Bears in Brief: Grading the Bears’ Offseason


Anthony Marsicano, Opinion Editor


We’re almost halfway from the Super Bowl to week one of the NFL season, and it’s been an interesting offseason for Bears fans, to say the least. Most major free agents have all been signed, the NFL draft just concluded and Bears fans are probably feeling very different than the last game of the 2020-21 season. Here I’ll be looking at all the changes made by the general manager Ryan Pace and the Bears’ front office since the free agency period opened back in March.

Free Agency

QB Andy Dalton, 1-year $10M

Grade: D-

Amid rumors of acquiring Seattle’s Russell Wilson or Houston’s Deshaun Watson, It’s hard to picture a bigger letdown than Dalton. Sure those rumors were largely baseless, deep down I never thought the Bears had a true shot at either of the two potential future Hall of Famers they were linked to, but it was fun to imagine for a while. 

Dalton got significant playing time last year with Dallas after Dak Prescott’s injury. He started nine games- the same as Mitchell Trubisky. Mitch went 6-3 in those starts, he posted more touchdowns, the same amount of interceptions, and a higher completion percentage than Dalton did. Dalton appeared in one more total game than Trubisky and only ended the season with 15 more total yards than the latter.

What gets me the most about this signing is that it directly led to the loss of cornerback Kyle Fuller, who became a cap casualty. Fuller was one of the only entertaining parts of an otherwise melancholy Bears season last year, I still cannot believe Ryan Pace basically assessed him as less valuable than Dalton.

WR Allen Robinson II, 1-year Franchise Tag, $18M

Grade: B+

After initial reports from Robinson’s camp that he had no intention to sign the franchise tag placed on him by the Bears, he ultimately changed his mind and is now locked up through this season for around $18M. It seems he’ll test the market again next year, it’s honestly a shame Ryan Pace and the front office didn’t work out an extension midseason when Robinson asked. Extending him mid-season would have been an A+ move, Pace and company should consider themselves lucky; this transaction could have very easily led to a holdout and turned into a disaster. Hopefully the Bears’ performance this season will convince both sides to agree to a long-term deal, as Robinson remains in his prime as a top ten receiver in the league.

RB Damien Williams, 1-year, $1.25M

Grade: B-

Casual fans would most likely remember Williams from his 2019 playoff heroics with the Kansas City Chiefs, including a key Super Bowl performance with 17 rushes for 106 yards and a touchdown. The 29-year old spent four uneventful seasons with the Dolphins before breaking out with the Chiefs. 

Overall I was surprised by this signing, but I’m optimistic. Williams opted out of the 2020 season and Kansas City ultimately moved on and acquired Le’Veon Bell and Clyde Edwards-Helaire, so I’m interested to see how head coach Matt Nagy will utilize a back from a familiar offensive scheme.

WR Marquise Goodwin, 1-year, $1.2M

Grade: B

What this signing tells me is the likelihood of Anthony Miller or Javon Wims being cut is much higher than I previously thought. Both of those guys have been on the hot seat after getting into physical altercations over multiple games against the New Orleans Saints last year. The team would likely create cap space if they wait until June to cut one or both receivers. If the Bears do move on from these guys, it’s nice to have a cheap, low-risk, familiar name in Marquise Goodwin to take their place. Goodwin did not play in 2020 after being traded from San Francisco to Philadelphia, he has 13 touchdowns and 2,323 yards in his seven-season career.

This signing has a lot in common with the Damien Williams move. Both are 29-year old skill position players on cheap 1-year deals looking to prove they can still play after opting out of last year.

Minor moves I love:

Resigning P Pat O’Donnell – A-

Letting CB Buster Skrine walk – A+

Extending K Cairo Santos – A+


Minor moves I hate:

Letting KR Cordarralle Patterson walk – D-

Letting QB Mitchell Trubisky walk – C

Cutting CB Kyle Fuller – F


NFL Draft

Round 1, pick 11: QB Justin Fields, Ohio State

Grade: A+

Upon learning that the Bears traded up from the 20th overall pick, I was skeptical. I immediately assumed we would give up too much and also remembered the last time Ryan Pace decided to trade up for a quarterback. But when I heard them announce Justin Fields instead of Mac Jones, I was ecstatic. Fields has proven himself as a winner in every level he’s played at, most recently advancing to the College Football National Championship game after throwing six touchdown passes against Clemson and number one overall pick Trevor Lawrence to get there.

Fields had been the consensus number two overall prospect throughout last year, it was only until recently that other players jumped him on the draft board for some reason. I can’t fault Pace at all for moving up to get his quarterback at 11, recent reports lead us to believe that if we didn’t pick Fields, we’d be facing him twice a year anyways. While I still expect Andy Dalton to start for at least the first few weeks, the Justin Fields era has me excited for the future of the Chicago Bears.

Round 2, Pick 39: OT Teven Jenkins, Oklahoma State

Grade: A+

Teven Jenkins had been projected to the Bears at pick 20 for weeks, I was personally hoping we’d get him before any news of trading up became apparent. So while I was initially a little disappointed we didn’t select him with our first pick, I was thrilled when Pace and company traded up again to select him at pick 39.

The massive tackle stands 6’6, 320 lbs and spent time at both left and right tackle at Oklahoma State. Pass-blocking is his specialty, Jenkins hasn’t allowed a QB sack in 778 pass-blocking snaps, the last time was in 2018. In fact, in four years at OSU he only allowed 2 sacks in 1,129 pass-blocking snaps. Drafting Jenkins also allows the Bears to cut longtime left tackle Charles Leno Jr. in June– a move that will create $9M in cap space. The front office seems to have a clear plan in front of them: they went and got their quarterback, now it’s time to surround him with the tools for success.

Round 6, Pick 221: WR Dazz Newsome, North Carolina

Grade: B 

You cannot go wrong with someone referred to as a ‘human highlight reel”, and Newsome’s college tape certainly is impressive. At 5’11, 190 lbs with a 4.57-second 40-yard-dash time, Newsome definitely fits the ‘short and speedy’ receiver mold, similar to Tyreek Hill or the Bears’ own Darnell Mooney. In 43 games over four seasons at North Carolina he hauled in 188 receptions for 18 touchdowns. He can also be utilized in the rushing game as well, plays like this one tell me Matt Nagy is going to have a lot of fun scheming plays for Newsome.

Round 6, Pick 228: CB Thomas Graham Jr, Oregon

Grade: B-

The Bears were focused on addressing their offense this draft, it took five picks to select a defensive player. I really like this pick, Ryan Pace has proven he can identify late-round talent in the draft, specifically in defensive players, and though it is way too early to tell, I think he may have done it again. Graham was a three-year starter at Oregon where he recorded eight interceptions over 40 games. He opted out of the 2020 season which seems to be the main reason his draft stock plummeted to pick 228. Cornerback was definitely an area of need for the Bears, especially after losing two starters in Kyle Fuller and Buster Skrine. While he isn’t a guaranteed week one starter yet, Graham will have ample opportunity to compete for the starting job.

Other picks

OT Larry Borom, Missouri – B

RB Khalil Herbert – Virginia Tech – C+

DL Khyiris Tonga – BYU – C-

Offseason grade

Total grade: B

The Bears were able to put together a nearly perfect draft to salvage a decent offseason after a horrendous free agency period. For better or worse, Ryan Pace seems to have bought himself another two to three years as Bears GM in just a few nights. Hopefully Nagy will properly scheme for Justin Fields, this is the first time during his tenure in Chicago that he will be working with a quarterback he drafted. There was always this sense that Nagy didn’t completely trust Trubisky’s ability, I’d like to see him return to the level of playcalling we saw in 2018. Though it may take a season or two to set in, it seems a new era of football is upon us in Chicago, Bears fans have good reason to be optimistic for the first time in a while.