Five things we learned from Bears GM Ryan Pace at the NFL Scouting Combine

INDIANAPOLIS — With a new coach, a young quarterback and a contract extension, Bears general manager Ryan Pace discussed his team’s future Wednesday at the NFL Scouting Combine.

Here are five things we learned:

1. Pace won’t spend wildly, though he can afford it.

Shortly after Pace announced the Bears’ intentions to cut quarterback Mike Glennon and outside linebacker Willie Young, the salary-tracking website projected they will have a whopping $80 million in salary-cap space, third-most in the league.

Bears general manager Ryan Pace poses with Matt Nagy after Pace introduced Nagy as the club's 16th head coach Jan. 9 at Halas Hall.
| Charles Rex Arbogast/AP

Pace knows agents will try to use that against the Bears in negotiations.

‘‘Just because you have cap space doesn’t mean you can be reckless with these decisions,’’ he said. ‘‘So we have to be strategic, disciplined and calculated as we enter free agency.’’

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Pace has been all three thus far, but he hasn’t been good at choosing free agents. For every Akiem Hicks and Danny Trevathan on his resume, there are even more misses: Glennon, Markus Wheaton, Marcus Cooper, Quintin Demps, Eddie Royal, Antrel Rolle and more.

‘‘I think that’s the nature of free agency,’’ he said. ‘‘I think the less you can dabble in it, probably, the better.’’

While Pace continues to talk with the agents for franchise-tag candidate Kyle Fuller, he’s exploring extensions for players already under contract, including nose tackle Eddie Goldman and safety Adrian Amos.

2. The Bears are a more attractive destination than they were last year.

Wonder why free-agent cornerback A.J. Bouye said he decided to sign with the Jaguars last offseason, even though the Bears offered more money? With coach John Fox entering a potential lame-duck season and with only Glennon cemented at quarterback, the Bears simply weren’t attractive to free agents last offseason.

A year later, the Bears have quarterback Mitch Trubisky and coach Matt Nagy, whose four-year deal runs as long as Pace’s new contract. There’s stability where there wasn’t before.

‘‘Yeah, I think that’s real,’’ Pace said. ‘‘When you look at free agency, for the most part, it comes down to the money, to be honest with you. But I think a lot of times when you look at it and you see stability with the coaching staff, you see a quarterback that’s in place . . . I think those are all attractive traits when people view our organization.’’

3. The Bears need someone to lead.

When they started the 2017 season, the Bears had five permanent captains: Glennon, guard Josh Sitton, linebacker Jerrell Freeman, Demps and special-teams whiz Sherrick McManis.

In an eight-day span, the Bears decided to part with four of them. The fifth, McManis, will be a free agent.

Quarterback Mitch Trubisky figures to be a captain next season. Beyond that, the Bears will look for leaders to emerge.

‘‘It’s a young team; I feel like there are a lot of guys in the locker room who are kind of ready for that role,’’ Pace said. ‘‘I think that has to organically happen as we go through this process. But this is a young team, and I think those guys will naturally emerge as we go forward.’’

4. Injured players are on track.

Pace said receiver Kevin White (broken shoulder blade), guard Kyle Long (neck and shoulder surgery), outside linebacker Leonard Floyd (knee surgery) and restricted free-agent receiver Cam Meredith (knee surgery) will be ready for training camp.

‘‘It’s hard to put timelines on these guys because those variables change,’’ he said. ‘‘But we feel good about where they’re all at right now.’’

White having an upper-body injury has allowed him to work on his route quickness, Pace said.

‘‘He’s kind of got a chip on his shoulder now,’’ Pace said. ‘‘We’re going to add more to that room, but Kevin, it’s just unfortunate with the injuries. But we’re still excited about where he’s at.’’

The Bears hope a change in philosophy will help them avoid injuries. They named Jason Loscalzo strength and conditioning coach and Andre Tucker head athletic trainer, Pace said. They’ll work with sports-science coordinator Jen Gibson.

5. Cody Whitehair is the Bears’ wild card.

The third-year center’s ability to switch to guard means the Bears will explore both position groups when looking to replace Sitton, whose option they declined to pick up last week.

‘‘We’ll see how the dust settles, but once that player-acquisition period is over, I do think it’s important for [Whitehair] to kind of settle in at one spot,’’ Pace said. ‘‘But right now, we have some flexibility with that.’’

Pace and Nagy have been honest about which linemen best fit Nagy’s system.

‘‘I think when mistakes are made in organizations, it’s when the personnel department and the coaches are not on the same page,’’ Pace said. ‘‘That continuity is important. That chemistry is important.’’

Follow me on Twitter @patrickfinley.


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