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Ryan Pace: Don't expect a big splash in free agency

Bears GM Ryan Pace says not to expect huge free-agent acquisitions this off-season, while also discussing Jay Cutler, the draft, Alshon Jeffery and more.

The Chicago Bears are projected to have between $60 million and $70 million in cap space to spend in free agency this off-season.

As such, many believe GM Ryan Pace will pursue some of the biggest names on the market. Yet Pace said today it's unlikely he'll dump a huge chunk of that cap space into one impact player.

"I really think in free agency [last year] we kind of spread out our resources a little bit," said Pace. "You kind of limit your risk a little bit when you do that. I think last year there might've been a little more one-year deals than we would typically do just because I think part of that is, hey, we're just getting here, we want to evaluate our team, these one-year deals give us a little bit of flexibility. But I don't like to put all our eggs in one basket in free agency. We can be a little more targeted now that we really know our team extremely well. I don't think you're going to see us make one splash free agent signing. I think it's going to be kind of spread out your resources a little bit."

"We're always going to have a focus on intelligent players, tough players, passionate and good teammates, that's always going to be the case."

In terms of the draft, Pace said all options are on the table, which includes quarterbacks, whether Jay Cutler likes it or not.

"I think Jay played really well this season," Pace said. "I was happy with his performance, especially with a lot of injuries to our skilled players. He persevered through that. Jay played well. In regards to the draft, and I honestly mean this, it’s always going to be best player available. So if it’s a quarterback, it’s a quarterback. I’ve said before how important that position is and that will continue to be the case."

One of the biggest off-season decisions to make will be about Alshon Jeffery, whose contract is up. Jeffery missed seven games with injuries this season, which Pace said will weigh into their decison as to whether or not to re-sign him.

"When Alshon played he was explosive and a playmaker for our offense. The previous two season he’d been healthy and highly productive. He was frustrated by his injuries. We were frustrated by his injuries. We got to get a better grasp of that. Part of the evaluation of a player is his injuries and his availability. We’ll take that into account. 

"That’s part of the process, a guy’s injury history. He stayed healthy the two previous seasons, this season he was banged up with a variety of injuries. We’ve got to sort through that."

In terms of using the franchise tag on Jeffery, Pace said it wouldn't be ideal.

"It's a tool that we have at our disposal. It's a case-by-case basis but, normally, it's in the best interest of the club and the player to come to a longer-term agreement."

As for Kyle Long, who moved from right guard to right tackle this year and struggled at times, Pace believes Long is best suited on the edge.

“First off all, he’s extremely athletic so normally you’re putting your most athletic guys on the edges at tackle," said Pace. "I thought he moved a little bit later in the process, which I think was a real testament to him, the teammate that he is. You know, because that wasn’t easy. I think that he got better as the season progressed with his technique and his hand placement, all those things. I thought he progressed. He got better. Of course, there’s growing pains when anybody switches to a new position. But we were proud of how he handled that and how he got throughout the season.”

Pace also said the team's relationship with Martellus Bennett, who was a malcontent for most of the campaign, has not been strained.

"No. Not at all," Pace said. "I'm sure I'll talk to his agent, we'll talk to him more."

At the end of the day, despite a 6-10 record, Pace believes the organization is headed in the right direction. 

"When I think bigger picture, I'm excited about what we got going here," he said. "I'm excited about our staff. I'm excited about our younger players. I'm excited about our culture, kind of the foundation of what we have. The whole building really feels like everything is going up, and that's a genuine, sincere feeling, so I'm excited about that. It's gone by really fast. This is the fastest year of my life, but it's been all good."


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