After first-round failures, Bears GM Ryan Pace bets on other teams’ castoffs
In the last three weeks, the Bears have either added or agreed to add seven players from other teams. Four of them are former first-round picks.
Half of general manager Ryan Pace’s four first-round picks never got a second contract from the Bears. A third, Mitch Trubisky, seems headed in that direction.
The Bears haven’t said whether they’ll pick up his fifth-year option, but they just traded a fourth-round pick and gave $21 million guaranteed to quarterback Nick Foles. It’s either an admission the Bears made a mistake when they drafted Trubisky — or a very expensive hedge.
Pace, though, keeps betting on pedigree.
In the last three weeks, the Bears have added or agreed to add seven players from other teams. Four of them are former first-round picks.
Pace made one big bet — on outside linebacker Robert Quinn, the No. 14 pick of the 2011 draft. Quinn is getting $30 million guaranteed in a five-year, $70 million deal to try to re-create his revival season with the Cowboys last year. His 11½ sacks in 2019 were Quinn’s most since 2013, when he had 19.
The other three signings, though, are small one-year gambles on first-rounders who, like wide receiver Kevin White and outside linebacker Leonard Floyd, were let go after four years or fewer with their original team:
† The Seahawks decided a year ago not to offer offensive lineman Germain Ifedi a fifth-year option, which would have paid him a staggering $10.3 million. That was an easy call, considering Ifedi led the league in penalties in 2017 and finished in the top 10 in the two years since. The Bears are hoping to benefit from a change of scenery for the No. 31 pick in the 2016 draft — and maybe a change of position. They could move the 6-5, 325-pounder inside to right guard, where he started 13 games as a rookie before switching to right tackle. He’d replace converted defensive lineman Rashaad Coward, who has the same measurements as Ifedi.
† The sixth pick in 2013, outside linebacker Barkevious Mingo was traded by the Browns after only three seasons and seven sacks. Since then, he has played for a new team every year — the Patriots, Colts, Seahawks, Texans and now the Bears — and has totaled only four more sacks. He’s a draft bust who found a way to stick around. He played three-quarters of the Texans’ special-teams snaps last year. After giving him $1.187 million, the Bears could use him in the same way. He could spell Quinn on rush downs, too.
† The 25th pick four years ago, cornerback Artie Burns had three interceptions as a rookie and started all 16 games the next season. His fall from grace was precipitous — Burns played 99.3 percent of the Steelers’ defensive snaps in 2017, then 29.5 percent in 2018 and 6.1 percent last year. The Steelers like to reward their own players as much as any team in the NFL. It’s a statement, then, when they decide to let a first-round pick leave after only four years. The Bears have a vacancy at Prince Amukamara’s old position, but Burns will have to beat out Kevin Toliver, CFL star Tre Roberson and likely a draft pick if he wants to start. He doesn’t turn 25 until May, though, so the Bears are paying $1.047 million to see if he has some upside left.
If one of the three castoffs turns into a solid starter — probably
Ifedi — Pace’s gamble will have been worth it. If the others contribute on special teams, signing them would be considered wins.
After hitting on so few of his own first-round picks, Pace has a low bar to clear when signing someone else’s — and far less to gain than he did when he sent his own first-round picks to be read at the podium on draft night.