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How four moves in the 2020 offseason have hampered the Chicago Bears

ByAaron Leming 3 hours ago

The 2020 was an interesting offseason for many reasons in the NFL. The start of COVID, the financial uncertainty and the overall uncertainty clouded the football world. For some teams, they used that as an opportunity to take a more conservative approach. For general manager Ryan Pace and the Chicago Bears, they chose to take a bigger swing and have ultimately hurt their immediate future because of it.

2019 was a disappointing year for the team. There’s no real way around that. Despite going (12-4) and being a Cody Parkey field goal away from advancing in the playoffs in 2018, they dropped to a disappointing (8-8) the following year. It’s never easy to transition from going “all in” at the end of a rebuild to facing a harsh reality that the most important piece to the puzzle still wasn’t there. That, of course, was the quarterback position.



Pace has always been known as an aggressive general manager and undeniably “too aggressive” at times. The 2020 offseason highlighted that quality. Despite the financial uncertainty that hung around heading into that acquisition period, the Bears’ general manager swung for the fences. Because of that, he now faces four brutal contracts that have in essence held the team back from a much-needed re-tool this past off-season. Actions have consequences and for Pace, those consequences will spread over into the next few off-seasons as they look to build around Justin Fields.

Make sure to check back with the Bear Report for more coverage of the Chicago Bears this offseason.



SLIDE 1 of 4

Edge Rusher Robert Quinn

10006292.jpeg?fit=bounds&crop=620:320,offset-y0.50&width=620&height=320(Photo: Jonathan Daniel / Staff, Getty)

Edge Rusher Robert Quinn (5 year, $70 million contract with $30 million fully guaranteed)

The mechanics of this move define exactly who Pace is as a general manager. Not only did they choose to sign an inconsistent veteran pass rusher to a deal that averaged $14 million per season, they also rescinded the fifth-year option of their former No. 9 overall pick to do so.

To be fair to Pace, Leonard Floyd had not exactly blossomed into the pass rusher they had hoped he would be. Well, That was until he left Chicago and had his first 10-plus sack season with the Los Angeles Rams. Even so, it’s hard to hold that part against the team when operating purely based on hindsight.

Regardless, giving a 30-year-old pass rusher the type of long-term commitment Pace did was a questionable move. Even in the moment. To reward the Bears for their “efforts”, he produced just two sacks in 15 games in his first year with the team. Yes, Quinn had come off an impressive 2019 season where he had (11.5) sacks but that was his first double-digit sack year since 2014.

The other issue with this deal? It was severely backloaded in such a way that doesn’t allow the team a clear “out'' until at least 2022. If they decide to cut him next off-season, they could save $6.7 million (with $9.3 million in dead money) or use a June 1st designation to save $12.9 million. My hunch is that they won’t opt for a June 1st designation because they’ll need the money to start the off-season.

This was the first of four moves that crippled their immediate future due to a short-sighted roster-building principle.

SLIDE 2 of 4

Quarterback Nick Foles

10015583.png?fit=bounds&crop=620:320,offset-y0.50&width=620&height=320  (Photo: CBS Sports)

Quarterback Nick Foles (2020 fourth-round pick and a 3 year, $24 million restructured deal with a true $21 million guaranteed)

Normally when a general manager hands out bad contracts, he doesn’t make the same mistake multiple times in the same off-season. That’s operating on the mindset that a general manager isn’t desperately trying to salvage his perceived “Super Bowl Window” that closed faster than it opened.

They say patience is a virtue, yet it was something the Bears refused to exercise last year during their quarterback search.

Flashing back to the 2020 free-agent quarterback market, it was one of the more impressive ones in quite some time. Tom Brady, Phillip Rivers, Teddy Bridgewater, Andy Dalton, Marcus Mariota and Cam Newton just to name a few. Dalton and Newton took a bit to break free but even so, it was all but assumed both players would be traded for peanuts or (most likely) released.

Despite the market, Pace panicked. Working in tandem with head coach Matt Nagy, they decided that “jumping the market” was the best course of action due to “scheme familiarity”. Yes, they could have had Dalton for a cheaper price all the way around but familiarity reigned supreme and Foles was their guy. Waiting on Newton or Dalton would have required patience the team’s decision-makers simply didn’t have.

There are a few different key issues with this move.

  1. They gave up a fourth-round pick for a quarterback that had a negative value to the majority of the league.
  2. They gave an inconsistent quarterback in a deep quarterback market $24 million on a restructure for a short-term solution. Not to mention, this was purely for “competition” with former No. 2 overall pick, Mitchell Trubisky.

Regardless of how you cut it, Pace panicked. The trade has led Foles to appear in eight games, while currently sitting as the team’s third quarterback on the depth chart. On top of that, he will count $6.67 million against the cap in 2021 and will count as another $5 million against the cap next year.

SLIDE 3 of 4

Linebacker Danny Trevathan

8829102.jpg?fit=bounds&crop=620:320,offset-y0.50&width=620&height=320(Photo: Matt Cashore, USA TODAY Sports)

Linebacker Danny Trevathan (3 years, $21.75 million contract with $13.625 million guaranteed and three void years attached)

Growing up, they always teach you not to buy luxury items you can’t afford. Well, Pace clearly didn’t get that message and Trevathan became yet another foolish move in the series of disastrous events that unfolded in the 2020 offseason.

Keep in mind, the Bears had three inside linebackers coming out of contract that year. Those included Nick Kwiatkoski and Kevin Pierre-Louis, who were both younger. The frugal move would have been to give Pierre-Louis the same one-year, $3 million deal he received from Washington. Even if they wanted to spend some money, investing in the younger player like Kwiatkoski made more sense. He received a three-year, $21 million deal with only $10.125 million in guarantees. Which came out slightly cheaper than Trevathan’s deal overall.

Somehow, the Bears jumped the market for an older player and paid the highest price. The organization can sell fans on the value of “leadership” but availability and productivity should have been their top priority and it clearly wasn’t. Instead, they are settled with a rapidly aging 31-year-old linebacker that has lost multiple steps to his game.

It’s clear the Bears are looking for an out with Trevathan currently but due to the structure of his contract (mainly the three void years), the absolute earliest the Bears can get out of his deal is next offseason. Even then, it’ll cost them close to $6.5 million in dead money for 2023 due to the void years.

The Bears overpaid for an aging product and it took into Week 1 of last year to realize their mistake.

SLIDE 4 of 4

Tight End Jimmy Graham (2 year, $16 million contract with $9 million guaranteed)

10433245.jpg?fit=bounds&crop=620:320,offset-y0.50&width=620&height=320(Photo: Getty)

Tight End Jimmy Graham (2 years, $16 million contract with $9 million guaranteed)

I guess we should probably give Pace some credit here. Out of the four “big” deals he gave out last year, Graham presented the only true “out” for the 2021 offseason. Yet, somehow the Bears opted to roster the veteran for another season, despite being able to save a valuable $7 million with a cut.


Simply put, the overall mechanics of this deal weren’t awful but that doesn’t make it a good one either. It was essentially a one-year, $9 million deal with a cheaper option for a year two. The biggest issue with a deal like this? They once again jumped the market on an aging tight end that hasn’t seen a true “good year” in a half of a decade. It’s hard to imagine any team was offering close to what the Bears did, especially when a younger name in Eric Ebron could have been had for $4 million less (with similar production).

In the long list of contracts that have hamstrung the Bears for the next year or two, Graham ranks lower than the rest but it still doesn’t make it a smart move and no, hindsight is not needed with this one.

Compile all four of these moves together and you get a lot of disappointing products for far too much money. As the Bears continue to struggle financially over the next year or two, look no further than to these four deals in the 2020 offseason as reasons to why they don’t have the necessary financial flexibility to properly build around Fields.

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