4 big takeaways from free agency for the Bears

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Alyssa Barbieri
·5 min read
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The Chicago Bears are coming off a disappointing 8-8 season that ended in a one-and-done appearance in the playoffs. And, unfortunately, the arrow doesn’t appear pointing up for this franchise.

Chicago didn’t make any significant splashes in free agency, but they did add some depth at linebacker and defensive end, as well as re-signed some of their own key free agents. And, of course, there was the Andy Dalton signing, which still isn’t sitting well with a lot of fans.

Now that the first two waves of free agency are in the books, it’s time to evaluate how the Bears have done so far this offseason.

Here are some big takeaways from the first two waves of free agency for the Bears.

Chicago doesn't seem like a team in win-now mode

Clay Jackson /Herald & Review via AP

This Bears team has been in "win-now" mode since the 2018 season, which gave them their best shot at making a Super Bowl run. Unfortunately since then, everything's been downhill. For a team that's supposedly in "win-now" mode, their moves during free agency don't really reflect that. While general manager Ryan Pace did take a big swing at trading for Russell Wilson -- a move that didn't pan out -- this was also a team that released two-time Pro Bowl cornerback Kyle Fuller, contemplated releasing defensive tackle Akiem Hicks and signed another mediocre veteran quarterback in Andy Dalton. Simply put, this Bears team hasn't gotten better this offseason, which is concerning to say the least. Mostly because it feels like this might not be a make-or-break season like we all thought. For all of the talk about Pace and head coach Matt Nagy being on the hot seat this season, it's hard to ignore the signs that they could be guaranteed a job beyond 2021. We'll see what the Bears wind up doing in the 2021 NFL draft -- do they settle for a Day 2 quarterback or make a move to trade up for one of those top-five prospects?

The Bears aren't done addressing the QB position

Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

Chicago has gone out of its way to praise the signing of Dalton -- someone that they had a chance to land last offseason and instead went with Nick Foles. Which, honestly, would you expect anything else? At this point, it's clear that the Bears aren't done addressing the quarterback position. While Chicago made a push for Wilson -- and haven't abandoned hopes of landing him, just yet -- that seems to be off the table at this point. The most likely option is that Chicago will be drafting a quarterback, despite Pace's aversion to drafting quarterbacks during his six-year tenure. The only question is where the Bears decide to make a move. While reports have indicated that Chicago will be targeting a Day 2 quarterback -- someone like Kellen Mond, Kyle Trask or Davis Mills -- that doesn't necessarily rule out them potentially trading up to grab a Justin Field, Trey Lance or Mac Jones. After all, if we've learned one thing with Pace it's that whatever he appears to be doing, he's intending to do the exact opposite. So we could be in for a trade come draft time.

The salary cap isn't a myth

Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports

One of the silly rumors that has been floating around the NFL is that the salary cap is a myth. Which it's easy to see why many believe that given the different avenues teams can do to in order to move money around and keep deep rosters in tact. But Bears fans have seen firsthand that the salary cap is no myth given the release of two-time Pro Bowl cornerback Kyle Fuller. Fuller was owed $20 million in 2021, a move that a salary cap-strapped Chicago team chose not to deal with. Sure, they could've inked him to a contract extension to spread that money out -- something many see as an indication that the salary cap is a myth. But the Bears really had no choice, as Pace said during his press conference last week. Why else would Chicago release arguably its most reliable defensive back and leader on defense? Especially given the concerns at cornerback and the massive hole Fuller's release leaves behind.

The NFL draft has become even more important

Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

The NFL draft is the foundation for building a successful team, so it's already an important part in building Chicago's roster. But given everything that's happened in free agency -- the release of Fuller, signing Dalton, a lack of a starter next to Eddie Jackson, the uncertainty of Allen Robinson's future -- the draft is even more important this year. The Bears have several glaring needs heading into the draft -- offensive tackle, cornerback, wide receiver, quarterback and safety. And, for the first time in three years, they have a first-round pick. With several important needs, Chicago could go in many directions with their first two picks. That's why it seems unlikely that they'd trade away valuable draft capital to trade up and draft a quarterback, although it's certainly still a possibility.

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