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Where The Bears Upgraded Most In Free Agency


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Ryan Pace's draft drew rave reviews from most website analysts and cable TV pundits.

The consensus was the B+ to A- range as a grade for getting a top quarterback and a top tackle in the first two rounds without giving up an excessive amount.

They needed it because free agency couldn't bring in much, with most of their salary cap cash eaten up by Khalil Mack, Robert Quinn and a franchise tag on Allen Robinson II.

Still, Pace made good use of his meager allowance for free agency. They brought in necessary players, some who might even take jobs from starters and some who will push the starters.

Here's where Pace got it right in the offseason, aside from his trade up on draft day to get Justin Fields.

5 WR Damiere Byrd

Even if Byrd doesn't wind up among the first three Bears receivers, this one was an important signing because it should light a fire under wide receiver Anthony Miller to pay more attention to details, like the playbook and the adjustments necessary on routes. Byrd is capable of winning the third receiver spot because of his combination of speed/route running. Miller should be the favorite because a player who knows the offense can operate faster. Byrd is resilient and has fought his way into playing time with two other teams. He's with his fourth team in four years. He'll provide a battle, at worst. At best, he could be good enough to get the Bears to trade Miller.

4 T/G Elijah Wilkinson

Every team needs a swing tackle, and not every team gets a swing tackle with the ability to start at guard as well. Wilkinson has done this. The Bears especially needed a tackle because the idea of starting a rookie at left tackle on Day 1 like they are doing with Teven Jenkins is sometimes wishful thinking. The problem is, Wilkinson isn't the ideal swing tackle because he's never swung to left tackle. He has always been on the right side. If Jenkins can't handle the assignment, Wilkinson better be able to play the left side as advertised. It's at least a bit of a gamble.

3. OLB Jeremiah Attaochu

They can't play Khalil Mack every down. They might not want to play Robert Quinn every down. You need a third edge player and in this case Attaochu fits perfectly because he's coming to the Bears after two years playing in the same defense now being used in Chicago by Sean Desai. Attaochu is not an ideal fit because he's much stronger rushing the passer than he is at dropping occasionally into coverage. In fact, he has been awful in coverage, allowing 11-for-11 when targeted in those two seasons with Denver in this scheme. He's not going to let Desai disguise much along the line of scrimmage or in the flats, and Quinn already is a liability because he doesn't drop off into coverage. The Bears have other players who can cover the pass, like Christian Jones. They needed someone to rush when Mack is getting a breather and Attaochu is it.

2. QB Andy Dalton

The Red Rifle might be a quarterback but he's not even the most important quarterback they brought on board this year, let alone the most important free agent. Dalton is a bridge quarterback and the Bears hope he does well but the bottom line is his time as starter ends when Justin Fields' time begins. Of course, now the question is when will this happen. It is going to happen at some point, so it's difficult to call Dalton the top signing.

1. RB Damien Williams

If the Bears had Damien Williams last year they could have won the first game they lost to Minnesota, the game they played without an actual backup running back. They might have even completed a comeback bid against Tennessee because they lost David Montgomery to a concussion late in that one. After Tarik Cohen's injury last season, the Bears had seven straight games without gaining 100 rushing yards and didn't get over 63 yards rushing in six of those. How much of a difference would it have made to have a change-of-pace back in those to give defenses something extra to think about? It's difficult to say. The Bears were trying to use a kick returner at running back, Cordarrelle Patterson. Although Patterson's listed position is receiver, he's never been able to play this spot and he wasn't a real threat as a receiver out of the backfield. Williams not only has been a solid ball carrier but has been a pass-catching threat coming out of the backfield, averaging 23 catches a year on only 207 snaps a year for 8.0 yards per reception. If Cohen isn't completely ready to resume play after his ACL tear, Williams can handle this. If it's time for Montgomery to rest, Williams can handle this. If there's a need to activate the run with a different type of back than Montgomery, Williams was a 4.45-second 40 guy who can break away. There is backfield depth this year after Pace failed to find the proper amount last year, and that was a critical mistake on his part.

 

This article first appeared on Bear Digest and was syndicated with permission.

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We should all hope and pray that for Dalton and Fields sake Tevin Jenkins takes to LT like a duck takes to water because sure as my name is soulman Elijah Wilkinson is no LT and not even that good of a RT.  Two LTs who have not played LT much if at all is a little scary.

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Byrd was a nice pick up.   He is an underrated football player.    Going to kick someone off roster like Ridley or Wims.  Bummer for them.   

Williams is decent depth I guess.  Probably kicks Nall and Pierce off team.  

Rest is meh.  

Dalton is a rep stealer.  

 

 

 

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6 hours ago, soulman said:

We should all hope and pray that for Dalton and Fields sake Tevin Jenkins takes to LT like a duck takes to water because sure as my name is soulman Elijah Wilkinson is no LT and not even that good of a RT. 

Pretty clear the Bears brass differs on that take. We'll find out who's right about Wilkinson in the next few weeks. 

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The Bears improved depth in free agency.

I doubt any of these guys make a big impact… outside of getting some clowns off our roster.

Wims

Nall

Spriggs

Coward

It is embarrassing that these 4 actually played meaningful snaps for the Bears last season.

 

It also reduces the roll for free agent mega busts in Foles and Quinn.

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1 hour ago, Heinz D. said:

Pretty clear the Bears brass differs on that take. We'll find out who's right about Wilkinson in the next few weeks. 

He was generally bad to very bad for the Broncos when he had to make starts at OT.

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45 minutes ago, WindyCity said:

He was generally bad to very bad for the Broncos when he had to make starts at OT.

I don't think Pace signed him because he hoped Wilkinson would be bad. 

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2 hours ago, Heinz D. said:

Pretty clear the Bears brass differs on that take. We'll find out who's right about Wilkinson in the next few weeks. 

Only going by what I saw of him out here.  Not even as good as Massie.  IMHO he's too slow afoot to play OT or at least that's how he's looked out on the edge.  He's a 330 lb mauler like Ifedi but not anywhere near as nifty.  At best he's a discount aisle swing OT we should hope never plays.

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1 hour ago, WindyCity said:

The Bears improved depth in free agency.

Agreed and I will give Pace credit for acquiring some players who can make the 2021 Bears better than the 2020 version.

Goodwin and Byrd add some much needed speed and a push behind Miller and Mooney.

Jones gives us an experienced ILB at least as good as KPL but one who can also blitz and edge rush.  (hated to lose him to Detroit in FA)

Calitro has some starting experience in Seattle and Jax and adds competition for Woods and Iggy.

Blackson is experienced depth and the same with Pennel. (hated to lose RRH but ya' can't keep every UFA).

IMHO signing Williams to backup up Montgomery is huge.  He's a major upgrade over Patterson and Pierce at RB.

 

We're stronger at the middle roster spots where the primary depth lives and hopefully some of the new talent will push on or out some of the back end of the roster talent.  I don't see us as being quite as vulnerable to injuries as we were in 2020.

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10 hours ago, soulman said:

Only going by what I saw of him out here.  Not even as good as Massie.  IMHO he's too slow afoot to play OT or at least that's how he's looked out on the edge.  He's a 330 lb mauler like Ifedi but not anywhere near as nifty.  At best he's a discount aisle swing OT we should hope never plays.

Oh, I hear ya. And obviously, there is a reason the Broncos let him walk--and they didn't have a great offensive line in the first place. He could well bust, he may not even make the team if Pace is scouring the waver wire around the final cutdowns, etc. But to me, it's clear that Pace sees him as a young dude that Castillo can coach up. I don't have a strong opinion either way as to whether Pace will end being right, or not. 

We'll see what happens. 

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1 hour ago, Heinz D. said:

Oh, I hear ya. And obviously, there is a reason the Broncos let him walk--and they didn't have a great offensive line in the first place. He could well bust, he may not even make the team if Pace is scouring the waver wire around the final cutdowns, etc. But to me, it's clear that Pace sees him as a young dude that Castillo can coach up. I don't have a strong opinion either way as to whether Pace will end being right, or not. 

We'll see what happens. 

The current trend seems to be finding OTs who actually spec out best as NFL OGs.  Wilkinson fits that description.

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