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Bears Fall Behind at Spending Money

Analysis: Whether it was no market for Justin Fields or other NFC North teams signing better players, Bears GM Ryan Poles fell behind to start free agency.

The good news after a day of free agency is the Bears still have plenty of cash to commit. 

The bad news is they still have plenty of cash to commit.

If Rome wasn't built in a day, neither was this year's Bears free agency haul. At least it better not have been.

Bears GM Ryan Poles apparently took the stealth route after one quick signing of running back D'Andre Swift, the same running back who handed the Bears a victory in his 2020 NFL debut with Detroit by dropping a pass wide open in the end zone during the final seconds.

It's not that the Bears made a bad signing with Swift, as he has plenty of speed with a 4.42-second 40-yard time, and also runs with power.

It's just he wasn't a top-line, recognizable free agent like Saquon Barkley, Josh Jacobs or Tony Pollard, who agreed to contracts elsewhere on Day 1. With all the rumors on Sunday of Bears interest in Barkley and Jacobs, it almost seemed the Bears eventually just settled for less talented and less expensive.

The Bears had added safety Kevin Byard on Sunday, but after he'd been released prior to free agency by the Eagles. 

So they did sign two players, but again there's that problem. They seem to be picking up players well down the line among free agents when they had plenty of cash to make a big score. 

It's like Poles is back in 2022 mode, looking for bargains because they can't afford anything else. But he had the sixth-most cap space left as of late Monday.

And worse, they looked to be falling behind the Packers and Lions in free agency. 

The Packers, of all people—they usually move like a sloth in free agency. However, Green Bay went out and deemed running back Aaron Jones expendable at age 29, released him, and signed Josh Jacobs for a huge number for running backs in today's league. He got four years and $48 millions according to NFL Network. The Eagles signed Barkley and paid for it at a reported $37.5 million and three years. 

Meanwhile, the Bears accepted the back the Eagles didn't want at $8 million a year for thee years.

It happened again in the safety market. The Packers signed Giants premier safety Xavier McKinney, a younger, highly regarded ballhawk. They paid $68 million for four years.

The Bears paid $7.5 million a year for Byard, who is in his 30s and with his third team in two seasons. Fortunately, Swift is only on his third team in three years.

The Lions also were more aggressive, going after Vikings edge rusher Marcus Davenport at a reported $10.5 million for a year, and then solidifying a porous secondary with a trade for Buccaneers veterran cornerback Carlton Davis.

If all of this didn't seem bad enough, Justin Fields remained with the Bears for better or worse. They didn't trade him and the market for his services seems to have shrunk. That all means little eventually in return for the Bears.

A report by NFL Network's Ian Rapoport said the Bears hadn't even tried to trade him, which seemed like so much smoke screen. Either that, or Poles is simply waiting to get that desired physical of Caleb Williams before making a deal to move Fields. After all, it was Poles who said he didn't want Fields living "in the gray."

None of this seemed to matter because one quarterback signing after another made it clear there might not even be anyone left to sign Fields if they ever do eventually decide to trade him.

Kirk Cousins to the Falcons, Russell Wilson to the Steelers, the Raiders chose to sign backup Gardner Minshew to compete for starter and Baker Mayfield remained in Tampa.

As long as the Vikings haven't acquired Fields, that's at least one NFC North team the Bears seem to be enjoying an edge over in this off-season personnel race.  

Actually it's more of a standoff because the Vikings did sign Houston's rising defensive end Jonathan Greenard while losing Davenport.  The Bears sure could have used Greenard.

Still available in large quantities are free agent wide receivers, usually an expensive item.

Perhaps Poles will get around to addressing that position next considering they essentially have one on the roster right now who can start. 

Then maybe they can look at edge rursher, where Buffalo's A.J. Epeneza and Cleveland's Za'Darius Smith decided to stay put with signings, Dallas' Dorance Armstrong went to Washington and Bryce Huff left the Jets for the Eagles.

There's a lot left for Poles to do unless he wants to finish free agency with the largest stack of cash. Hint: They don't give out awards or compensatory picks for this.

And while he's at it, he needs to go find Justin Fields a home.

Twitter: BearDigest@BearsOnMaven