The Bears’ Free Agency Plan Makes Sense

Brad Biggs at the Chicago Tribune answers your questions.

“What justification is there for Ryan Poles’ nonsensical free-agent approach? He could have chosen one of three smart strategies. He could have: 1. Targeted players who were cut by other teams or who didn’t cancel out comp picks; or 2. Sat out free agency until after the comp pick deadline to stack picks for next year; or 3. Spent to acquire top talent while upgrading the team in the short term.

“Instead, he signed a bunch of below-average players to contracts large enough to cancel out any compensatory picks. The team is now worse than last year, and while the Bears could have had three or four comp picks by simply sitting out free agency, now they are likely to get zero. This offseason is an unmitigated disaster. — Sanjay A., Chicago

“I don’t think there is any reason to look at the Bears’ moves so far — one week into the start of the new league year — and do cartwheels. But I think you need to take a longer view and wait until about the middle of May to assess what shape the roster is in. There still is a lot of heavy lifting to do and the draft to look forward to. As I’m sure you realize, there was no quick fix for this roster either.”

“Compensatory picks are great and give teams more depth in the draft. Historically, the Bears have done a poor job of accumulating these because they’ve drafted poorly. Teams that consistently stockpile compensatory picks generally draft well and can afford to allow some of their developed players to sign elsewhere. This wasn’t a good roster Poles inherited and some immediate action was required.”

I think the fan who wrote this question doesn’t really understand what is going on here. The problem that I have is that he assumes that the Bears should be basically either be tanking for compensatory picks or they should spend big to upgrade the roster. They are doing neither.

The Bears aren’t approaching free agency with the idea of accumulating draft picks. They’re rebuilding an old roster that isn’t very good. The plan is to accumulate players who have played in the league but who are still young. These are players that they think are still on the rise.

There are a number of advantages to doing this over following either of the paths that the fan proposed:

  1. These players are cheaper than the established veterans that you might sign and you don’t have to over pay.
  2. They are hungry, still looking for their break through to a future pay day.
  3. They’ve played in the NFL against professional competition. That makes them easier to evaluate than a draft pick.
  4. They are available immediately to help players like quarterback Justin Fields develop. A compensatory pick isn’t.
  5. On a related note, they allow the establishment of a team that at least will play competitively on a week to week basis. This keeps fans interested and it helps other young players to develop.

Its awfully hard for a young player to become the best that he can be when he is surrounded by incompetence. And there’s the real danger that young players could become used to losing.

Instead of holding out for compensatory draft picks, I think its better to look at these signings as older versions of compensatory draft picks that you already know more about and can evaluate more effectively.

Is Poles’ plan the right one? No one can really say. I’d say this plan along with either of the ones suggested by the fan above could work. That’s because, when you come right down to it, success or failure will be almost entirely based upon the organization’s ability to evaluate and develop talent no matter what plan you follow.

But having said that, I would hardly call what the Bears are doing “nonsensical”. It makes perfect sense.

One thought on “The Bears’ Free Agency Plan Makes Sense”

Leave a Reply