There are several reasons why a player decides to leave a team to become a free agent. He could have had a big season and now looks to cash in. On the other hand, it could be that there is a system change and the player doesn’t feel he fits anymore. Then there are players who haven’t lived up to their teams’ expectations. For one reason or another, things just didn’t work out. Chicago Bears general manager signed many of his free agents for the last reason.

One of the reasons many around the league feel that the Bears’ 2020 free agency signings didn’t hit the mark is because there is a lot of hoping in those signings.

Of Pace’s seven signings so far, four of them are former first-round picks. He signed edge rusher Robert Quinn (14th overall pick in the 2011 draft). Germain Ifedi was the 31st overall pick in the 2016 draft. Barkevius Mingo was the sixth overall pick in the 2013 draft. Finally, Artie Burns was the 25th overall pick in the 2016 draft.

Of those four high draft picks, Quinn is the most established. He had 11.5 sacks last season, but even he has some questions. Before 2019, he had four consecutive seasons with single-digit sacks. Is his 2019 season a result of wanting to cash in on a big contract?

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It is interesting to see Ryan Pace going after other teams’ first-round picks. His history of picking in that round is a bit spotty. His first pick was Kevin White. That was a forgettable experience. Then there’s Leonard Floyd, the recent castoff. He might have been good against the run but he just couldn’t rush the quarterback. Now, the same might happen with Mitchell Trubisky. He struggled in 2019 and it appears as if Pace and head coach Matt Nagy are running out of patience with him.

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Patrick Finley of the Chicago Sun-Times wrote about Pace going after other teams’ castoffs.

After hitting on so few of his own first-round picks, Pace has a low bar to clear when signing someone else’s…

As Finley surmises, it won’t take a lot for Pace’s gamble to pay off. Quinn will probably play well being Khalil Mack‘s rush partner. If Burns and Mingo can help give the starters some snaps off and help out on special teams that’s a plus.

The key is Ifedi. If he moves over to guard and plays like the player the Seattle Seahawks expected, then Pace wins. Ifedi has the tools to succeed, but his penchant for committing penalties hurt him. If he turns that around, Ryan Pace could look like a genius.

Pace’s gambling has paid off at times. He went after safety Eddie Jackson when other teams shied away because of his leg injury. Now Jackson is one of the top safeties in the league. He also signed defensive lineman Akiem Hicks who underwhelmed with the New Orleans Saints and the New England Patriots.

Perhaps this is Pace’s way of acknowledging his early-round difficulties. In this year’s draft, he has no first-round, third-round, or fourth-round picks. However, from the fifth round until the end of the draft (covering picks #163 through 233 they have five picks. Basically, he’s using free agency as first-round picks (he does have two second-round picks he may decide to move to get into the first-round but he likely uses one of them to move down to get more mid-round picks).

Let’s see if Ryan Pace’s gamble pays off. If it does, then the Chicago Bears could see themselves competing in the playoffs for years to come.


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