Armed with significant cap space and the third overall pick in this year’s draft, the Bears should be in position to bounce back from their three-win 2016 next season. General manager Ryan Pace is cognizant of that, as he told reporters Wednesday that the Bears are “going to be aggressive and calculated” in the coming months. “This offseason’s huge,” he said (via Brad Biggs of the Chicago Tribune). “And I think there’s a big responsibility with that much cap space, (picking) this high in the draft. It’s a significant offseason for us. And we’ve got to get going in that direction.”
The Bears have gone just 9-23 in two years under Pace and head coach John Fox, but chairman George McCaskey hasn’t put either on the hot seat. “I’m not a patient person but I promised (Pace) that I would be patient,” he stated (via the Associated Press). “With all the adversity that we’ve had, I like the steady hand that he and John have had on the team.”
More from Chicago:
- The Bears’ marquee free agent is wide receiver Alshon Jeffery, a 2016 franchise tag recipient who posted underwhelming production (by his lofty standards) and missed four games because of a suspension for performance-enhancing drugs. Pace assessed Jeffery’s season Wednesday and added that the team has a “big decision” forthcoming on whether to retain him. “I don’t think, I feel like this season, he really got into a rhythm that he would’ve liked to have gotten into,” said Pace (per Mark Potash of the Chicago Sun-Times). “I think that was because a lot of different quarterback play and also he missed four games. It’s hard for him to get in a rhythm and I think he showcased what he can do.”
- As Pace mentioned with regards to Jeffery, the Bears shuffled through various quarterbacks – primarily Matt Barkley, Brian Hoyer and Jay Cutler – this season. The club will now have an offseason call to make on Cutler, who’s a strong release candidate. By cutting the soon-to-be 34-year-old Cutler, whom injuries limited to five games this season, the Bears would save $14MM in cap space against $2MM in dead money. McCaskey revealed he “has always been” a Cutler fan, but he noted that the 11-year veteran’s fate rests with Pace and Fox. A decision on Cutler hasn’t “been completely finalized yet,” according to Pace, who added that the signal-caller is “significantly ahead of schedule” from the right shoulder surgery he underwent last month. At the time same, though, Pace declared that “everything is on the table” as far as finding a franchise passer goes (via Jeff Dickerson of ESPN.com and Conor Orr of NFL.com).
- The Bears will retain their most prominent assistants – offensive coordinator Dowell Loggains and defensive coordinator Vic Fangio – but changes are underway elsewhere on the coaching staff. Fox fired his longest-tenured assistant, offensive line coach Dave Magazu, and let assistant defensive backs coach Sam Garnes go, reports Biggs. The team will also need a new running backs coach, as Stan Drayton stepped down Tuesday to take a position with the University of Texas.