Ryan Poles offered the same consistent message when discussing free agency back in January. The Chicago Bears would be “selective” on the veteran market. In other words, the idea is to choose carefully who they decide to sign and not just throw money around. GM Ryan Pace tried that approach the past few years, and it didn’t get the results anybody wanted. Poles has made it clear he wants to build through the draft. He wants to construct this team the right way.
So I decided to look at how the Chiefs approached free agency during his most formative years in their front office. At that time, one interesting tactic stuck out. Mainly when Andy Reid and his entourage arrived in 2013. Kansas City wasn’t big on throwing around a ton of money. However, they did employ an approach with a degree of logic. One thing they did that first year was sign several former high draft picks. Even if those players didn’t have the greatest reputations at the time.
Dunta Robinson – former 1st rounder Sean Smith – former 2nd rounder Anthony Fasano – former 2nd rounder Donnie Avery – former 2nd rounder
The idea behind it was easy to understand.
Kansas City was willing to take calculated risks on players with talent, believing their revamped coaching staff might be able to squeeze better productivity out of them. Even if it was only in the short term. It might help make the Chiefs competitive while allowing Reid and GM John Dorsey to narrow the focus of their drafts. It paid off. By 2015, the team didn’t have to spend much in free agency at all as picks started panning out.
Smith became a quality starter on defense, collecting five interceptions and 41 passes defended in three seasons. Fasano became a decent reserve tight end with seven touchdown catches in two years. Avery finished third on the team with 596 yards receiving that first season, helping Kansas City finish 11-5. All of this was accomplished without spending much money.
#TBT ft. Alex Smith & Donnie Avery 💨
Who remembers these days⁉️#ChiefsKingdom#ThrowbackThursday pic.twitter.com/NM0iucC1js
— Chiefs Focus (@ChiefsFocus) October 3, 2019
Ryan Poles could take a similar approach for the Bears
According to the parameters above, the player must be a former high draft choice but not necessarily one that can command a large payday. There are plenty of names that stick out on the 2022 market under such conditions. Here are a few worth noting.
WR D.J. Chark (2nd rounder in 2018)
It looked like he was poised to become a go-to target for Jacksonville after cracking 1,000 yards in 2019. Sadly injuries derailed him the past two years. Chark is a risk for those reasons but has plenty of speed to offer and had a respectable 860 yards in his last 16 starts.
OT Joseph Noteboom (3rd rounder in 2018)
He was stuck on the depth chart for years behind likely Hall of Famer Andrew Whitworth. When he did manage to play last season, Noteboom was steady and reliable in pass protection. His performance against the defending champion Buccaneers was especially noteworthy. He fits Ryan Poles’ parameters too.
DT Taven Bryan (1st round in 2018)
The former Florida standout never lived up to his huge athletic upside in Jacksonville. He’d flash constantly as an interior pass rusher but never seemed to put everything together. Perhaps working under Matt Eberflus can finally unlock some of that potential.
LB Rashaan Evans (1st round in 2018)
Alabama always churns out good linebackers, which is why Evans’ underwhelming run in Tennessee is so odd. He peaked in 2019 with 111 tackles and 2.5 sacks. After that he’s been up and down. Perhaps shifting to outside linebacker in a 4-3 can get more from his considerable talents.
CB Sidney Jones (2nd round pick in 2018)
The story of his career has been injuries. Jones missed seven or more games in three of his first four seasons. Finally, in 2021 he made it through healthy and played pretty well too (84.8 passer rating allowed). Still just 25-years old; he might look good across from Jaylon Johnson.
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