in line to receive a juicy compensatory pick in the 2020 NFL draft after the Packers signed safety Adrian Amos in free agency. In fact, one analyst at Over The Cap suggested Chicago could be awarded a fourth-round pick. Keep in mind that the formula used by the NFL to award compensatory picks remains a secret, but here's how NFL.com's Lance Zierlein explained it during last year's draft season:
"Teams are awarded compensatory draft picks between Rounds 3 and 7 based upon a formula, which is not released by the league, that takes into account a player's average salary per year (APY), snap count and postseason awards," Zierlein wrote. "While there is an expected level of compensation for a player based on the amount he has signed for, his playing time (or lack thereof) in the upcoming season could alter the expectation."
Basically, the NFL weighs a team's losses against their additions and award comp picks to those clubs that lost more in free agency than they gained. Got it? Great.
The fact that the Bears signed Davis, as of now, hurts their chances for that fourth-round pick, even though it's still unclear whether he's played enough to be taken into consideration. If Pace wants to completely eliminate Davis from the compensatory pick calculation, he'll have to release him before Sunday's game against the Lions. The NFL does not factor into their calculation those free-agent signings who don't last until Week 10 with their new team. If Davis is gone, he's out of the compensatory pick conversation.
At this point, it seems like there's little reason to keep Davis on the roster and risk losing a valuable Day 3 pick. This is especially true for a team like the Bears and a general manager like Pace, who's had a high level of success drafting players on Day 3. He's added Bilal Nichols, Javon Wims, Eddie Jackson, Tarik Cohen, Jordan Howard and Arian Amos all within that range of draft pick.
All of those players offer (or at one time offered) more to the Bears than Davis has shown through eight games.
Chicago's offense has been putrid this year. It hit rock bottom in the first half of the Eagles game when Matt Nagy and Mitch Trubisky managed to muster just nine yards, the lowest total the Bears have produced in 40 years. Davis isn't the guy who will (or can) turn that around, and an argument can be made that he'd actually stunt the development of Montgomery, who needs more carries and as many reps as possible as he continues to adjust to the NFL game.
Pace isn't playing fantasy football, and it isn't as simple as just dropping a player from the roster. There will be ramifications in the locker room and there are personal relationships involved. But the NFL is all about winning, and at this point in the Bears' rebuild-turned-contender-turned-rebuild, securing a fourth round pick makes a lot more sense than hanging onto Davis.