Four questions for Bears GM Ryan Pace as offseason frenzy nears

Pace lies this time of year. He admits as much. Still, there are questions Pace could answer Tuesday that would give some insight into his plans.

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Bears general manager Ryan Pace will hold a press conference Tuesday.

Bears general manager Ryan Pace will hold a press conference Tuesday.

David Banks/Getty Images

Bears general manager Ryan Pace lies this time of year.  

“It’s a difficult time to talk about a lot of things,” he said at last year’s NFL Scouting Combine.

With the combine canceled this year, Pace’s regular news conference has moved from an Indianapolis hotel hallway to a Zoom call Tuesday. His incentive to give any insight into the Bears’ plans remains the same: zilch.  

His inclination to talk about the one topic that has gripped Bears fans is even smaller — mentioning Deshaun Watson or Russell Wilson would, given the quarterbacks’ reported dissatisfaction with their teams, violate the NFL’s anti-tampering policy.

Still, there are questions Pace could answer that would give some insight into his plans. Here are four:

How will your timeline affect your QB decision?

The Bears are facing a must-win season. Does that desperation make Pace less likely to draft a quarterback, knowing even the best long-term solution comes with short-term growing pains?

ESPN draft guru Mel Kiper said Monday that he doesn’t see any of the five first-round quarterbacks lasting to No. 20, where the Bears pick.

“They may have to be very aggressive in order to get one of those other four quarterbacks after Trevor Lawrence,’’ Kiper said. 

In his mock draft, Kiper has the Clemson star going No. 1 to the Jaguars and four passers — BYU’s Zach Wilson, Ohio State’s Justin Fields, Alabama’s Mac Jones and North Dakota State’s Trey Lance — selected among the next eight picks.

To jump from No. 20 to No. 10 in 2019, the Steelers traded No. 20, No. 52 and a 2020 third-rounder. The Bears would have to trade even more, given the premium put on quarterbacks, to do the same.

Have you alienated Allen Robinson?

The Bears have until March 9 to give their star wide receiver the franchise tag, which is a one-year, $18 million contract with a mid-July deadline for a long-term deal, or the transition tag, which would allow Robinson to shop around the league for long-term offers the Bears could match. They could also let him become a free agent.

The franchise tag is likely. Robinson has been frustrated with the lack of an extension for a year now, though. Would the franchise tag motivate either side to work any harder toward a deal?

Is there value — for either side — in a Mitch Trubisky return?

The last time Pace spoke publicly — at the Bears’ season-ending news conference — he sounded hell-bent on improving the quarterback position. But absent a splashy trade, Trubisky might be the best quarterback available to the Bears when the league year opens March 17. Would there be value in bringing the free agent back? 

Trubisky would benefit from a fresh start elsewhere, but the Bears, at least as of today, offer something that few other teams do: an open starting job.

How deep will your cuts be?

The salary-cap floor will be $180 million, but the final total, which will be announced in the next two weeks, could be higher. How many cuts will Pace have to make to get the Bears under the cap — and in position to spend in free agency?

The Bears made their first cut the most obvious one: slot cornerback Buster Skrine. ESPN reported Monday night that the team will release Skrine, saving about $2.7 million in cap space and paying $3.3 million in dead cap money. If the Bears designate him a post-June 1 cut, they can stretch the dead money over two years.

Skrine, who turns 32 next month, played 68% of the time last year but missed the last four games and the playoffs after suffering the sixth reported concussion of his career. 

Other veterans likely on the chopping block include tight end Jimmy Graham and right tackle Bobby Massie. The Bears could try to create space by extending or restructuring contracts for Akiem Hicks, Kyle Fuller, Khalil Mack and others.

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