3 Biggest Free-Agent Decisions for New Bears GM and Coach in 2022 Offseason

Alex Ballentine@Ballentine_AlexFeatured ColumnistJanuary 19, 2022

3 Biggest Free-Agent Decisions for New Bears GM and Coach in 2022 Offseason

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    Kamil Krzaczynski/Associated Press

    The Chicago Bears are officially leaving the Matt Nagy-Ryan Pace era behind and embarking on a new period in franchise history. 

    Pace's run as general manager included just one winning season since 2015, which was also Nagy's debut campaign with the Bears in 2018. Since then, it's been an offering of multiple years of mediocrity, with just one playoff appearance that resulted in an exit in the Wild Card Round.

    The new general manager and head coach will walk into a position where tough decisions need to be made.

    There are pieces in place that can help turn the franchise around: Justin Fields could be the answer at quarterback, and the defense still has some elite talent. 

    One of the first things the new head coach and GM must do is take a look at the current batch of impending free agents and decide who should stay and who should go. 

    Here are three of the biggest decisions they will be making. 

WR Allen Robinson II

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    Stephen Maturen/Getty Images

    Allen Robinson II had one of the most puzzling bad seasons of anyone in the NFL. For the majority of his career he has played on bad-to-mediocre teams with bad-to-mediocre quarterback play. 

    Despite playing with the likes of Blaine Gabbert, Mitch Trubisky and Nick Foles he has continued to display the skills of a number one receiver. 

    That was until this season. Playing on the franchise tag after the receiver and the organization couldn't or didn't want to come to terms on a long term deal, he had just 38 catches and 410 yards on 66 targets. 

    Robinson didn't shy away from voicing his frustration with last season's coaching in Chicago during an appearance on the Keyshawn, J Will & Max Show (h/t Beth Mishler-Elmore of Heavy):

    "For me personally, it was extremely frustrating. It was one of the more frustrating seasons I’ve had, especially stepping into the season coming off back-to-back 1,000-yard seasons. And as I’m going through the season and I see some of the game plans, seeing how I’m not really being involved, seeing how I’m not doing the things I have in the past."

    There was obvious friction between Robinson and the coaching staff last season, and the incoming coach and GM will have to determine if the relationship is salvageable and whether the 28-year-old fits into their plans.

OG James Daniels

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    Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

    When it comes to offensive linemen, consistency and availability are huge assets. James Daniels proved he had both in 2021. 

    The 24-year-old played his fourth season with the Bears this year and was one of only 18 players to play every single offensive snap. After missing all but five games last season with a torn pectoral muscle, it was a major milestone for him to show he can remain healthy for a season. 

    As far as consistency goes, Daniels' PFF grade has been 68 or higher for the three seasons he's been healthy. His 71.8 grade was the 18th-highest among guards this season. 

    In other words, the Iowa product isn't among the NFL elite on the interior, but he is a consistent performer who can keep guard from being on the list of team needs this offseason. 

    The only question is how much that will cost the Bears. Over the Cap puts his valuation at $6.2 million based on his play this year, which would be a good aiming point for the organization. 

DT Akiem Hicks

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    Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

    Count Akiem Hicks among the Bears who wouldn't have been back under Nagy but could return for a new regime. 

    The 32-year-old got into a "heated and ugly" dispute with defensive line coach Chris Rumph in his final game of the season against the Giants, per Adam Jahns of The Athletic.

    That was the exclamation point on what had to be a frustrating season for Hicks. When he was on the field, he was again an excellent defensive lineman and graded out as the 23rd interior defender with Pro Football Focus. 

    The big question now is how healthy the Regina product can be in his next contract. He only played in nine games this season as ankle and groin injuries kept him out of the lineup at different points of the season. 

    Spotrac's market value projects a two-year contract for Hicks worth around $11.1 million. That won't break the bank, but it's worth debating since his health could be a question moving forward. 

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