Chicago Sun-Times expert Adam L. Jahns breaks down the Bears’ first wave of free-agent moves and looks ahead to the work they have left to do:
Ryan Pace’s free-agent spending has been …
Refreshingly subdued. It took four years but Pace no longer needs free agency as much he did earlier in his tenure when he sent Phil Emery’s acquisitions packing and tried to remain relatively competitive. The Bears have become an example that a team’s belief and patience in a GM — if they have the right one — can pay off if given the time and resources.
My favorite move thus far has been …
The signing of kick returner/receiver Cordarrelle Patterson. The Bears signed a player who can flip the field on special teams and offensively with one big play. Coach Matt Nagy surely will fill up that ceiling-to-floor dry-erase board he has in his office designing plays for him. Patterson is another chess piece for a diverse offense that already features fellow speedsters Tarik Cohen and Taylor Gabriel.
How should the Bears fix their kicker issue?
Cast their net far and wide — and keep it that way. It doesn’t make financial sense to sign a high-paid veteran, although it will be possible to find an affordable one as the job market for kickers shrinks. Still, the Bears should keep their kicker competition open into the regular season. It will be easier to make in-season changes without a major contract on their books. The Bears should be open to that idea after the Cody Parkey fiasco.
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What will the Bears do with Jordan Howard?
Keep him. Why not? At this point, Howard is the Bears’ best back for early downs. He’s the only one who has 1,000-yard seasons on his resumé. He might not be a great fit but he still has value. Of course, the Bears could draft his replacement in the middle rounds. It’s a good year for mid-tier backs. But if the Bears don’t, Howard should be extremely motivated being in the final year of his rookie contract.
What is the Bears’ most overlooked area of need?
Pass rusher. They simply don’t have enough of them after releasing Sam Acho and with Aaron Lynch being a free agent. The combination of Khalil Mack and Leonard Floyd remain the Bears’ future, but pass rushers trail only quarterbacks in terms of importance. The Bears need more.
Have the Bears given Mitch Trubisky enough help?
Yes and no. The Bears will never stop adding around Trubisky. This year, it was Patterson, a versatile threat with blazing speed, and running back Mike Davis, a low-mileage back who proved himself on third downs last season with the Seahawks. Last year, the Bears signed Gabriel, Allen Robinson and Trey Burton. The Bears always will operate with Trubisky in mind
Are the Bears better today than they were the day the season ended?
Yes — and forget their recent personnel acquisitions. It’s a matter of experience on offense. Trubisky and Co. won’t have a complex offense to learn this season, starting with organized team activities. Trubisky, himself, shouldn’t be as overwhelmed. As Nagy said at the NFL Scouting Combine, “now we can start playing ball.” The reigning NFL coach of the year surely knows what he’s talking about.