Chicago Bears

What were Ryan Poles’ best and worst decisions of the 2023 offseason?

It’s been quite the offseason for the Chicago Bears and general manager Ryan Poles. Armed with the most money to spend in free agency and the No. 1 overall pick, the Bears dominated headlines from February to April.

There were great expectations for Poles and the Bears this offseason, too. Poles’ first year on the job was a free pass. He had to tear down the roster in 2022 so he could begin to rebuild it in his vision this year. And now that he’s gone through a cycle of free agency and a critical 10-player draft class, an evaluation of the evaluator will commence once the 2023 season begins.

Let’s look at which of Ryan Poles’ 2023 offseason moves has a chance to be the best decision, and which one could be the worst.

Dominique Robinson

Worst Decision (so far): Failing to add an edge rusher in free agency or NFL Draft

Believe it or not, the NFL offseason is far from over. Teams will continue adding veterans and undrafted rookies to the roster before training camp, so there’s a chance this ‘worst decision’ can be erased by Poles in the coming weeks.

But until he adds a viable pass rusher, his failure to sign a quality free agent or spend an early-round pick on an edge defender is a big problem.

The Chicago Bears finished last in sacks in 2022 and, as of now, will run it back with the same cluster of underwhelming pass rushers.

DeMarcus Walker was added in free agency, and he has a chance to elevate the Bears’ edge defenders. But he’s more of a physical enforcer than a speedy sack artist. And that’s what this defense is missing.

Perhaps Poles has confidence in Dominque Robinson’s offseason development and thinks he can emerge as a force in 2023. Maybe it’s Trevis Gipson who needs another season in coach Matt Eberflus’ defense to break out. But those are a lot of ifs and maybes; the Bears need an established pass rusher, or the rest of the defense will suffer.

DJ Moore

Best Decision: Trading the No. 1 pick to the Panthers for DJ Moore and future draft assets

The best way to build a winning team is through the NFL Draft. Unfortunately, the Draft is also the most unpredictable part of roster construction. Less than 50% of first-round picks become quality starters. If a team lands three or four long-term players from a draft class, it’s a huge win.

As a result, having more draft picks increases the odds that better players will be added. Indeed, having the No. 1 pick can be franchise-altering if it results in a quarterback like Peyton Manning. But with Justin Fields already on the Chicago Bears’ roster, Poles did the right thing by trading down with Carolina and adding assets that will help both now and in the future.

Poles traded the first pick to the Panthers for the No. 9, a second-round pick in 2023, a first-round pick in 2024, a second-round pick in 2025, and stud wide receiver DJ Moore.

The impact that Moore will have on the Bears cannot be overstated. He’s a bona fide No. 1 receiver joining a roster that was forced to field a collection of threes and fours in 2022. Moore will elevate the play of the receivers around him, which in turn will level up Fields in his critical third season.

Poles’ decision to trade the first pick will be a gift that keeps giving to the Chicago Bears. They have the Panthers’ first-round pick in 2024 and their second-rounder in 2025. Poles traded the ninth pick in 2023 to the Eagles for the 10th pick and a fourth-rounder in 2024, making the net return from the trade:

WR DJ Moore
OT Darnell Wright
CB Tyrique Stevenson
2024 1st-round pick
2024 4th-round pick
2025 2nd-round pick

One word sums up this haul best: Wow.

The trade was a stroke of genius by Poles that resulted in three high-level starters in 2023 and, assuming they get the picks right in 2024 and 2025, at least two more starters to come.

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