Bears GM Ryan Pace: C.J. Anderson’s availability was a surprise

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Broncos running back C.J. Anderson. (Getty)

BOCA RATON, Fla. — The Bears’ decision to pursue Denver Broncos running back C.J. Anderson was a curious one because it came after they’d said goodbye to Matt Forte and praised Jeremy Langford and Ka’Deem Carey.

But, as general manager Ryan Pace said Tuesday during the NFL owners meetings, surprises happen in free agency.

‘‘Especially with restricted free agency, sometimes there’s things that surprise you,’’ Pace said. ‘‘Maybe a guy doesn’t get tendered up, so you kind of let it come to you. You might not be going into free agency saying, ‘This is a thing we’re definitely going to target,’ but then all of a sudden something becomes available and you discuss it.’’

In March, the Broncos applied the lowest restricted free-agency tender on Anderson, who was signed as undrafted free agent in 2013. The move opened the door for the Bears or Miami Dolphins to potentially sign him. The Bears already had told Forte in February that he wouldn’t be re-signed.

Anderson signed a four-year, $18  million offer sheet with the Dolphins because of his connection with coach Adam Gase, the former Bears and Broncos offensive coordinator. The Broncos later matched the Dolphins’ offer sheet. In later interviews, Anderson said the Bears offered more money but he turned them down.

Pace likened the Bears’ pursuit of Anderson to the New Orleans Saints’ signing of running back Darren Sproles, a big move made in July 2011 while the Pace was in their front office.

‘‘He wasn’t a restricted free agent, but Sproles kind of came to us,’’ Pace said. ‘‘It made sense, and we pulled the trigger on it, and it was a good move. So C.J. was that way a little bit, too. The way restricted free agency played out led him to us.’’

Depth at running back remains a priority for the Bears.

‘‘There’s certain positions you can never have enough of that player,’’ Pace said. ‘‘Running back in some ways is that, because you can rotate those guys and they all can bring different things to the table.”

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