Free agency was different for general manager Ryan Pace this offseasonm because of quarterback Mitch Trubisky and new coach Matt Nagy.
But when it comes to the draft, Pace’s approach remains the same. He signs players in free agency who allow him to be in a position to select the best player available in the draft, rather than feel compelled to pick based on positional needs.
After a flurry of moves this week, here is a look at what the draft might hold for the Bears next month:
Pass on defensive backs?
At first glance, it would seem foolish for the Bears to consider drafting Alabama’s versatile Minkah Fitzpatrick, Ohio State cornerback Denzel Ward or Iowa cornerback Josh Jackson with the eighth overall selection.
But locking in cornerbacks Prince Amukamara (three years, $27 million) and Kyle Fuller ($12.971 million transition tag) shouldn’t preclude the Bears from drafting a defensive back early.
The Bears still need playmakers. Amukamara, 28, is a steady veteran but hasn’t had an interception in back-to-back seasons. He only has seven interceptions in seven seasons.
By comparison, Jackson had eight interceptions and broke up 26 passes in his final season at Iowa.
As for Fuller, who led the Bears with 22 pass breakups last season, a longer deal will come only after questions about his long-term place and value are answered. A level of uncertainty still remains. It’s why the Bears opted to use the seldom-used transition tag. The Bears believe his value is below the cost of the franchise tag ($14.975 million).
Fitzpatrick is an intriguing player for many teams within the top 10. He played multiple positions in college, making nine interceptions, including four pick-sixes, in three seasons as a starter.
Go deep on receivers?
Drafting a receiver still makes sense for the Bears even after adding Allen Robinson and Taylor Gabriel. The question is when?
Receiver is different than defensive back. It’s not as top-heavy or as deep, especially when compared to previous seasons. The value for receivers is believed to be in the second and third rounds.
Last year, the Rams added Sammy Watkins (trade) and Robert Woods (free agency) but still drafted Cooper Kupp in the third round. Kupp led all Rams receivers with 62 catches for 869 yards.
Alabama’s Calvin Ridley is considered the best receiver. Interestingly enough, Ridley is about to become a 23-year-old rookie, while Robinson is 24 and about to enter his fifth season.
The Bears are expected to sign additional outside linebackers in free agency, but limited options highlight the importance of finding pass rushers in the draft.
The best news for the Bears right now is that teams already are positioning for quarterbacks in the draft. In a dream scenario, North Carolina State’s Bradley Chubb — by far the best pass rusher in the draft — falls to them after an early run on quarterbacks.
The aggressiveness and desperation of those QB-hungry teams could result in Chubb, Fitzpatrick, Notre Dame guard Quenton Nelson, or even Penn State running back Saquon Barkley being available at No. 8.
Or it could result in more opportunities to move around in the draft and add more picks. That’s another dream scenario for Pace. The Bears lack a third-round pick after trading up for quarterback Mitch Trubisky last year.
The Bills agreed to terms on a two-year deal with quarterback A.J. McCarron and the Cardinals are adding Sam Bradford and Mike Glennon, but both teams are said to be hot after quarterbacks in the draft. The Bills are in striking distance after acquiring the 12th selection from the Bengals in a trade involving left tackle Cordy Glenn. They leapfrogged the Cardinals, who have the 15th pick.
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