With the Chicago Bears’ first preseason game of the 2022 coming up on Saturday against the Kansas City Chiefs, there has been more attention paid to what is going on with the team off the field rather than on it. On Tuesday, linebacker Roquan Smith requested a trade via social media due to issue with contract negotiations with Chicago. The Bears’ first-year general manager Ryan Poles, has had a poor offseason, with the Smith contract dilemma being the most recent issue, an issue that needs to be resolved in a positve manner.
Poles Hasn’t Had A Massive Transaction as Chicago’s General Manager
When the Bears hired Poles in January of this year, many NFL analysts believed Chicago was getting one of the most promising executives in the league. The former Chiefs’ Director of Pro Personnel is viewed as a terrific scouting and talent evaluator due to his 12 years with Kansas City. When the Bears hired Poles, the team tasked the new general manager with having to rebuild a team around second-year quarterback Justin Fields.
Chiefs HC Andy Reid said the Bears made a "tremendous hire" with Ryan Poles.
Chiefs GM Brett Veach on Poles: "Hard-working, meticulous & personable leader who has a vision for how to build a winning team on the field and establish a winning culture off of it."
— Daniel Greenberg (@ChiSportUpdates) January 26, 2022
Poles started Chicago’s rebuild on a positive note by hiring Colts defensive coordinator Matt Eberflus as the Bears’ new head coach and by creating draft capital along with salary cap space by trading All-Pro linebacker Khalil Mack to the Los Angeles Chargers. Outside of those two moves, the Bears’ general manager hasn’t had one impactful move that has made his team better from a talent standpoint. Poles has had several embarrassing moments from the start of free agency through to training camp.
At the start of this year’s free agency period, many fans and journalists believed that the Bears would make several significant signings to improve their offensive line to protect Fields and add defensive players equipped to play the Cover-2 defensive scheme implemented by Eberflus. Poles failed to sign any top free agent offensive linemen, with Chicago losing restrictive free agent Ryan Bates to the Buffalo Bills after the Bills matched the Bears’ contract offer. Poles has been criticized for not adding a talented veteran receiver via trade or free agency to help give Fields weapons on offense.
The biggest negative of Poles’ first offseason was the avoiding of free agent defensive tackle Larry Ogunjobi’s contract. Chicago signed Ogunjobi to an impressive contract to have the defensive tackle be a vital starter in the team’s new defense but later had to void the agreement due to a failed physical. The ongoing contract extension issues with Smith only amplifies Poles’ errors this offseason as there have been more and more recurring negative issues for the new general manager.
Ryan Poles on Larry Ogunjobi failed physical, "… unfortunately we are not signing him today. This is difficult and it is emotional for everyone involved, but ultimately is what is in the best interest of protecting the Chicago Bears"
Good move or bad look?
— Hub Arkush (@Hub_Arkush) March 18, 2022
Although it appears that Poles has turned in a potentially successful draft class with rookie talents such as Kyler Gordon, Jaquon Brisker, Velus Jones Jr, Dominique Robinson, and Braxton Jones, fans and the media won’t know whether or not the players are talented until the regular season. Along with Smith’s situation, Chicago’s general manager must also address growth depth issues at the wide receiver position, with more injuries starting to pile up.
Poles Needs To Resolve Both Issues Before The Start Of The Season
The injury issues at the wide receiver position for the Bears has grown over the past week as Jones, Byron Pringle, and N’Keal Harry have all missed practice time since Saturday with moderate to severe ailments. Jones is day-to-day, but Pringle and Harry’s injuries will likely keep them out of Chicago’s three preseason games and potentially lead to the veteran receivers missing games in the regular season. Even one of the receivers missing time at the start of the season is a massive issue for Chicago as they have little depth and talent at the position outside of Darnell Mooney.
Another potentially serious injury to the #Bears at WR.
David Moore is getting carted off practice.
Bears already dealing with injuries at the position to Byron Pringle and N'Keal Harry.
— Dov Kleiman (@NFL_DovKleiman) August 9, 2022
If Chicago lacks depth and talent at the receiver position to begin the season, it will reflect poorly on Poles’ part. In an offseason when many of the league’s best wide receivers were traded or potentially traded due to contract negotiation issues, Chicago’s general manager failed to pounce on a potential opportunity to improve his team immediately.
In addition to either trading for or signing a talented wide receiver cut by a team after training camp, Poles has to either re-sign Smith or trade the linebacker for the highest value. If a contract extension can’t be reached and the Bears’ best linebacker decides to sit out, the team’s general manager can’t get anything less than a first-round draft selection in return if a trade takes place. Poles has to bring a positive end to both situations to avoid negativity hanging over the Bears heading into their season-opening game against the 49ers.
Ryan Poles and Roquan Smith in the hallway at Halas Hall…
— Jarrett Payton (@paytonsun) August 10, 2022
Although Poles has had a difficult start to his regime as Chicago’s general manager, he can find a way to bring balance with a few positive moves. Signing Smith to a long-term deal helps the Bears rebuild immensely in the long-term while finding proven pass-catching talent will make Fields a better quarterback in 2022. Poles needs to find a way to make a positive move that demonstrates that he was the right hire as general manager for Chicago.