Bears Fans Need to Be Patient. And So Does Ryan Poles.

Brad Biggs at the Chicago Tribune answers your questions.

With the trade of Roquan Smith, the Bears now have several draft choices and cap space. My concern is that to date, Ryan Poles has done nothing to indicate he will make good draft choices and free-agent acquisitions. The 2022 draft has been marginal so far with Jaquan Brisker the only rookie performing at a high level. The free agents have been marginal, even though it is clear they were signed simply to fill out a roster. Any reason to believe [GM Ryan] Poles will be successful building the Bears in free agency and the draft? — Jim A., Plymouth, Minn.

Brisker has been really good, and cornerback Kyler Gordon has been steadier the last two or three games. Remember, Gordon is being asked to do a ton playing outside in the base defense and at nickel in the sub package. That’s something teams won’t ask many veterans to try.

Left tackle Braxton Jones has shown a little improvement too. Is he a long-term solution at that position? I wouldn’t go there right now, but for a half-season, it’s fair to say he has been better than a lot of folks expected.

You’re right that Poles was basically filling out a roster with some of his moves in free agency. Understanding that, let’s see what happens when he does some bona fide shopping in free agency. I’d caution folks not to expect a wild spending spree, though, and I fear many are expecting that. Typically that’s a recipe for disaster. Poles needs to be aggressive yet calculated.

I totally agree with Biggs. Going on a wild spending spree and spending cap space just because you have it is a recipe for disaster. And he’s totally justified in thinking that there are many fans (and national media members) who seem to expect the Bears to do just that.

How patient should fans be in 2023? If Ryan Poles’ plan was to work with salary-cap space and draft capital in ’23, and we’ve seen teams like the Bengals win that way quickly, he should have a lot of pressure to execute, right? — @david_nordby

Are you forgetting how many years and decades the Bengals wandered through the NFL forest on a journey that led them, well, nowhere? Without having any idea what shape the roster will take next season, it’s difficult to make any grand predictions at this point, but I think a good deal of patience is required. I can’t speak for him, but I can’t imagine Poles looked at this job as a one-year turnaround. I think the Bears need multiple draft classes to get up and running at a high level, and they had only three picks in the top 167 back in April.

If Justin Fields takes a huge step forward over the remainder of this season, that would be a good reason to raise expectations a couple of notches for next season, but if you’re dreaming big for 2023 right now, you may be setting yourself up for disappointment. Think of it this way: How many core starters will the Bears have at the end of this season? They need to bring in a lot of new players and can reasonably make only so many moves in free agency and have only so many draft picks. I don’t think you want to see a massive spending splurge in free agency either. The “Dream Team” didn’t work out so well in Philadelphia in 2011.

The Bears might be able to get into playoff contention sooner than some believe, but there’s a difference in sneaking in as a sixth or seventh seed and being one of the top teams in the conference that can compete for a championship annually. Look at how stocked the rosters of the Buffalo Bills, Kansas City Chiefs and Philadelphia Eagles are right now. Heck, look at the San Francisco 49ers too. There’s talent across the board and depth. That takes time and a lot of work to build. So I believe patience will be required throughout the 2023 season.

The Bears will have roughly $120 million in caps base in the off-season. I would say there’s a good chance that there won’t be $120 million worth of really good players available. And that’s assuming that the Bears could sign every one.

Poles needs to take that space and use it wisely on players that he really wants to sign. If it were me, I would frontload the contracts and use the cap space to keep control of those players long-term while giving them the majority of their money upfront. That would eat up the cap space for 2023 but free it up again for 2024. If you do that for two or three years in a row, eventually you gradually spend the cap space as you’ve signed the players over time that you actually want.

This seems to be a reasonable plan for free agency while you gradually build the team. But spending a whole lot of money in one off-season to try to get good right away seems like a plan that simply won’t work.

The Bears are going to have to be patient and their fans are going to have to be patient and if you’re expecting the Bears to be Super Bowl contenders next year, I think you’re likely to be disappointed. We’re going to have to be in this for a long the long-haul and that cap space is going to have to last for all of it.

I think a wise organization knows that. We’ll soon see if the Bears do.

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