Chicago Bears general manager, Ryan Pace, had a great offseason in free agency and the draft this summer… right? Maybe not so much anymore. Pace’s most recent draft and free agency class is falling apart, and conversations about finding a new general manager might rise again due to the setbacks.
Pace’s offseason started off with a bang. In the draft, Pace made an in-draft adjustment to move up to the 11th raft, giving the Bears and its fans what they all wanted — Justin Fields.
Side note — I don’t believe the rumors that the deal between the Bears and the New York Giants for the 11th pick was done the morning of the draft. The Eagles traded up to snag DeVonta Smith, leaving the Giants in wide receiver limbo. That’s where the Bears swooped in.
The fun didn’t stop there for Pace. In the second round, Pace & Co. traded up again to take first-round offensive line talent, Teven Jenkins.
Pace rounded out the draft going back to the o-line with Larry Borom, rounding out offensive skill players with Khalil Herbert and Dazz Newsome, and spicing up the defense with Thomas Graham and Khyiris Tonga.
By the looks of it, the Bears front office made out incredible from the draft. They got their quarterback, improved one of the worst offensive lines in the NFL, and rounded out the rest of their roster with solid late-round talent.
Fast forward to today, on NFL’s cut day, the Bears’ roster moves are not looking so well anymore.
Part I: Teven Jenkins
Things started to take a bearish (no pun intended) turn for the worst a couple of weeks ago after multiple reports accounted for the fact that Teven Jenkins will need back surgery after suffering a back injury at practice back in May.
According to Kevin Patra of NFL.com, “The Bears cut Charles Leno Jr. earlier this offseason, with the thought being that Jenkins could step right in and start at left tackle. It seemed a head-scratching move at the time, given Jenkins was a rookie with injury concerns. It looks even more oddball, given the ‘new’ symptoms that led to Jenkins surgery.”
There is plenty of skepticism around the way Matt Nagy and Pace conveyed the severity of Jenkins’s injury. For weeks, Nagy confronted the media with hardly anything to say, and if anything, saying that Jenkins was trending in the right direction instead of the opposite.
Even more, criticism drew after fans put the pieces together of how the Bears were able to acquire the first-round talent in the second round of the draft. Considering the Bears sent three picks to the Panthers to trade up for Jenkins, Pace received plenty of negativity after Jenkins’s injury.
Because of that move, the Bears had to scramble to sign Jason Peters, 39, to cover up the holes of the offensive line (another no pun intended).
— Patrick Sheldon (@P_Shels) August 18, 2021
Part II: The Cornerback Room
Starting at cut day, the Bears have made some profound and surprising moves that caught Bears fans off guard in terms of the cornerback room.
The Bears cut Desmond Trufant and Thomas Graham from the team, two cornerbacks that were signed and drafted, respectively, this offseason.
Trufant has not been around the team since Aug. 13 to be with his family since his father’s passing a couple of days after he left the team.
However, Trufant was the first corner taken off the market for the team since the release of Kyle Fuller. It seemed that Trufant was the filler for the gap that Fuller’s absence is bound to leave in the team.
NBC Chicago reported that his salary with the Bears contained zero guranteed money and he is still owed around $3.5 million from the Lions. Financially, this move does not hurt the Bears.
Now, without Trufant around, Kindle Vildor will most certainly be the starting corner opposite Jaylon Johnson. But, the depth of the cornerback room is shot.
Carrying off of that, Thomas Graham, most recently drafted in the sixth-round of the most recent draft out of Oregon, was released too. Graham, like Trufant and the rest of the cornerback room, had high expectations of having a large role in the lineup due to the lack of depth.
Reverting back to my main thesis, both Trufant and Graham were moves made by Pace to clean up the mess he made by releasing Fuller. Now what?
ESPN reports the Bears have released veteran CB Desmond Trufant, whom they signed March 20 after cutting Kyle Fuller.
— Jason Lieser (@JasonLieser) August 31, 2021
Part III: More draft picks thrown away in the wide receiver room
On top of the cornerback room being shot to the ground, a few more draft picks have seen their final days on the Bears squad.
The most impactful name to fall under the list is Dazz Newsome, another sixth-round pick out of the last draft from North Carolina. Newsome suffered a broken collarbone early on in practice, which Bears fans have alluded to being a reason that Newsome was cut.
Newsome seemed to be an excellent addition to an already improved wide receiver core, but Bears fans will never know, unless he somehow sticks around on the practice squad.
Bears WRs drafted by Ryan Pace:
2015 – 1R Kevin White
2016 – 7R Daniel Braverman
2018 – 2R Anthony Miller
7R Javon Wims
2019 – 4R Riley Ridley
2020 – 5R Darnell Mooney
2021 – 6R Dazz Newsome
— Joe Ostrowski (@JoeO670) August 31, 2021
Going back to the receiver room, fourth-round draft pick in 2019, Riley Ridley, was released on cut day too.
The stigma around Ridley is that he never saw enough time on the field to give a true analysis. Bears fans like to speculate he could have been a bigger piece of the puzzle given his size (6-foot-1 and 200 pounds) and his brother’s (Calvin) success in the league.
Again, two more Pace moves that didn’t pan out.
Part IV: The Breakdown
The point of this evidence is for Bears fans to understand the direction of the season has been misleading based on the moves Pace and Nagy have made this offseason.
After the draft and free agency, things looked up for the Bears. With key additions of Fields, Marquise Goodwin, Damiere Byrd, Teven Jenkins, Larry Borom, and the return of Eddie Goldman, the Bears’ trajectory for the season looked surprisingly positive.
Even though most of the moves made are still intact for the upcoming season, the Bears have cut a shocking amount of the rookies and veterans they brought in, and the trajectory doesn’t feel so positive anymore.
What’s the answer for a cornerback? Should we have kept Fuller and maybe let go of Hicks? Why was Jenkins’s situation so unclear? The questions go on and on.
Pace seemed to have his job on lockdown for the future after draft night and the opening of free agency. Can we say the same now?