Bears GM Ryan Poles can downplay it, but this offseason is his big moment

Poles is looking at a team that needs almost everything. But he also has everything he needs.

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This offseason probably will be the most important of Ryan Poles’ run as Bears general manager.

This offseason probably will be the most important of Ryan Poles’ run as Bears general manager.

Kamil Krzaczynski/AP

This probably will be the most important offseason of Ryan Poles’ run as the Bears’ general manager. After the team plunged to the NFL’s worst record while he cleaned up former GM Ryan Pace’s mess, the demolition is done and construction must get underway.

Poles has $118.1 million in salary-cap space and a full slate of draft picks, including No. 1 overall. It’s a far more advantageous position than the one he inherited.

But Poles tried to hit the brakes on the enormous expectations of what he’ll do with those resources.

‘‘Everyone’s talking about how much money we have and how we’re just gonna go crazy,’’ he said Tuesday. ‘‘We’re gonna be sound, so that we get the right players and we get good value.’’

He continued: ‘‘You make a mistake and say, ‘This is it.’ No, we’re gonna approach it the same and be consistent, so that we make sound decisions.’’

Poles doesn’t have much of a body of work to evaluate at this point. Most of his moves have been comparable to what any new GM would have done when taking over for Pace, who mortgaged future draft picks and cap space to build a 6-11 roster.

His two boldest acts came in a span of about 24 hours, when he traded linebacker Roquan Smith for the Ravens’ second-round pick and used his own second-rounder to land receiver Chase Claypool from the Steelers.

The Ravens, by signing Smith to a five-year, $100 million contract Tuesday, showed they agreed with Smith that Poles undervalued him.

Claypool, conversely, created more questions after the trade. It was reasonable to think he would need time to adjust after a midseason trade, but there’s no way anybody at Halas Hall was satisfied with his 14 catches for 140 yards and no touchdowns in seven games.

The draft pick Poles dealt ended up being No. 32 overall (the NFL had stripped the Dolphins of their first-rounder), and when a GM pays that price, he’s planning on having that player for a long time. Poles showed no regret, saying he isn’t ‘‘blinking at that one at all,’’ but he cooled when he was pressed about whether it influenced his opinion on signing Claypool to the contract extension he almost will certainly seek before next season.

‘‘I wish he came in with 1,000 yards, but it didn’t happen that way,’’ Poles said. ‘‘But do I believe in that talent and what he can bring to this team? Yeah, I still think we’re going to get that.

‘‘In terms of the contract stuff, we’ve just got to . . . see how he gets implemented and how he does in this offseason. He’s going to spend a lot of time with Justin [Fields], as well as the other receivers, and build that chemistry. We’ll evaluate that even clearer next year.’’

Claypool is going into the final season of his rookie deal, as are cornerback Jaylon Johnson, receiver Darnell Mooney and tight end Cole Kmet. Any player who has produced, as Claypool did with 1,733 yards and 11 touchdowns in his first two seasons, would want an extension before training camp.

Even at their best, however, neither Claypool nor Mooney is the game-changing receiver the Bears need. Poles has to bring in someone above them through free agency, the draft or the ever-unpredictable trade market, though he doesn’t necessarily see it that way.

‘‘You can have a collection of guys that work really well [and] a tight end mixed in with the group,’’ he said. ‘‘You would love a No. 1. I hope one of these guys on our roster — or if someone’s available — can develop into that guy. . . . We’re always trying to look for playmakers, and hopefully one of the guys we have will elevate to that position.’’

Every position needs upgrades, by the way. Poles’ job is to prioritize and fix the most glaring deficiencies.

If he’s certain of Fields as his quarterback, next is defensive end. The Bears were last in the NFL in sacks this season and have the flexibility to replace their entire defensive line. Poles listed pass rusher first among ‘‘premium positions,’’ followed by offensive line and cornerbacks.

The Bears are far from complete in all three of those spots, and they’re only solid at quarterback if Fields makes substantial strides. Poles is looking at a team that needs almost everything. But he also has everything he needs. He can downplay it, but this is the time for him to show he was the right choice for the job.

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