How Should Ryan Poles Be Judged By His Signings Last Offseason?

Brad Biggs at the Chicago Tribune
answers your questions.

Count me among those buying stock in Ryan Poles coming loaded in 2023 with the enviable cap flexibility and improved draft capital. However, the performance of Poles’ guys this season has me leery of the GM’s aptitude for talent evaluation. The rookies have been understandably up and down but his free-agent acquisitions have been lackluster at best. There’s still time, but the trades for N’Keal Harry and Chase Claypool haven’t borne much fruit either. If Poles doesn’t hit it out of the park personnel-wise this offseason should Bears fans start sweating? — David D., Arlington Heights

You’re right that the Bears haven’t gotten a whole lot out of their free-agent additions, but we’re talking about mostly stop-gap measures on one- or two-year deals. You get what you pay for, right? When you spend $4 million per year on Lucas Patrick and $4 million per year on Byron Pringle, you’re not expecting a whole lot — or at least you shouldn’t be. Those guys have suffered multiple injuries and now the Bears have gotten even less from them. Justin Jones has been OK on the defensive line, certainly more productive than Al-Quadin Muhammad.

I wouldn’t judge Poles’ ability to add key pieces via free agency based on what he did last March and April. As far as the draft, let’s see where the current class is in another two years or so. A lot of folks want an instant success/failure indicator and it doesn’t work that way. Let’s have some patience and see what unfolds in the offseason.

Biggs has a point. But I’m going to push back just a little bit.

It is true that individually you don’t expect much out of the free agents that Poles signed. They were bargain basement guys and we all knew that when they signed them.

But having said that, really good organizations seem to find the occasional hit amongst free agents like this. Guys that they dig up that for whatever reason they have not succeeded in the previous organizations but that fit the schemes and what the Bears are trying to do. Taking individually, of course, these are long shots. But as a group you would expect a really good GM to find one or two hits amongst the free agents that were signed last off-season. I haven’t really seen enough of that.

Of course, it’s early. And many of these guys might get better if they’re surrounded by better talent once the Bears start fortifying the roster from the draft. Biggs cites the case of Justin Jones who, though he has been inconsistent, has shown flashes of talent that leads to him getting penetration against the run.

And, to be fair, none of none of these guys has been a complete bust. Most of them have given something.

So I haven’t made any broad sweeping judgments about Poles’ ability to find and judge talent and put it on the roster. But my antennae are up and I’ve seen nothing to indicate any of extraordinary ability in this area that you hope to see in a new GM. The judgements will be much more firm next fall when the Bears’ resources aren’t so limited.

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