Bears' Early Report Card for Most Impactful Offseason Decisions

Jake RillFeatured Columnist IIMarch 21, 2022

Bears' Early Report Card for Most Impactful Offseason Decisions

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    Nam Y. Huh/Associated Press

    Ryan Poles is in his first offseason as the Chicago Bears general manager, and he's been busy. Although the team hasn't made the biggest splash in free agency, it has brought in players to fill key roles in 2022.

    Before free agency began, the Bears traded elite pass-rusher Khalil Mack to the Los Angeles Chargers. That created more financial flexibility for Chicago, and it showed the types of moves Poles is willing to make.

    There's still plenty of the offseason left, and the Bears still have work to do. They may not sign a superstar free agent or swing any more huge trades, but there may be notable transactions on the horizon.

    Here are some grades for several of Chicago's early offseason decisions.

Trading LB Khalil Mack to Chargers

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    Jason Behnken/Associated Press

    Khalil Mack had a solid four-year stint with the Bears, who landed him in a big trade with the then-Oakland Raiders in September 2018. He was especially impressive during his first three seasons with the team, recording 30 sacks, 14 forced fumbles, two interceptions and one touchdown in 46 games over that span.

    However, Mack was limited to seven games last year because of a foot injury. Now 31, he will be looking to rebound in 2022 as a member of the Chargers.

    In return for the edge-rusher, Chicago acquired a 2022 second-round draft pick and a 2023 sixth-round selection. That isn't a ton of draft capital, but Los Angeles also took on the remainder of Mack's contract, which is worth $63.6 million against the cap over the next three seasons, per Spotrac.

    The Bears may not be a contender this coming season, and losing Mack gives them more cap space to try to address various positions of need. In that regard, it made sense to deal the six-time Pro Bowler. But at the same time, Chicago lost one of its best players and won't have nearly as much star power on defense.

    Grade: B-

Signing DE Al-Quadin Muhammad and DT Justin Jones

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    Gary McCullough/Associated Press

    Since trading Mack, the Bears have worked to replenish their defensive front. They haven't signed any big names, but they have inked defensive end Al-Quadin Muhammad and defensive tackle Justin Jones to deals.

    Muhammad spent the past four seasons with the Indianapolis Colts, and he hasn't missed a game over the past three years. In 2021, he started 17 games and recorded a career-high six sacks. The 26-year-old has the potential to build off that in 2022.

    Jones also brings a good bit of experience to Chicago, as he started 35 games for the Chargers over the past three seasons. He set career highs in tackles (37), sacks (three) and fumble recoveries (two) in 11 games in 2021, so the 25-year-old also looks to be on the rise.

    Neither defensive lineman is a star, but they both have the potential to fill notable roles for the Bears moving forward, especially with each man under contract for two seasons. These are low-risk signings with a lot of potential upside.

    Grade: B

Signing WRs Byron Pringle and Equanimeous St. Brown

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    Jack Dempsey/Associated Press

    Leading wide receiver Allen Robinson II signed a three-year, $46.5 million deal with the Los Angeles Rams on Thursday, bringing an end to his time in Chicago. It didn't come as a surprise that he didn't return to the Bears, especially considering his down season in 2021.

    Chicago needs to add to its receiving corps and give quarterback Justin Fields better targets to throw the ball to. So far, the Bears have added a few depth receivers, signing Byron Pringle and Equanimeous St. Brown to one-year deals.

    Pringle has the higher upside of the two after recording 568 yards and five touchdowns over 17 games with the Kansas City Chiefs last season. St. Brown, meanwhile, didn't put up big numbers over his three seasons with the Green Bay Packers.

    Although one of these receivers could take his game to another level in Chicago (most likely Pringle), the Bears still need to bring in a stronger playmaker to line up on the other side of Darnell Mooney. Until that happens, Chicago's offense won't reach the next level.

    Grade: C+


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