Bears stuck at QB? Ryan Pace says he’s ready to ‘pivot a number of ways’
The Bears’ general manager doesn’t have a franchise quarterback. He isn’t drafting high enough to land one next month without trading years’ worth of picks. The best free agent available when the league year opens March 17 is — gulp — Mitch Trubisky.
Ryan Pace seems stuck.
The Bears’ general manager doesn’t have a franchise quarterback. He isn’t drafting high enough to land one next month without trading years’ worth of picks.
The best free agent available when the league year opens March 17 is — gulp — Mitch Trubisky. Nick Foles, who has won two of his last 12 games as a starter, is the only Bears passer under contract for next season.
The three most obvious veteran quarterbacks to be dealt this offseason have been moved already. The two unhappy superstars, Deshaun Watson and Russell Wilson, might not be traded at all — but if they are, the Bears might not have the chips to land them.
Already tight-lipped this time of year, Pace couldn’t talk about Wilson or Watson on Tuesday because of anti-tampering rules. But he spoke about how he leaned on his relationships with an opposing GM and coach three years ago, when Pace managed to dislodge unhappy edge rusher Khalil Mack from the Raiders in one of the most shocking trades in league history.
“It just progresses,” Pace said. “And then eventually something that might not seem realistic at the time becomes a reality.”
Right now, the Bears don’t have a lot that seems realistic. Pace needs another magic trick.
“We have a plan in place,” Pace said. “Now it’s about executing the plan.”
While Pace’s options dwindled with the trades of Matthew Stafford, Carson Wentz and Jared Goff, he still has dozens of contingencies.
Pace believes a coronavirus-diminished salary cap — it will have at least a $180 million floor, which is $20 million less than the league expected at this time last year — will result in more veterans than ever becoming available. Might one play quarterback?
“I think we’re ready to kind of pivot a number of ways,” he said. “I think that’s going to be important this offseason — especially this offseason.”
As for trades, Pace admitted that the Bears monitor tweets, sub-tweets and other millennial airings of grievances by unhappy players around the league. Pace said he and coach Matt Nagy then check with their counterparts around the league to determine “what’s real and what’s not and different possibilities.”
That real-time access to a player’s state of mind — or, at least, what they put on social media — has never been so prevalent in the NFL. Watson has sent cryptic tweets this offseason, and Wilson’s agent told ESPN last week the Bears are on his preferred list of future homes were the Seahawks to trade him.
The Bears’ trade options go beyond them. Pace and Nagy hinted — strongly — about veteran quarterback options that have gone unreported.
“There’d be some things that might not even be in the media right now that are potential possibilities that we’re talking about,” Pace said.
Nagy, too, opined about “some things that are out there and some things that aren’t out.” Maybe the Bears are invoking the spiritual cousin — and factual opposite — of the “mystery team” that often drives contract negotiations. Perhaps Pace — who said “every single thing is on the table” within the first minute of his news conference — wants the world to know he’s leaving no stone unturned. Either way, it was curious: At a time of year when the coach and GM are incentivized to say absolutely nothing, they both offered the same nugget.
“I think we owe that to ourselves — our own quarterbacks, trades, free agency, draft,” Pace said. “We’re working through that.”
That includes Trubisky, who is about to enter free agency, and Foles, to whom Nagy gave a tepid endorsement. If either is the Week 1 starter, though, the Bears would seem to be going down the definition-of-insanity road: doing the same thing they’ve always done but expecting different results. Nagy and Pace know their jobs are on the line this season. Why would they run it back with a starter who helped get them to this place?
Nagy listed three qualifications for an ideal quarterback in his system: decision-making, leadership skills and an athleticism to move around the field. The third isn’t a deal-breaker — ‘‘We can work around it,” he said — but the other two aren’t. He cited quarterback Alex Smith, who played for him in Kansas City, as an ideal leader. He didn’t scream at his teammates, nor was he a wallflower.
Smith, who recovered from a gruesome leg injury to play for Washington last year, is expected to be available as a free agent this offseason, too.
Just add him to the list of possibilities.
“There’s a lot of different what-ifs,” Nagy said. “And there’s a lot of different, ‘OK, here we are, this is where we’re at. If it’s quarterback X, Y or Z, including the guys that we discussed with Mitchell and Nick, what do we do to get this thing better?’
“In the end, we’ve got to score more points. We’ve got to score more touchdowns, regardless of anything.”