The Bears are having a critical offseason so far

Chicago traded the No. 1 pick and then added a pair of linebackers, finding good value in each move.

While March is always a questionable month for a general manager to claim victory, it’s hard to ignore how dominant Ryan Polo has been and what that could mean for the Bears going forward.

Last week, he gave up the No. 1 pick in the draft and stole a top wide receiver (DJ Moore) for a Hunter Renfrow price in that deal. Through those actions, he calmed any concerns quarterback Justin Fields may have had about the team’s trust in him entering his third season. It’s hard not to see the parallels in how Poles is acting now and how Howie Roseman backed up Jalen Hurts the last two seasons.

On Monday, at the start of the legal waiver period, he also signed TJ Edwards and Trumaine Edmunds to solidify the team’s linebacking corps. While this move garnered some mixed reviews given the Bears have so many defensive needs, let’s look at it from both a financial and situational perspective. While most general managers prefer to build their defenses from the line and secondary first, the Poles identified two important factors for this year’s market in particular:

• The cost of defensive linemen, especially defensive tackles, was going to be off the charts. Players like Javon Hargrave, who is 30, are getting four-year, $84 million deals.

• The Bears aren’t going to rebuild their entire defense in one go, but in a market that was expected to be bearish (generally speaking) for non-top linemen, the Poles signed two of the best players available, both of of which they are 26 years of age or older. Edmunds (four years, $72 million, $50 million in guarantees) ends up making $2 million less per season than Roquan Smith, whom the Bears traded last year for a second-round pick. Smith also earned $10 million more in guarantees than Edmunds in the contract he signed with the Ravens in January, and Edmunds fits specifically what Matt Eberflus wants from his defense.

So the Bears got Edmunds and TJ Edwards for $24 million in 2023 (plus whatever they can add with Baltimore’s second-round pick), while the Ravens only have Smith.

Edmunds and Moore are two of the Bears’ three big additions in the early part of the offseason.

Shawn Dowd/USA TODAY Network (Edmunds); Nathan Ray Seebeck/USA TODAY Sports (Moore)

The Bears share a division with the Packers’ Matt LaFleur (Kyle Shanahan student) and the Vikings’ Kevin O’Connell (Sean McVay student). While both teams approach their scheme differently, both can thrive by using their personnel to stick teams in a disadvantageous defensive alignment and hammer them (running a nickel front, for example, or passing to a base front). As we wrote about the renaissance of off-ball linebackers in 2021, those who can cover well are becoming increasingly valuable because they mitigate some of the damage a defense does if they get stuck. Edmunds and Edwards are two of the best coverage linebackers in the NFL.

They also face the Lions, whose offensive line is so good that it’s almost impossible to even get on the field with free agency cash down the drain (especially with the defensive tackles as they are now). Eberflus, who has made a career out of strategically deploying under-manned elements in his front seven (we wrote a bit about that here ), could probably make a handful of good off-ball linebackers just as effective against the run as a very expensive interior lineman .

Here we can effectively separate general managers who win in March and win again in September and beyond, from general managers who specifically try to win in March and figure the rest out later.

The Poles’ focus was obvious: young, talented players at a cost to reset the market. Moore, who would have made a major move in the receiver market had he been a free agent last year, is another perfect example.

When we (football analysts) look at free agency, we can sometimes have a bad habit of seeing different phases of the offseason in a binary way. It was either good or bad. Did it solve the problem or not.

Heading into the offseason, the Polish team had plenty of questions, dozens of glaring roster holes and fair share of concerns about how they might try to approach it all. Before free agency even officially begins, the Bears have temporarily solidified the quarterback position and built organization-wide confidence in Justin Fields, built one of the top 10 skill-position talent pools in the NFL and anchored the linebacking corps with two young . players who will immediately help target some of the strategic advantages their divisional opponents are developing (and, really, given that most of the league uses a McVay or Shanahan playbook, almost all of their opponents).

There are still many questions that remain, but the Pole answered the most crucial one: whether he is ready to do it all.

Leave a Comment