Ryan Pace: Bears want to spread out free-agency resources

LAKE FOREST, Ill. -- With well-over $50 million in projected 2016 salary-cap space, Chicago Bears general manager Ryan Pace anticipates another active, yet measured approach to offseason spending.

Last year, Pace signed linebacker Pernell McPhee ($15.5 million guaranteed), receiver Eddie Royal ($10 million) and safety Antrel Rolle ($4.9 million) to modest multiyear deals, while the rest of the veteran free-agent class received only one-year commitments.

“I really think in free agency we kind of spread out our resources a little bit,” Pace said. “You kind of limit your risk a little bit when you do that. I think last year there might've been a little more one-year deals than we would typically do just because I think part of that is, hey, we're just getting here, we want to evaluate our team, these one-year deals give us a little bit of flexibility.

“But I don't like to put all our eggs in one basket in free agency. We can be a little more targeted now that we really know our team extremely well. I don't think you're going to see us make one splash free-agent signing. I think it's going to be kind of spread out your resources a little bit.”

Splashy free agent signings excite the fan base, but perennial playoff teams are still built via the draft.

The Bears drafted a relatively successful 2015 class, even with first-round pick Kevin White missing the entire year because of a stress fracture in his left shin. Still, Eddie Goldman, Jeremy Langford, Adrian Amos and Hroniss Grasu were all serious contributors for the 6-10 Bears.

“I think all those guys played a lot, which is going to benefit us going forward,” Pace said. “I would say, yeah, we're very happy with the draft class, and then beyond that, some of the college free agents, too. Those guys had extensive play time, and there's nothing that can replicate that. And then we've got Kevin coming back. Next year, he'll be full-speed for the offseason program, and that's going to be obviously a huge component for that draft class.”

In theory, Pace is positioned to have a better 2016 draft because he is now surrounded by many of his handpicked scouts/talent evaluators. Last year, Pace, 38, inherited most of his predecessor Phil Emery’s front office people because of contractual obligations. While the group work well together, NFL general managers generally want to hire their own people.

“Just as I stressed how confident I am with our coaches, the same holds true with our scouts,” Pace said. “I mean, this will be our first free agency and draft together. Josh [Lucas] was here last year, but Joe Douglas and Champ [Kelly], those are all new guys and those are major assets for us behind the scenes to give us extreme confidence. So I’m fired up about it. I mean, there’s new grading scales, but that’s just a tool we use. But just the way it’s all coming together, we’ll start our front-board meetings in a couple weeks, going over all the draftable players and man, I’m really fired up about it. We got a really good group of scouts.”