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Critical Eyes Look Down on Bears Free Agency Moves

By Gene Chamberlain,


Initial responses praised the Bears for their free agency work but newer examinations of signings are less glowing.

The rosy afterglow from the trade down made by the Bears and their first 10 free agent signings has faded somewhat heading into April.

Also gone are all the positive outlooks.

Some recent revisionist pictures of the offseason, or of free agency overall, have rated the Bears lower for doing far less with their cash than they should have done.

Sports Illustrated's Matt Verderame presented one, and so did Pro Football Focus' Brad Spielberger.

The two put the microscope to Bears moves and determined everyone should hold the applause initially given to Bears GM Ryan Poles—or at least moderate it somewhat.

Verderame gave the Bears only a C+ grade for free agency and found flaws in what they did with the most cap space in the league.

"For starters, Chicago spent close to $100 million on off-ball linebackers, who between them, have made one Pro Bowl," Verderame wrote. "The other concern is all the premium positions the Bears needed to fix going into free agency—left tackle, corner, edge rusher—are still problems. It feels incomplete."

Poles did explain part of the reason he focused on linebacker, with $72 million to Tremaine Edmunds and $19.5 million to T.J. Edwards, was the talent level available compared with what they could find this year in the draft.

Spielberger wasn't as harsh and wasn't grading free agency, but did call Edmunds a "boom-or-bust" candidate who will be compared to Roquan Smith because Poles decided to give him $72 million and not give $100 million to Smith.

Spielberger did acknowledge the great strides made by Edmunds as a younger free agent last year and concluded: "If all pans out, Chicago may have pulled off quite the shrewd move by replacing Roquan Smith for much cheaper."

This bottom line to comparisons might be money in the view of some people, but the Bears aren't even using Edmunds at the same position in their defense where Smith played. Smith was weakside linebacker and Edmunds is playing the middle position.

So unless they turn Edmunds into the weakside, they'll be comparing apples to oranges. How Edwards does now iwill be a more comparable comparison to Smith, and they played him about $6.5 million a year instead of $20 million a year.

While PFF didn't grade the free agency period for teams, they did put out their overall power rankings and the Bears are 26th.

"The Bears have made some solid moves in free agency and still have the most salary cap available of any team," PFF pointed out.

ESPN had ranked the Bears 27th, so at least 26th is a step for Poles and coach Matt Eberflus in the right direction—a very small step.

Twitter: BearDigest@BearsOnMaven

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