If there’s one thing you can take away from GM Ryan Pace’s actions so far this offseason, it’s that he understands how far behind the Bears were in terms of talent on the defensive side of the football. And he was very correct. The coaching ability of defensive coordinator Vic Fangio covered up a ton of gaps in talent to keep the Bears at a respectable middle of the road ranking in total defense. That combined with former offensive coordinator Adam Gase’s ability to keep his offense on the field gave the Bears a very different look on the surface than what was really beneath the hood on defense. Let’s break down Pace’s additions so far…
The Bears signed Trevathan to a very backloaded deal where his base salary goes from $1.5mm this year to $5.8mm in 2019. He compiled over 100 tackles last year and mixed in two interceptions, one of which he returned for a touchdown. He is a bit undersized but he makes up for it by being a sure tackler and his speed and quickness makes him a legit coverage option. Some of his success was due to the excellent front the Broncos had last year because the monsters up front kept big offensive lineman off Trevathan, freeing him up to make plays. What may be most exciting is that he’s only 25, meaning the Bears aren’t paying for past performance but expected future performance.
At age 26, Hicks signed on for 2 years worth $10mm. He’ll slide in right next to Eddie Goldman in what has now become a respectable middle of the defensive line. Last year with the Patriots he was in a “reserve” roll and mostly played on early down and obviously passing situations. Hicks comes to Chicago looking for a more central role we he should undoubtedly receive.
Freeman shares many of the same qualities as Trevathan. Though not as explosive as he’s entering his age 30 season, he’s a sure tackler who does very well in underneath coverage. Inked to a 3 year $12mm deal, Freeman will have to earn his keep into his age 32 and 33 seasons in order for the Bears to get their value. Additionally, Freeman has already made some news after signing with the Bears by ripping ex-Colts teammate Coby Fleener.
The addition of Massie actually brings more questions than answers, specifically regarding Kyle Long’s future position. Massie wasn’t on the top of the list in terms of most talented tackles on the market, but he offers consistency and depth to an offensive line that needs it. He’s a bit suspect in his pass blocking abilities but did start for a very good Arizona Cardinals team last year, for whatever that’s worth. The question is does this signing mean the Bears are shifting Long back to guard?
I don’t think Ryan Pace is done adding pieces before the draft, but we have to remember that free agency is only half of the grade. Pace’s success in the draft, which is still to be determined, is the other half. You can actually argue that it’s the more important aspect of his job as we’re seeing more and more Super Bowl teams built on young, cheap talent. This year we’ll not only see what he can do in his second draft but also if the rookies who got so much playing time last year will take the next step in their development.