It's been an eventful first week of free agency for the Chicago Bears. In the first six days following the official start of the 2016 NFL season, the Bears addressed a number of pressing needs on the roster.
To fill inside linebacker, the club signed the top two players on the open market, Danny Trevathan and Jerrell Freeman. To upgrade the offensive line, former Cardinal offensive tackle Bobby Massie was signed. Akiem Hicks was added to a shallow defensive line and today, the team signed long snapper Aaron Brewer.
And those are just the external acquisitions. The Bears also re-signed a number of their own players, including CB Tracy Porter, TE Zach Miller, RB Jacquizz Rodgers and DE Mitch Unrein.
As a result of GM Ryan Pace's activity in free agency, there are no glaring holes on the current roster. Sure, there are some positions that are weaker than others and a few in need of quality depth. But in terms of the top 53, there is no position of dire need. There is no position where one can say "if they don't fix that, they're not going anywhere."
This is an ideal scenario for GM Ryan Pace, who has expressed his desire to use the veteran market as a way to remain flexible in the early part of the draft. In that way, he's able to draft based on talent, not positional need.
"When I first started with the Saints ... we were in the draft ... and when I talk about taking best player available, you have to be careful in the draft - that’s what I believe in. In the draft, it can be human nature to want to push up a position that you need. And that doesn’t happen on draft day, that happens in the process leading into the draft, right?" Pace said last year shortly after being hired. "So we’re talking about defensive linemen, we really need a D-lineman. Hey I know we don’t have great grades on this player, but we’re pushing him up because we need it. So we drafted a defensive tackle in 2003 that didn’t end up being a good player for us and I think that was partly because we pushed him up because of need. We should’ve just taken best player available."
Pace reiterated his best-player-available (BPA) stance this past off-season.
"In regards to the draft, and I honestly mean this, it's always going to be best player available," he said during last month's scouting combine.
Yet that's easier said than done when there is a massive need on the roster. Which is why Pace's strategy this off-season to fill those roster needs will give him the flexibility to execute that BPA strategy on draft day.
When overall talent trumps need, a GM's job is easy, as he can just work his way down the draft board and, when it's his time to pick, he can take the top player on his list. That's how winning teams are developed and if Pace strikes gold with his first few picks in this year's draft, the Bears will be on the fast track to postseason play.