Ryan Pace

Bears Offered Seahawks Three First-Rounders For Russell Wilson In 2021

When Russell Wilson‘s agent named Chicago as an acceptable trade destination in 2021, the Bears sprang into action. They made what was labeled at the time as a “very aggressive” offer for the perennial Pro Bowler. More details on that proposal have since emerged.

Then-Bears GM Ryan Pace is believed to have offered three first-rounders, a third and veteran players for Wilson in March 2021, Patrick Finley of the Chicago Sun-Times reports. At the time, Wilson had listed the Bears, Cowboys, Saints and Raiders as teams for whom he would be willing to waive his no-trade clause. While the Broncos were subsequently added to his list, they were not part of the original group.

At this point, the Seahawks were not prepared to trade their franchise quarterback. John Schneider took the offer to Pete Carroll, who determined he did not want to trade Wilson, Finley adds. It is not known which players the Bears were prepared to deal away in 2021, which ended up being Pace’s final year on the job in Chicago.

This was one of the original Wilson what-ifs. The Commanders offered three firsts for Wilson in 2022, beating the Broncos in terms of Round 1 choices included, but he would not waive his no-trade clause for Washington. The Eagles and Browns also pursued the potential Hall of Famer in 2022, but Wilson determined Denver would be the best fit.

The Seahawks turned down the offer in March 2021, leading the Bears to the draft. Pace initially sent the terms to Schneider at Trey Lance‘s pro day in Fargo. A month later, the Bears then vaulted up to No. 11, (via the Giants) to nab Justin Fields. While the Fields-Bears fit has proven rocky, the Ohio State product’s run-game brilliance in 2022 notwithstanding, Chicago did not have to give up what it would have cost to pry Wilson from Seattle.

A year after this offer did not move the needle for the Seahawks, they engaged the Broncos on a swap that came to pass in March 2022. The Seahawks then received a stunning season from three-year Wilson backup Geno Smith and have him signed to a team-friendly deal, which becomes a pay-as-you-go accord following this season.

The Bears, of course, signed off on a similar trade in 2009. They sent the Broncos two first-rounders, a third and Kyle Orton for Jay Cutler in April 2009, with that swap coming weeks after a Cutler-Josh McDaniels feud developed. Cutler ended up setting franchise records for QB starts, passing yards and touchdowns but only piloted Chicago to one playoff berth in his eight-year run. The Bears have struggled to replace the strong-armed passer, who had arrived in Chicago ahead of his age-26 season. Mitch Trubisky bombed, and Fields enters Week 4’s Broncos matchup with the NFL’s lowest QBR.

Wilson has not lived up to the Broncos’ investment, and the decision by management to authorize a five-year, $245MM extension — featuring $124MM fully guaranteed — before seeing how the trade acquisition fit with Nathaniel Hackett has hurt the organization. After the Hackett fit proved disastrous, Wilson has shown better form with Sean Payton. Of course, the Broncos join the Bears at 0-3, thanks largely to a suddenly leaky defense. Wilson, 34, will attempt to continue his progression in Payton’s offense, but his long-term future in Denver is far from certain.

Falcons Promote Kyle Smith To Assistant GM, Ryan Pace To Pro Personnel Director

The Falcons have made a pair of internal moves in their front office. Both Kyle Smith and Ryan Pace have received promotions, reports Jonathan Jones of CBS Sports (Twitter link).

Smith’s position is now assistant general manager, a step up from the role he had upon his arrival in Atlanta in 2021. He worked as the Falcons’ VP of player personnel for the past two years, the same position he held at the time of his Washington departure. Now, he will have a larger voice in Atlanta’s front office, which has been led by GM Terry Fontenot since 2021.

Smith drew interest from other teams before joining Atlanta, so his lateral move in terms of title was seen as a potential stepping stone toward a promotion in short order. The 38-year-old has been viewed as a serious future GM candidate, and this move will bring him closer to that possibility down the road. He will continue supporting Fontenot’s efforts to move the Falcons back into contender status after the team’s recent financial reset.

Pace, meanwhile, will hold the title of director of player personnel moving forward. The ex-Chicago general manager quickly found his next gig by joining the Falcons last winter after being fired by the Bears. Heading to Atlanta allowed Pace, 46, to reunite with Fontenot after the pair worked together in New Orleans before their respective GM hires. The former worked as a senior personnel executive last season.

Smith and Pace will look to use their new, advanced roles to help guide the Falcons to a postseason berth in what should be a wide-open NFC South in 2023. Their success in that endeavor could be a key part of the evaluation of Fontenot moving forward.

Falcons Host OL Germain Ifedi

Germain Ifedi is still looking for his next home, and the veteran offensive lineman may have a chance to continue his career in Atlanta. According to ESPN’s Field Yates (via Twitter), the Falcons hosted the offensive lineman on a visit today.

Ifedi spent the past two seasons in Chicago, where he was originally recruited by former Bears GM (and current Falcons executive) Ryan Pace. The lineman started 23 of his 25 games during his time with the Bears, spending time at guard in 2020 before shifting to right tackle in 2021 following the release of Bobby Massie.

Ifedi missed a chunk of the 2021 season with a knee injury, and after starting the first two games following his return, he was demoted to special teams for Chicago’s final two contests.

The offensive lineman was a first-round pick by the Seahawks in 2016, and he ended up starting all 60 of his games during his four seasons with the team. His fifth-year option was ultimately declined, leading to him inking a one-year deal with Chicago in 2020.

Falcons Add Ryan Pace To Front Office

Ryan Pace wasn’t out of work for long. The former general manager of the Bears has been hired by the Falcons under the title of senior personnel executive, per NFL Network’s Tom Pelissero (Twitter link). 

At 37, Pace was the youngest GM in the NFL when he was hired in 2015, taking over for Phil Emery. His first major move was hiring John Fox as the team’s new head coach, beginning a three-year stretch that saw the team finish in the basement of the NFC North each campaign and produced the second-lowest winning percentage (.292) in franchise history. Fox was fired, but Pace received a two-year extension.

The 2018 season was a different story, as new HC Matt Nagy led the team to a 12-4 record and a division title, helped in large part by 2017 draftee quarterback Mitch Trubisky and offseason trade acquisition Khalil Mack. Pace was named Executive of the Year as a result of the team’s success. Things started to go south from that point on, though, as another playoff appearance in 2020 couldn’t outweigh Trubisky’s shortcomings. Speculation steadily increased that he and Nagy were on the hot seat heading into 2021.

As deep into this past season as November, it was believed that Pace’s job in Chicago could be safe. However, Pace was indeed fired, along with Nagy, after the regular season ended with the team going 6-11, albeit with promise in the form of rookie QB Justin Fields. The pair have been supplanted by highly-regarded replacements in GM Ryan Poles and HC Matt Eberflus.

By joining the Falcons, Pace will reunite with GM Terry Fontenot. The two worked together in New Orleans, the only franchise either had worked for prior to their respective GM hires. That familiarity will help them re-shape a roster facing numerous cap troubles and, sometime as early as this offseason, the need for a new QB. Pace could play a significant role in helping Atlanta get back in contention in what could be a wide-open NFC South.

Bears Request To Interview Pats’ Eliot Wolf

The Chicago Bears have added another candidate to their list of potential replacements for former-general manager Ryan Pace. According to a tweet from ESPN’s Adam Schefter, the Bears have requested to interview Patriots’ senior consultant Eliot Wolf for their open general manager position. 

Wolf started off as a pro personnel assistant in 2004 with the Packers, where his father, Ron Wolf, served as general manager from 1991 to 2000. In eight years with the team, Eliot worked his way into the director of pro personnel role, which he held for three years. In his last two seasons in Green Bay, he spent time in the roles of director of player personnel and director of football operations.

He left Wisconsin for the assistant general manager position in Cleveland before taking his current position as a senior consultant in New England.

Wolf has heard his name make the rounds for open general manager positions before. He first interviewed in San Francisco, after the 49ers fired Trent Baalke following the 2016 NFL season. He was also considered to follow in his father’s footsteps in Green Bay and succeed the late-Ted Thompson when he stepped down from the position following the 2017 season.

Wolf is likely hoping that he will finally get his chance to take the next step up for the bitter rivals of the team that gave him his start.

Bears Fire HC Matt Nagy, GM Ryan Pace

In another expected move to begin ‘Black Monday’ in the NFL, the Bears are parting ways with Head Coach Matt Nagy, according to ESPN”S Adam Schefter (Twitter link). Nagy becomes the fourth recent firing in the NFL, joining Vic Fangio from the Broncos, Mike Zimmer from the Vikings and Brian Flores from the Dolphins. 

It had long been expected that Nagy was on his way out of Chicago as the 2021 season progressed with offensive struggles continuing with and without rookie quarterback Justin Fields. While the 43-year old survived rumors leading up to their Thanksgiving day game against the Lions that he would be let go midseason, he didn’t do enough in the remainder of the campaign to change ownership’s mind.

Not long after the news of Nagy’s firing broke, NFL Network’s Tom Pelissero Tweeted that GM Ryan Pace has also been fired. Pace had held the GM title for seven seasons, a span that included the drafting of Mitch Trubisky in 2017 and only two postseason appearances (with no wins). It was reported in November that Pace may be safe for one more year, but the Bears are obviously cleaning house instead.

After four seasons, Nagy finishes with an overall regular season record of 34-31, along with two postseason appearances that each ended in first-round exits. After a 12-4 season that earned him Coach of the Year honors in 2018, the Bears went 8-8 for the next two campaigns and ended up a disappointing 6-11 in 2021.

Even before it was made official that Nagy was let go, a few names came up recently who may be in line to replace him. According to a recent report, two candidates to keep an eye on are Colts defensive coordinator Matt Eberflus and Patriots linebackers coach Jerod Mayo. Other options have been linked to the Windy City as well, but in any event it is believed the new HC will lean more towards the ‘leader-of-men’ type than Nagy’s ‘quarterback whisperer’ style.

Along with Jacksonville and Las Vegas, the Broncos’ decision to move on from Fangio over the weekend in addition to the three firings today brings the total number of head coaching vacancies in the league to six. With Pace out, there are now two open GM positions.

Bears Considering Front Office Changes

Matt Nagy is not expected to be retained for a fourth season as Bears head coach, but the team is not certain to oust GM Ryan Pace. However, Pace’s status is among the matters being debated within the organization.

Firing Pace and potentially revamping the organizational structure are scenarios chairman George McCaskey is considering, according to The Athletic’s Adam Jahns (subscription required). Last month, a report emerged indicating Pace could well be back to hire a third coach. But the Bears have lost three of their past four games since then, with the lone win coming over the Lions. They are now 4-10, having dropped eight of their past nine.

McCaskey has completed early groundwork on making changes, per Jahns, who adds team president Ted Phillips is not a lock to stay in his role. While the Bears should not be expected to fire their longtime president, the prospect of Pace or another GM reporting directly to McCaskey in the future is on the table. The past three Bears GMs — Jerry Angelo, Phil Emery and Pace — have reported to Phillips, who serves as the team’s top non-McCaskey executive.

A Phillips retirement looms as a possibility, Jahns adds. Phillips has been in his post since 1999. His role as the exec between the GM and McCaskey became a point of contention during the Bears’ previous GM hiring cycle. Former Bears exec Chris Ballard, who was up for the job Pace landed, wanted to restructure the front office were he hired in 2015. That desire caused the Bears to move in a different direction. Ballard stayed with the Chiefs before becoming Colts GM.

Should they remain in their current roles, Phillips and Pace would be McCaskey’s point men in replacing Nagy, who is set to close a sub-.500 season for the first time. The Bears, however, have won one playoff game since advancing to Super Bowl XLI. The Buccaneers and Cardinals have benefited from allowing their GMs to hire a third head coach, with Jason Licht eventually signing Tom Brady and Steve Keim adding the Kliff KingsburyKyler Murray duo. The Chargers have also allowed their GM, Tom Telesco, to select three HCs.

McCaskey keeping Pace on would not be a popular decision in Chicago, given his decision to trade up for Mitchell Trubisky in 2017, but he was also behind the team’s Justin Fields move. It would not shock if the first-time GM stuck around to help see that plan take shape. If the Bears keep Pace, he would certainly enter 2022 on a hotter seat. The franchise may need to act quicker than usual on the firing front, with the NFL now permitting teams with HC vacancies to interview candidates next week. Pace would stand to be at the center of the team’s next HC-hiring process, should be stay on as GM. The Bears have never fired a coach in-season.

Bears HC Matt Nagy Unlikely To Be Fired Mid-Season, Still On Hot Seat

Matt Nagy‘s job appears to be safe — for now. The Bears are unlikely to fire their head coach before the end of the season, according to NFL.com’s Ian Rapoport (Twitter link). 

[RELATED: Bears’ George McCaskey On Nagy Rumors]

Rumors of Nagy’s imminent firing were rampant last week, with one report suggesting that he would be dismissed after the Thanksgiving Day game against the Lions. For his part, Nagy says such talk “is not accurate,” though he canceled the Bears’ scheduled meetings Tuesday afternoon. And, as of Tuesday, Nagy said he had yet to speak with owner George McCaskey, team president Ted Phillips, or GM Ryan Pace about his status.

We all have our own decisions as to how we do things, and I think this whole entire time, for me and for ownership, we’ve had great communication,” said Nagy when asked about the recent lack of clarity from the Bears’ top brass. “[We’re] focused on Detroit. That’s what it is.”

On Wednesday, McCaskey told players and coaches that Nagy would not get a pink slip for Thanksgiving. Still, barring a total 180, it’d be a surprise to see him return in 2022. Indeed, Jason La Canfora of CBS Sports hears that change could be inevitable.

Around this time last year, we were hearing that it was more likely than not that Nagy would be fired at the end of the 2020 campaign. While ownership ultimately elected to give its HC one more chance to right the ship, the Bears’ struggles this season are probably too much for him to overcome.

The good news for Chicago is that many offensive-minded coaches view rookie QB Justin Fields as a quality passer that they can build around. So the club, which is expected to consider popular candidates like Tampa Bay OC Byron Leftwich, New England OC Josh McDaniels, and Buffalo OC Brian Daboll, might be able to land its top target. However, Northwestern HC Pat Fitzgerald, whom the Bears have coveted for some time, remains uninterested in the post.

Meanwhile, although we recently heard that Pace might not be fired at season’s end, La Canfora notes that his status is very much up in the air as well.

Bears GM Ryan Pace Could Return For 2022

Bears head coach Matt Nagy did his best to quash the speculation that tomorrow’s Thanksgiving game against the Lions would be his last on the Chicago sidelines, but there seems to be at least some fire to that smoke. Bears fans are doubtlessly wondering whether GM Ryan Pace, who was on the hot seat last year, might also be in his final days as a Bears employee.

However, league sources tell Kevin Fishbain of The Athletic that Pace could be retained for the 2022 season, which would mark his eighth year on the job. After all, there are currently three clubs — the Buccaneers, Cardinals, and Chargers — who have hired three head coaches under one GM, and all three of those teams have legitimate championship aspirations. Plus, Bears ownership generally places a high value on stability and thinks rather highly of Pace, which could give the team’s top exec one more bite at the apple.

Unfortunately for him, Pace’s tenure has been largely defined by the Mitchell Trubisky trade that has helped to undermine the Bears’ fortunes in the last few seasons. Pace’s decision to trade four draft picks to move up from the No. 3 overall selection in the 2017 draft to the No. 2 overall pick to acquire Trubisky — when players like Deshaun Watson and Patrick Mahomes were still on the board — was widely panned at the time, and it has not aged well. Though Trubisky earned a Pro Bowl nod in 2018, his subsequent regression ultimately led him out of Chicago and took him to Buffalo, where he is presently serving as Josh Allen‘s backup.

Another black mark on Pace’s resume is the fact that the Bears have yet to win a playoff game in his time at the helm (they have only qualified for the playoffs twice since Pace was hired in 2015, and at 3-7, the 2021 postseason is a pipe dream). So while the blockbuster Khalil Mack trade in 2018 brought Chicago a terrific defensive player, the draft capital Pace surrendered to acquire him did not produce any hardware and cannot be considered a success.

Pace has certainly done some good things. He has a solid track record in the middle and late rounds of his drafts, and though the Trubisky selection was a major misstep, first-round rookie Justin Fields has given the Bears some hope that he can be the long-term answer at quarterback that the team has been seeking for so long. And, as Fishbain posits, the Chicago roster features a strong, young core.

Assuming Nagy is fired either later this week or at the end of the season, the next head coaching search will be geared towards finding a candidate that can help Fields to blossom, something Nagy could not do with Trubisky. The question is whether Pace will be around for that search.

NFC North Notes: Bears, Sewell, Bateman

In a comprehensive piece, Adam Jahns of The Athletic details how Bears GM Ryan Pace, head coach Matt Nagy, and the rest of Chicago’s brain trust approached their quarterback situation this offseason. These types of behind-the-scenes stories are always worth a read, especially for fans of the team in question, and particularly notable here is that the club identified the No. 8 through No. 12 overall selections as the “sweet spot” to target a collegiate QB. Pace’s predraft research indicated that trying to acquire the Falcons’ No. 4 overall pick would require too much draft capital, but he didn’t want to start calling teams holding picks eight through 12 too early for fear of tipping his hand.

So he waited until the day of the draft to start making those calls, and while the early run on QBs pushed down quality players at other positions, Pace identified Ohio State QB Justin Fields as his top target. 11 Bears staffers filed reports on Fields, and all of them had very similar grades on him. Pace and Giants GM Dave Gettleman had worked out the parameters of a trade earlier in the day, and when Fields was still on the board after the Eagles leapfrogged the Giants — Pace feared Philadelphia might have been targeting Fields — Chicago and New York were able to swing a trade that brought the former Buckeye to the Windy City. Now, Pace and Nagy will hope that the bold maneuver will help them keep their jobs.

Here’s more from the NFC North:

  • Even though the Bears just signed Andy Dalton this offseason, they extended him a courtesy that the Packers did not extend to Aaron Rodgers when they drafted Jordan Love last year: they told Dalton that they might pick a QB. “I talked to [Dalton] earlier in the day on [the day of the draft], and we were just catching up,” Nagy said (via Albert Breer of SI.com). “And at the same time I said, ‘Hey, listen man, I have no idea which way this thing may go, you never know, but all positions are open and we can do a lot of different things, including at quarterback. So I just want you to understand that and be aware for that.'” Of course, the news couldn’t have come as a surprise to Dalton, who was signed to a one-year contract and who presumably has no delusions that the Bears acquired him as their quarterback of the future, but it’s the type of gesture that might have helped ease the strain on the Packers’ relationship with Rodgers.
  • The Lions‘ first-round pick, No. 7 overall selection Penei Sewell, has tested positive for COVID-19, as Sewell himself tweeted several days ago. He will therefore miss this weekend’s rookie minicamp, but at this point it sounds like he is either asymptomatic or else has mild symptoms, so there shouldn’t be any cause for concern.
  • The Packers selected Georgia CB Eric Stokes with the No. 29 overall pick of the draft, but if Minnesota WR Rashod Bateman had still been around, execs around the league believe he would have been the choice, as Jeremy Fowler of ESPN.com writes (subscription required). Of course, taking a first-round receiver this year after selecting Love in the first round in 2020 might not have been enough to placate Rodgers. The Ravens took Bateman off the board with the No. 27 overall selection.
  • The Vikings have been busy over the past couple of days, trading cornerback Mike Hughes to the Chiefs and signing first-round pick Christian Darrisaw.