A volatile offseason so far looks to become even more unpredictable, in the view of Bears general manager Ryan Pace.
From the daily rumor mill about trades for top-tier quarterbacks to players who could become available as free agents due to a lower salary cap, Pace said Tuesday he's prepared to act even as the Bears have definite salary cap issues.
That includes looking for a quarterback.
"We’re going to see a lot of guys hit the market in the coming weeks," Pace said during his annual pre-free agency talk with reporters. "I really think as a staff we've got to be able to pivot and adjust along the way to some things that we might not expect.
"I think that comes down to the number of players that we've evaluated and just being ready for every scenario and there’s a lot of hard work that’s gone on behind the scenes to allow us to maneuver through a really unprecedented offseason."
Pace hasn't been surprised at all by the constant barrage of potential movement in the league, although much of it needs to be take with a grain of salt depending on the sources and Twitter comments. He can't get specific about which quarterbacks or players he has interest in because there are tampering rules for speaking about players currently under contract.
"Yeah, I think there's a lot of that stuff that's going on, I think now more than ever," Pace said. "It gives you (media) guys something to write about, too, and I understand that."
Sorting through it all to find out if there is the potential for a player to actually be traded by another team becomes a science.
"I think with us, that's when you lean on the relationships that you have in the league," Pace said. "Right now, just me talking to GMs throughout the league, that's commonplace right now regardless. I think you lean on those relationships and you're able to quickly determine what's real and what's not and different possibilities.
"And there'd be some things that might not even be in the media right now that are potential possibilities that we're talking about. That's normal every year."
And if there actually are trades out there, Pace said he'll make certain to be as involved as possible.
"You know we'll be thorough with that," he said. "It's just us doing our due diligence on all different things and exploring every avenue to improve our team and improve our roster and it’s no different with that."
The cap situation might lead to players few would have anticipated on the open market.
This could even happen with the Bears' own roster. Pace wouldn't directly answer a question about whether he anticipated both cornerback Kyle Fuller and defensive end Akiem Hicks being on the roster starting this season.
Fuller, 29, is in the last year of his contract at $13 million in salary and with his prorated bonus of $6 million and other bonuses he will count 10.5% of the Bears cap according to Overthecap.com. Hicks counts much less at 6.3% with $10.4 million in salary and protated bonus at $1.5 million.
"Yeah, without getting into specific players, this is going to be a year, it's gonna be about adjusting," Pace said. "We're not the only team in the league that is dealing with these circumstances. Everyone's prepping for a tighter cap. We have a plan in place with that.
"It involves different things. There's different ways for us to create room with our cap, not just releasing players. That's a hard part of the business."
Slot cornerback Buster Skrine did become the first to go in in cap cleaning.
"We had a difficult decision with Buster yesterday and there'll be some decisions to make," Pace said. "I think you're going to see more of that around the league than you've ever seen. But we're prepared."
The cap is set at $180 or a little higher.
About the only quarterback the Bears can point to with certainty for this year is Nick Foles. They assessed his play and determined he can still be a big contributor if called upon after seeing how he dealt with problems last year.
"And I just think, again, for him and understanding his role with us, he's under contract and I think one of the best things we do is we talk through the whys all the time and every year is different," Nagy said. "That's why 2021 is going to be different for all of us."
The quarterback search could take them a numnber of directions, from the draft to free agency to bringing back Mitchell Trubisky even. Pace continued to say a familiar refrain from the end of the season, that everything is "on the table."
"So, I think we're ready to kind of pivot a number of ways," Pace said. "I think that’s going to be important this offseason, especially this offseason."