Chicago Bears 2022 NFL Draft: Best available players at WR and OL

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Las Vegas, Nevada— With no first-round pick in the 2022 NFL Draft, the Chicago Bears watched as teams moved up, wheeling and dealing, as the Bears remained patient, watching the rest of the NFL in action. The Bears fun will begin on Friday night, with the 39th and 48th overall picks, as first-year general manager Ryan Poles will attempt to rebuild the roster.

Two key positions of need stick out for Chicago: Wide receiver and offensive line. Since Poles was hired in January, both were labeled as two positions the Bears were likely to target, and despite a run on both positions in round one, there still remains enough talent for Chicago to acquire two long-term building blocks and day one starters in round two.

Wide receivers still available: George Pickens, Christian Watson, Skyy Moore, Alec Pierce, John Metchie III, Jalen Tolbert, Khalil Shakir.

From the names listed above, Pickens and Watson would make sense for Chicago at 39th overall. Pierce, a local prospect has been labeled as a sleeper, while fans cite Moore’s speed as a major reason to watch him as a legitimate target for quarterback Justin Fields.

The Bears haven’t taken a wide receiver inside the top-50 since 2012 when the franchise selected Alshon Jeffery with the 45th overall pick. The franchise is clearly on the outside looking in when it comes to drafting and developing wide receivers. Poles first thought should be to change that, especially in a pass-happy league.

Offensive lineman still available: Abraham Lucas, Nicholas Petit-Frere, Bernhard Raimann, Daniel Faalele, Max Mitchell, Sean Rhyan, Darian Kinnard.

The run on offensive lineman was expected but continued throughout the first round. While three tackles, Evan Neal, Ikem Ekwonu, and Charles Cross were selected within the top-10, widely expected consensus, Kenyon Green, Zion Johnson, Trevor Penning, Tyler Smith, and Cole Strange were names that many thought could possibly fall to round two. Instead, all five names were selected in the first round, leaving the Bears with some slim pickings going into round two.

Lucas and Petit-Frere, Fields college teammate make sense as day one starters as both would end up playing left guard. While the Bears have experimented with Teven Jenkins and Larry Borom, both 2021 draft picks this offseason at various positions on the offensive line, adding a player like Lucas or Petit-Frere could go a long way towards stabilizing the offensive line.

When the Bears are on the clock come Friday night, Poles could have the opportunity to go best player available if the opportunity presents itself. However, WR and OL are two positions that Chicago needs to maximize first given the current state of the Bears roster.

Grading the Chicago Bears Initial Free Agent Signings

Lake Forest, Ill– The Chicago Bears wrapped up a busy first week of free agency, signing six total free agents as general manager Ryan Poles attempts to rebuild an aging roster that features a perfect blend of young talent and veterans. When looking at the Bears’ six signings, there are two categories that exist among all free agents: Low-risk, high-reward, and familiarity.

Chicago has yet to dish out a big deal as Poles continues to stay true to his ultimate team-building philosophy of setting the Bears up for long-term success by building through the NFL Draft. With six projected picks in April’s NFL Draft, the Bears still have a significant number of needs but the Bears’ free agent signings are still contributing to the foundation that Poles hopes to establish in 2022.

As the second week of NFL Free Agency kicks off, how do Chicago’s signings during week one grade out?

1) IOL Lucas Patrick

When the Bears hired Luke Getsy as offensive coordinator earlier in the offseason, how Getsy would help develop quarterback Justin Fields would be a major point. By adding Patrick, a veteran who’s spent his entire career with the Green Bay Packers, the Bears are investing in Fields. Adding Patrick isn’t just about rebuilding the trenches for the Bears. It’s about giving Fields a veteran center that will ensure the rest of the offensive line gels together quickly.

Patrick’s familiarity with Getsy should do wonders for Fields, who will need to learn a new offense heading into his second year. Patrick’s versatility is also a plus for the Bears as the 28-year old can play any position on the interior and has started 28 games over the last two seasons for the Packers.

Final Grade: A+

2) LB Nicholas Morrow

As the Bears attempt to transition to a 4-3 defense under head coach Matt Eberflus, the Bears are looking to overhaul the linebacker group with one common theme: Speed. Chicago already has a proven product in fifth-year pro Roquan Smith and by adding Morrow, who runs a 4.53 40-yard dash, Chicago is looking to emphasize speed on the second level of the defense in 2022 and beyond.

Morrow missed the 2021 season due to a foot injury sustained in training camp but proved he could be productive in 2020 with 11 starts, 78 tackles, eight tackles for loss, and six quarterback hits. Morrow is just 26 years old and has been in the NFL since 2017, so his starting experience and age make him a player who can be a long-term fit for Chicago should he stay healthy.

Morrow signed a one-year deal with the Bears worth $3M, with $2.5M guaranteed, so the Bears aren’t committing to Morrow in the long-term by any means. However, if Morrow can’t stay healthy, questions will arise as to why the Bears opted to invest in a player who hasn’t played in the regular season since 2020.

Final Grade: B-

3) WR Byron Pringle

It wasn’t until 2021 that Pringle’s career really took off. Appearing in 17 games with five starts, Pringle logged 42 receptions, 568 receiving yards, and five touchdowns, averaging 13.5 yards per reception with the Kansas City Chiefs. Pringle, an undrafted free agent in the 2018 NFL Draft, should be an asset for the Bears in the vertical passing game.

His skillset allows him to play both outside and in the slot, giving the Bears another versatile WR to line up opposite Darnell Mooney. Considering the state of the Bears’ depth chart, Pringle has every opportunity to enter the season as WR3. Pringle’s experience as a returner on special teams will also allow him to carve out a role on the roster but the Bears likely see him being an asset on offense before considering using him as a retuner. The only glaring weakness for Pringle is lack of starting experience, with just eight starts since 2019.

Chicago signed Pringle to a one-year deal but if he can build on a strong 2021 season, he’ll have the opportunity to earn a nice payday next offseason.

Final Grade: B+

4) DL Justin Jones

When news broke that the Bears were not signing defensive tackle Larry Ogunjobi due to a failed physical, the Bears moved quickly to lock up Jones, a five-year veteran who’s started 35 games since 2018. For the Bears, Jones could very easily be an under-the-radar signing who starts from day one.

When looking at the contract the Bears handed Jones, a two-year deal worth $12M, it’s clear the Bears view the 2018 third-round pick as a starter. He’ll have an opportunity to anchor the middle of the Bears defense as a 3-technique defensive tackle. While Jones has traditionally been a run stuffer, his contract indicates the Bears hope that he’ll play a larger role on defense which includes generating pressure and collapsing the pocket, allowing players such as Robert Quinn and Trevis Gipson to get after the quarterback.

Overall, Jones has proven to be solid enough and while he flew under the radar for the Los Angeles Chargers, the Bears present an opportunity for himself to make a real name for himself. Considering he’s never really been a player who’s consistently sacked the quarterback, Jones will need to start doing so to take his game to the next level.

Final Grade: B+

5) WR Equanimeous St.Brown

The Bears were rumored to be interested in top names in the WR market such as Christian Kirk and JuJu Smith-Schuster and while it’s unknown whether or not Chicago was seriously interested in each of the WRs listed above, St.Brown was a name the Bears were confirmed to be in on.

Most are familiar with St.Brown’s NFL career. A sixth-round pick of the Green Bay Packers in the 2018 NFL Draft, the former Notre Dame WR has mainly been a special teams contributor, St.Brown missed the 2019 season but does have 10 career starts. With just 16 receptions over the last two seasons, it’s clear that St.Brown was unable to crack the Packers WR rotation which included Davante Adams, Allen Lazard, and Randall Cobb as prominent names.

Much like Lucas Patrick, the Bears signed St.Brown due to his familiarity with OC Luke Getsy. St.Brown’s impact in Green Bay wasn’t eye-opening by any means but by signing St.Brown, the Bears are hoping to add depth to the WR room but the team is also banking on a change of scenery and new opportunities being driving forces behind St.Brown having a career revival.

Grade: C-

6) DL Al-Quadin Muhammad

Another defensive lineman, Muhammad spent the last four seasons under Eberflus with the Indianapolis Colts. Now entering year six, he should be one of the undisputed faces of the Bears defensive line after a career year that saw him notch six sacks, 13 QB hits, and seven tackles for loss.

In Eberflus’ scheme, Muhammad can play a pivotal role as a starting defensive end. With 25 career starts, 17 of which came in 2021, Eberflus played a key role in luring Muhammad to Chicago in order to fortify a defensive line that lost three starters from the 2021 season. The Bears will look to his experience as a means of ensuring the defensive line can quickly gel and have an impact.

While Muhammad has spent most of his career as a rotational player, the Bears are banking on him becoming an impact player in Chicago rather quickly.

Final Grade: A

7) FB Khari Blasingame

The Kyle Shanahan/Matt LaFleur offense is starting to come together in Chicago and while fullbacks have seen their roles diminish over the last decade, the Bears signed Blasingame to contribute both in the running game and passing game. When looking at Blasingame’s career since 2019, he’s averaged 9.7 yards per reception and has caught 83.3 percent of passes thrown his way. While his reception total is just 10, he’s proven that there is potential for him the receiving game.

In what is expected to be an outsize zone running scheme, the Bears will use Blasingame as a lead blocker at times, giving him the opportunity to pave the way for a two-headed monster in the backfield that will feature David Montgomery and Khalil Herbert. While Blasingame has never been known to be heavily involved in the running game, the Bears could certainly use him in the redzone as a short-yardage RB.

Final Grade: B-

Chicago Bears: Ryan Poles adds to WR room

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Lake Forest, Ill.– The Chicago Bears have been quietly active so far in free agency. After announcing the signing of defensive tackle Larry Ogunjobi, linebacker Nicholas Morrow, and interior offensive lineman Lucas Patrick on Wednesday afternoon, the Bears added two more wide receivers, Byron Pringle and Equanimeous St. Brown on Thursday evening, reshaping the WR room.

St.Brown, who heads into his fifth NFL season was a sixth-round pick by the Green Bay Packers in the 2018 NFL Draft. At just 25 years old, and familiar with Bears offensive coordinator Luke Getsy, he was a regular part of the Packers’ WR rotation in 2021. He enters his first season with the Bears with 37 career receptions, 543 receiving yards, and just one touchdown, averaging 14.7 yards per reception.

While it’s unlikely St.Brown open’s the regular season as the starter opposite third-year WR Darnell Mooney, he does provide some depth and could be the third or fourth string WR on the Bears depth chart which means being a contributor on special teams.

Signing Pringle, who’s just 28 years old, is about Bears general manager Ryan Poles bringing in a player who will be a leader in the locker room and help establish a healthy culture. 2021 was Pringle’s most productive season in the NFL, as the former undrafted free agent started five games, caught 42 receptions for 568 receiving yards, and five touchdowns while averaging 13.5 yards per reception. The Bears clearly view Pringle as a true deep threat and asset in the vertical passing game, an area where second-year quarterback Justin Fields has typically excelled.

The Bears WR room was set to undergo significant changes this offseason and despite the additions of Pringle and St.Brown, Poles may not be done just yet. With two second-round picks in the 2022 NFL Draft in what is considered to be a deep WR class, the Bears will have an opportunity to solidify the entire WR room, giving Fields a deep arsenal of weapons in the passing game.

Chicago Bears add two free agents on Tuesday night

Lake Forest, Ill.– As Tuesday evening approached the twilight hours, the Chicago Bears made two under-the-radar additions, adding to both the offense and defense. First, multiple reports indicated that the Bears were signing former Las Vegas Raiders linebacker Nicholas Morrow, and then just under an hour later, the Bears went ahead and signed former Green Bay Packers offensive lineman Lucas Patrick.

After signing defensive tackle Larry Ogunjobi just hours after the legal tampering period opened on Monday, the Bears were silent for much of the day on Tuesday. Morrow, who is just 26 years old, was slated to start with the Raiders all throughout 2021 before sustaining a season-ending knee injury in training camp. While the former undrafted free agent hasn’t seen any legitimate action since 2020, the expectation is that he has a chance to start at MIKE LB, alongside fifth-year LB Roquan Smith. When Morrow last saw any sort of action, he racked up 78 tackles, eight tackles for loss, and six quarterback hits in 11 total starts.

Signing Patrick is more about adding some veteran presence and familiarity to the offensive line. Patrick joined the Packers in 2016 as an undrafted free agent and has 34 career starts, including 25 over the last two seasons. His familiarity with Bears OC Luke Getsy is a major reason he was on the Bears’ radar, signing a two-year, $8M deal, with $4M guaranteed in year one.

Throughout free agency, the Bears have remained patient, letting the market settle, with first-year general manager Ryan Poles insisting that the Bears will continue to build through the NFL Draft. Assessing the signings of Patrick and Morrow, the immediate conclusion is that the Bears are opting to sign low-risk, high-reward players in an effort to shore up holes throughout the roster.

The Bears may not necessarily be big spenders in free agency, however, from the Bears point of view, the team is adding players that can contribute in the present but also give the team some flexibility well into the future

Chicago Bears: What impact does the Larry Ogunjobi signing have?

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Lake Forest, Ill.– When the NFL’s legal tampering period opened on Monday morning, first-year Chicago Bears general manager Ryan Poles wasted no time dishing out offers to various free agents. Despite rumors that the Bears were in on a number of players, Chicago’s lone signing during the legal tampering period was defensive lineman Larry Ogunjobi who spent the 2021 season with the Cincinnati Bengals.

Ogunjobi’s, Poles biggest acquisition to date, has drawn some mixed reactions among the Bears fanbase. On one hand, first-year head coach Matt Eberflus gets the coveted three-technique defensive tackle needed to ensure that the defense flourishes. On the other hand, many are confused as to why Poles opted to trade defensive superstar Khalil Mack and then make a splash signing on the defensive side of the ball less than a week later.

The final numbers, including cap hits are still unavailable but the expectation is that the Bears will ink Ogunjobi to a three-year deal $40.5M, with $26.35M in guaranteed money. Since entering the NFL in 2017 as a third-round pick by the Cleveland Browns, Ogunjobi has logged 63 starts and totaled 21.5 sacks. Besides just experience, the Bears believe Ogunjobi is the right fit in Eberflus’ defense.

Adding Ogunjobi to the Bears roster isn’t about making a splash move. Adding Ogunjobi to the roster is about giving Eberflus’ defense a critical piece needed to succeed. Despite having offseason surgery to repair his foot, an injury sustained during the 2021 playoffs, the Bears are banking on Ogunjobi to replicate his 2021 production, a stat line that included seven sacks, 49 tackles, 12 tackles for loss, and 16 QB hits.

Just hours after signing Ogunjobi, the Bears opted to release veteran DT Eddie Goldman, ending a seven-year run with the team. Adding Ogunjobi to the defense means the Bears’ transition to a 4-3 defense is fully underway with Eberflus and Poles looking to quickly rebuild a unit that was inconsistent at times throughout the 2021 season.

Chicago Bears: What do the last 48 hours tell us about Ryan Poles?

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Lake Forest, Ill.– The last 48 hours for Chicago Bears fans have been bittersweet, to say the least. Thursday afternoon saw first-year general manager Ryan Poles ship off star pass rusher Khalil Mack for a pair of draft picks while Friday brought the release of Eddie Goldman and Tarik Cohen, two longtime foundational pieces of the Ryan Pace era.

On the surface, Poles big moves indicate the Bears are ready to punt on 2022 and are already looking ahead to 2023. The greater significance of moving on from players like Mack is using draft capital and newly created salary cap space to build around second-year quarterback Justin Fields.

During his introductory press conference, Poles spoke about wanting to take the NFC North and never give it back. For the Bears, that represents not just being competitive for two or three seasons but taking a page out of the Green Bay Packers book and running the division for multiple decades.

Moving on from Mack, Cohen, and Goldman was inevitable at some point over the next few years for the Bears. But Poles is willing to accelerate the rebuild. The bigger question now becomes, how will Poles plan to build around Fields? With free agency set to begin, will Poles get ready to swing for the fences and consider beefing up the offensive line while using the NFL Draft to surround Fields with playmakers? It’s a strategy that could pay off for Chicago if both the free agent class and rookie class pan out.

What’s happening in Chicago isn’t just another rebuild. Poles’ roots in Kansas City, a timeframe that spans back nearly 12 years in a franchise that’s been to two of the last three Super Bowls have allowed the Bears’ GM to see what it takes to build a championship caliber team on the heels of elite quarterback play. In an era where the NFL is driven by offense and elite quarterback play, Poles understands the significance of both and is ready to ensure the Bears reach those heights and get back to relevancy.

Chicago Bears: Tarik Cohen, Eddie Goldman set to be released

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Lake Forest, Ill.– Less than 24 hours after trading away star pass rusher Khalil Mack, Chicago Bears first-year general manager Ryan Poles wasted no time on Friday afternoon, making more veteran cuts. Around noon, ESPN’s Adam Schefter was the first to report the team was set to move on from running back Tarik Cohen, and hours later, news of Eddie Goldman’s release would follow.

Moving on from Goldman and Cohen brings signals, even more, change for the Bears organization. The Bears are now Poles team and the serious yet stoic 36-year old GM is fit to do whatever he pleases with the Bears roster. Chicago will now look forward to an offseason that will be more about building the foundation for years to come, rather than trying to compete in 2022.

Cohen, a 2017 fourth-round pick missed the entire 2021 season after rehabbing a torn ACL that he sustained returning a punt during week three of the 2020 season in a road game against the Atlanta Falcons. The move will save the Bears roughly $2.2M in cap space but incur a dead cap charge of $3.5M for the 2022 offseason. His career in Chicago comes to an end after 22 starts, 1575 receiving yards, and 13 total touchdowns.

Goldman, a 2015 second-round pick and the third longest-tenured Bears entering the 2021 season, opted out of the 2020 season due to COVID-19. When Goldman returned to the team in 2021, there was uncertainty about whether or not he would play but would end up starting 10 games in 2021. His time with the Bears finishes after seven seasons, starting 73 total games.

As the Bears get ready to rebuild the roster, Poles’ message is clear by moving on from Goldman and Cohen. The Bears aren’t expected to be competitive in 2022 and the franchise is already looking ahead to 2023, with the vision being to build around second-year quarterback Justin Fields.

Chicago Bears: Ranking needs heading into 2022 offseason

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Lake Forest, IL— As the 2022 offseason heats up for the Chicago Bears, new general manager Ryan Poles and head coach Matt Eberflus will attempt to reshape the Bears roster. With just 48 players under contract heading into February and just $28M in cap space, the Bears have a number of needs including cornerback, center, wide receiver, middle linebacker, defensive line, and safety. With just five picks in the 2022 NFL Draft, along with no first or fourth-round picks, the Bears will have to make the most of limited resources, especially with Poles looking to build primarily through the draft.

Before the flurry of roster moves begin for the Bears, how do the Bears needs rank heading into an important offseason?

1) Wide receiver

Chicago’s biggest priority this offseason will be investing in the offense and building around quarterback Justin Fields. Year one of the Fields era showed promise but the Bears WR core underperformed. Heading into the offseason, only Darnell Mooney and 2021 sixth-round pick Dazz Newsome are on the roster. With a second and third-round pick in the 2022 NFL Draft, the Bears will need to invest a high draft pick in a wide receiver to pair alongside Mooney. The Bears do have some options on the free agent market such as Chris Godwin, Devante Adams, Will Fuller, JuJu Smith-Schuster, Mike Williams, and Zach Pascal as names to keep an eye on. Bringing back Marquise Goodwin wouldn’t be a bad idea considering he did begin to establish some chemistry with Fields and provide the position with a veteran presence.

2) Cornerback

CB is a need for the Bears, who need to decide whether or not 2021 sixth-round pick Thomas Graham Jr. can be Jaylon Johnson’s future running mate. Expect the Bears to look into an upgrade into adding a CB opposite Johnson while bringing in some competition at nickel CB with additional depth. When the calendar turns to July, guys like Marqui Christian, Xavier Crawford, Kindle Vildor, and Duke Shelley will likely be on the chopping block. While dipping into the free agent market to sign a name like J.C. Jackson sounds appealing, general manager Ryan Poles isn’t likely to overspend in the initial wave of free agency, instead opting to let the market settle and find cheaper options in both the second and third waves.

3) Center

Heading into the 2021 season, the possibility of Sam Mustipher becoming the future at Center seemed like a strong possibility for the Bears. Instead, Mustipher would draw mixed results, making an upgrade a priority this offseason. With Ryan Poles background being offensive line, the Bears could look at options to round out the interior in the NFL Draft but Chicago does have some options on the roster to replace Mustipher, including veteran Cody Whitehair or pending free agent James Daniels, both who have prior experience playing the position. One possible free agent option that could intrigue the Bears is veteran Ryan Jensen but set to be 31 years old in May, Poles may heavily weigh Jensen’s age as a reason to not sign the veteran, who will be looking for his third NFL contract.

4) Middle Linebacker

As the Bears transition back to a 4-3 defense, there’s some shuffling that needs to be at the linebacker position. Roquan Smith will likely transition to be being a WIll linebacker, which means the Bears will need a true Mike LB to anchor the middle of the defense. With Danny Trevathan and Alec Ogletree getting older, the Bears could look to find a stopgap solution instead of making a big splash in free agency. However, if Poles and Eberflus decide the need for a true Will LB is too great to pass up, Zaire Franklin, who played under Eberflus from 2018-2021 in Indianapolis could make an ideal free agent signing during the second or third wave of free agency.

5) Defensive Line

With the future of Akiem Hicks and Eddie Goldman uncertain, 2018 fifth-round pick Bilal Nichols is set to hit free agency, which means the Bears are set to have some turnover at defensive line. While Goldman is under contract through the end of the 2023 season, the Bears could make him a post-June 1st cut in 2022 and save $8.8M in cap space, and with a cap hit of $11.8M for the upcoming season, the Bears could opt to keep Goldman on the roster instead of reworking his contract, which would create just $3.8M in cap space. One aspect of Eberflus’ defense is a strong 3-technique at defensive tackle who can be a driving force behind a disruptive defensive line. Over the last two seasons, Eberflus’ 3-tech in Indianapolis was DeForest Buckner, who helped the Colts defense become one of the best in the NFL. One option would be bringing Hicks back but that would require the veteran taking a significant pay cut and the Bears likely only offering a one-year deal as a stopgap as the team searches for a true solution that can anchor down the position for the future. Overall, this is a position the Bears will need to address in 2022 but remain patient and not overspend.

6) Safety

Eddie Jackson may be under contract through the end of the 2024 season and while some have labeled Jackson as a true fit for what Eberflus likes to do, the Bears need to find a true strong safety to pair with Jackson. For what seems like the fourth consecutive season, the safety market has plenty of interesting names, including Tyrann Mathieu, Marcus Williams, Marcus Maye, Jessie Bates III, and Justin Reid. All of the aforementioned names started at one point during the 2021 season and some such as Bates, Williams, and Maye are due for contract extensions. This means the Bears will need to find a cheap solution or the team could possibly resign Deon Bush or Tashaun Gipson to another one-year deal before figuring out a long-term solution. Unless the Bears are confident that a good safety can be found on day three of the 2022 NFL Draft, this will likely end up being one of the last needs the Bears address during the offseason.

 

Chicago Bears: Ryan Poles set to be 14th GM in team history

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Lake Forest, IL– On Tuesday afternoon, the Chicago Bears made the decision to hire Kansas City Chiefs Executive Director player of personnel Ryan Poles, making him the 14th general manager in team history. The 36-year old Poles will now walk into a situation where he’ll need to get the Bears back to prominence with important pieces such as quarterback Justin Fields already in place.

Despite spending his entire NFL career with just one team, Poles’ tenure in Kansas City shouldn’t be overlooked. After joining the Chiefs organization in 2009 as a scouting assistant, Poles worked his way up the ladder, spending time as a college scouting coordinator, director of college scouting, assistant director of player personnel, and executive director of player personnel.

The work now begins for Poles who will be tasked with hiring a head coach, helping the Bears get back to relevance, and with widespread changes expected to take place in the NFC North this offseason, the Bears could take control of the division relatively quickly. Poles college experience includes playing football at Boston College, playing offensive line, blocking for current Atlanta Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan. Poles also had a brief stint with the Bears as an undrafted free agent during the 2008 season but failed to make any sort of significant impact.

The Bears are clearly excited about Poles’ potential. For a front office executive who’s had an instrumental voice in helping rebuild the Chiefs over the last few years. Through the NFL Draft, the Chiefs have added names like Tyreek Hill, Travis Kelce, Patrick Mahomes, and Clyde Edwards-Helaire. Poles also helped rebuild the Chiefs’ offensive line during the 2021 offseason, adding veteran Joe Thuney via free agency and drafting rookies Creed Humphery and Trey Smith in the 2021 NFL Draft.

While the Bears have yet to officially announce Poles as the team’s GM, the general buzz around the Bears fanbase seems to be excitement regarding Poles being hired.