The Chicago Bears made headlines all offseason. A new head coach, big-name free agents and a widely praised draft class has drawn comparisons to the Los Angeles Rams efforts that led to a miraculous turnaround and playoff berth in only one season.
According to ESPN's recent poll of 12 NFL executives, the Bears' moves weren't necessarily perfect. In fact, they received a B- for their offseason grade.
This Bears offseason comes down to whether Matt Nagy is the right choice as head coach. Most execs liked the decision to select Roquan Smith eighth overall, despite some concerns over positional value for a 3-4 inside linebacker that early. They were less thrilled about the offensive skill players Chicago added in free agency. They loved the decision to use the transition tag for cornerback Kyle Fuller despite some questions about the price paid.
Taylor Gabriel was cited as a "bad contract" in free agency. That's not necessarily a shocking opinion given Gabriel's lacking history of production. He's never emerged as more than a third or fourth option in a passing game. That said, he played his last two seasons in Atlanta where the passing game started and stopped with Julio Jones, and before that was with the Browns where receivers go to die.
Gabriel will play the zebra position in Nagy's offense. It's a role that will accentuate his strengths; he'll gain a ton of yards after the catch and show off his straight-line speed down the field. A bad contract now could turn into a great one by season's end.
The reality is that all decisions in free agency and the draft are gambles. If Robinson's knee becomes bothersome during the season or Smith has trouble adjusting to NFL speed, all of the moves praised in May and June will be criticized in November and December.
This offseason feels a little different, however. Ryan Pace made calculated decisions with an obvious plan in mind. He signed and drafted specific players for that plan, and in t-shirt and shorts season, those decisions look like good ones.
Receiving a B- from his colleagues isn't something to brag about, but it certainly could be worse for Pace and the Bears.
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