With Ryan Pace’s roster in a ‘really, really good place,’ don’t expect much cut-day drama
The Bears must submit their 53-man roster to the NFL by 3 p.m. Saturday, but most every relevant player has been written in ink for weeks.
General manager Ryan Pace’s life changed a year ago Saturday.
That’s when the Raiders, having solicited the best offers for Khalil Mack from select NFL teams, notified the Bears that they had a deal for the star edge rusher. The Bears had a 24-hour window to negotiate a contract with Mack.
It was done in mere hours. By the end of the evening of Aug. 31, 2018, the Bears had an agreement in place. Word didn’t leak until early the next morning.
Pace doesn’t mess around this time of year. In his four previous seasons, he has cut a two-time Pro Bowl player (cornerback Tim Jennings, 2015) and the Bears’ all-time leading scorer (kicker Robbie Gould, 2016). The day after making cuts in 2016, he signed Josh Sitton, a two-time Pro Bowl guard who had been released by the rival Packers.
This year, Pace doesn’t have to do any of that.
Short of Pace deciding the fate of kicker Eddy Pineiro — and that’s merely the resolution of seventh months of franchise angst, so, you know, no pressure — the Bears’ roster is practically set.
The Bears must submit their 53-man roster to the NFL by 3 p.m. Saturday, but most every relevant player has been written in ink for weeks. Forty-two of the healthy players who were benched Thursday night figure to have made the team. Throw in the kicker, punter and long snapper, and the Bears are only one shy of the 46-man roster they must make active every game day.
They’ll add a few more pieces before the season opener against the Packers. The waiver wire Sunday could yield the Bears’ backup offensive tackle, an extra outside cornerback or even a fourth outside linebacker. But that’s just coloring in the edges of the roster, which is as well-constructed as any Bears team in a decade.
Maybe Pace — who describes his own front-office ethos as “No regrets” — has a surprise in store this weekend. History says that’s possible.
But it’s hardly necessary.
“Just to see what [Pace] has done [from] when he got here to right now — if you look at that roster right now — it’s pretty amazing,” coach Matt Nagy said Thursday night.
The Bears’ starters are so cemented that they sat out the preseason, almost to a man.
Only six offensive starters took the field in exhibitions. Out of the 2,717 preseason offensive snaps, the Bears’ starters played 22 — or 0.81 percent of them.
Only four starting defenders took a snap. Out of 2,959 preseason defensive snaps, the Bears’ starters played 20 — or 0.67 percent of them.
“For us, we’re in a really, really good place right now in the depth of our roster,” Nagy said. “That’s part of the reason why I feel like we’re a little bit different than other teams and why we can do this in the preseason, with trying to see how our backups are, our last spots.
“That’s a credit to Ryan. Ryan’s done an amazing job in making sure we have a plan. He communicates that plan to his personnel staff. He communicates the plan to us as coaches. We talk through it.”
If the Bears still had two kickers on their roster, cornerback Prince Amukamara said he’d be intrigued by which one survived the final cuts. Because they don’t, Amukamara doesn’t think the Bears will have a single surprise Saturday.
“Even going into this offseason with drafting and free agency, we pretty much had our needs fulfilled,” he said. “We didn’t have a lot of holes on offense and defense. . . .
“That credit just goes to the management upstairs and them doing a good job.”
There will be new faces in the locker room by Monday. Any waiver claims figure to be depth pieces at best, though.
“I do think we’re going to pick up some guys,” Amukamara said.
Nagy said there are a “couple of spots” where the Bears know they need to improve over the weekend. He won’t be hindered by traditional roster-balance rules; no position group has a quota.
“We’re going to try our best to keep our best players,” he said.
For the first time in years, the Bears know those players are good enough to compete with anyone in the league.