General Manager Ryan Pace and Chicago Bears’ front office have been on the receiving end of some steady scorn this offseason, mocked during free agency and the NFL Draft for the headline-grabbing moves the team made in the offseason.
The latest comes from Sean Wagner-McGough of CBS Sports, who ranked each of the NFL’s 32 front offices now that the offseason (for all intent and purposes) is behind us. You won’t have to look at the list long to find the Bears’ front office on the list … if you read it from back to front, as Wagner-McGough ranks the Bears dead last in the NFL.
His assessment is as follows:
“It’s a shame, the Bears were actually having a productive offseason before their decision to trade up one spot for the right to select Mitch Trubisky. But you can’t ignore that trade. The Bears were swindled by the 49ers, essentially bidding against themselves. They also gave Mike Glennon way too much money. Nobody will care about the trade if Trubisky ends up being good, but the process matters, as our Will Brinson explained recently. And the Bears messed up the process.”
There is a lot to unpack here, so let’s go through it.
The Bears’ offseason has been productive, but still managed to leave much to be desired moving forward. On the one hand, free agency was bountiful, with the team signing starters who project to provide upgrades at cornerback (Prince Amukamara) and safety (Quintin Demps) from the players taking a majority of the snaps in 2016. The team also added depth in the secondary with Marcus Cooper, and at wide receiver with Kendall Wright and Markus Wheaton, as well as tight end Dion Sims, in an attempt to offset the significant loss of Alshon Jeffery. Adding depth to a team that has sorely lacked it in recent years isn’t sexy and it’s not much to hang your hat on as a fan, but the Bears’ free agent additions have added a bit of stability where there wasn’t any before.
On the other hand, the Bears weren’t able to and the kind of impact free agents that would accelerate the team’s turn-around. Demps was the only addition who graded out an above average player by Pro Football Focus’ grading standards in 2016. with an 85.2 grade that ranked among the second best tier. Amukamara (76.6) and Wright (74.6) earned “average” grades, while Sims (59.3), Wheaton (49.7) and Cooper (45.5) were given “poor” grades.
But then again, the Bears signed 16 free agents this offseason, with only Demps, Cooper, Wheaton, Sims, and quarterback Mike Glennon receiving multi-year deals – and none of the players mentioned signed for more than three years. According to calculations via Over The Cap, these five players signed for $103 million worth of total contract value, but only $41 million of that is guaranteed. Meaning the Bears’ cap situation is in good shape for both the short and long-term future.
This could prove to be beneficial if and when the Bears decide to dive deep into the free agency pool for big money contracts with longer guarantees.
There is a juxtaposition of thoughts regarding the 49ers’ “swindling” of the Bears with their draft night trade and a fumbling of The Process. For starters, that deal shouldn’t (and truly can’t) be graded until Trubisky is given the keys to the offense and given time to show what he can do. Wagner-McGough himself states “nobody will care about the trade if Trubisky ends up being good.” But if the front office followed a path to getting a good quarterback, then they followed (and executed) a good plan and process.
Part of the Bears’ offseason process was installing Glennon, whose contract looks big to the untrained eye. The $45 million total understandably grabs your eye, but the $18.5 million in guarantees is paid up front. That essentially makes it a one-year agreement.
Further, yes, Glennon’s cash value in 2017 is tied for the sixth highest, per Over The Cap. It’s a number of $16 million that puts him on par with Brock Osweiler and between Mathew Stafford ($16.5 million) and Matt Ryan ($15.75 million). HOWEVER, Glennon’s $14 million cap value pushes him down the list nestled between Andy Dalton ($15.7 million) and Tyrod Taylor ($9.7 million). That makes him the NFL’s 19th highest-paid quarterback for 2017, a relative bargain with all things considered. In short, the Bears are paying market value for an average starting quarterback.
Or, if you want to look at it another way, the Bears are paying Glennon a little bit more than they would have been paying Jay Cutler just to not have Cutler under center in 2017 … while also allowing for the team to set up for a brighter future with a player the front office believes will be a franchise quarterback.
There isn’t an argument for the Bears’ front office to be listed in the top 10, but to be ranked dead last raises questions about how they got there, while also serving as a platform to take more than a cursory look at the organization’s current situation. After all, the Bears are ranked behind a team that fired its general manager on the first day of free agency and still haven’t replaced him.