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Why Ryan Pace’s draft was ‘good different’

Print it on T-shirts. Make it a hashtag. 

Bears GM Ryan Pace is entering his seventh season.
Bears general manager Ryan Pace traded up to take quarterback Justin Fields in Round 1.
Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

Coach Matt Nagy searched for the words to describe the crackling nervous energy and eruption of emotion in the Bears’ draft room when general manager Ryan Pace traded up to land Ohio State quarterback Justin Fields in the first round Thursday.

‘‘I wish everybody could kind of experience it one time in their life,’’ Nagy said. ‘‘Because it’s different. It’s a good different.’’

Print it on T-shirts. Make it a hashtag.

Fan opinion of the Bears, compared to those nervous moments before the pick Thursday, is good different. National analysis of the franchise is good different. Pace’s seventh draft was good different.

Fields is the second-highest quarterback the Bears have drafted since Jim McMahon went fifth in 1982 and the most accomplished college passer they’ve added since Rex Grossman in 2003.

Teven Jenkins, the first-round talent whom the Bears traded up to draft in the second round Friday, is the highest offensive lineman they’ve selected since Kyle Long eight years ago.

There was little Pace could do Saturday to top the Bears’ first two picks. He started the day with a fifth-round pick and three sixth-rounders. He added a seventh by trading back.

Pace came away with typical Day 3 fare: developmental players and special-teamers with quirky stories. Virginia Tech running back/return man Khalil Herbert has six toes on his left foot, and North Carolina receiver Dazz Newsome is named after a West Coast rapper. Missouri tackle Larry Borom and 24-year-old BYU nose tackle Khyiris Tonga combine to weigh almost 650 pounds. Oregon cornerback Thomas Graham went to seven-on-seven camps with second-year Bears corner Jaylon Johnson when they were in high school.

Maybe a couple of those five will become contributors. But Pace’s draft rests on his first two picks. His reputation, tarnished by the Mitch Trubisky pick in 2017, only can be rejuvenated by Fields.

Nagy compared Pace’s draft strategy to a coach who spends game week preparing play-calls for certain situations. This year, Pace dialed up the right plays. That was clear late Thursday at Halas Hall.

‘‘You can just feel the energy in the room,’’ Nagy said. ‘‘You can feel the energy from each person, and that’s really ultimately what it’s all about.’’

It’s Pace’s job now to take advantage of that momentum. He has work to do.

The Bears entered draft week with the least amount of salary-cap space in the NFL — $410,075. That’s not enough to sign draft picks or add veteran free agents. The Bears will do both, however, in the coming weeks.

Pace only would say the Bears have ‘‘plans in place’’ to make room once they’re done agreeing to deals with undrafted free agents.

It’s notable that Pace ducked questions about whether left tackle Charles Leno will remain on the roster. It’s fair to wonder whether drafting Fields will re-energize the Bears’ contract talks with receiver Allen Robinson, who never has played with a quarterback with so much raw talent. Swapping out his franchise tag for a long-term deal would create serious cap space.

Somehow, Pace has to make room.

‘‘There are guys, still, that we have targeted with other teams — that could be potential cuts or potential trades — that we’re watching closely,’’ Pace said.

The Bears drafted five offensive players, their most in 13 years, and Pace said he wasn’t concerned with defensive depth.

Graham won’t help the Bears immediately fill the gaping hole left by cornerback Kyle Fuller’s departure. It’s fair to wonder whether Desmond Trufant, whose contract isn’t guaranteed, will, either.

Adding Newsome, who plays the same slot-receiver spot as on-the-outs Anthony Miller, won’t prevent the team from looking at wideouts.

The one position they don’t need is quarterback. On Thursday, Nagy called starter Andy Dalton to explain why the team was taking Fields.

‘‘That’s just how we do things around here,’’ Nagy said.

It’s unclear whether Nagy meant to poke the Bears’ rivals. On Thursday, word leaked that Aaron Rodgers, still hurt by the Packers drafting quarterback Jordan Love without telling him last year, might refuse to play for them again.

When the season ended, the Bears had the worst quarterback situation in the NFC North. By the time the next one starts, they might have the most talented passer in the division if Rodgers forces his way out.

That would be different. A good different.