Ryan Pace is proving to be a worthy General Manager

Being a General Manager for an NFL franchise is a tough job. Being a General Manager for an NFL franchise in a big media market like Chicago is even tougher. There is always going to be someone questioning just about each and every decision you make. Ryan Pace has been the General Manager of the Chicago Bears for only two months, and in that time, he has shown that he has what it takes to become successful in the NFL. In that short two month period, he has already made a handful of decisions that could very well shape the future of the Bears and his time in Chicago. First, he decided the Bears no longer needed the services of Pro Bowl wide receiver Brandon Marshall. As talented as Marshall is, he had a negative influence in the locker room, and that’s not someone anyone wants on their team. Pace found a willing participant for a trade and shipped Marshall off to the New York Jets for a low round draft choice. Next, decided the Chicago Bears were not going to be big spenders in free agency this year. History has shown us that when you go out and spend a huge amount of money in the free agent market, it rarely pays off. Yes, it creates positive press and allows you to “win” the off season, but it doesn’t always translate to wins in the fall. Pace has made numerous moves in free agency, but he hasn’t given out the outlandish big ticket contract that makes headlines. His first move was to sign outside linebacker Pernell McPhee, who spent his first four years in the league with the Baltimore Ravens. McPhee is only 26 years old and is considered an ascending player, which should mean his best football is in front of him. McPhee was signed to give the Bears an outside pass rusher in their new 3-4 defensive scheme. Next, Pace signed safety Antrel Rolle. Rolle had a very successful career with the New York Giants and is clearly in the last years of his career, but he is still able to play good football and has strong leadership skills. The price tag to obtain Rolle was very fair, and in no way did Chicago overpay for his services. The third big move was the signing of wide receiver Eddie Royal. Royal has had an up and down career. He was originally drafted by Denver and caught 187 passes in his first three years in the league. He then had a two year swing where his production fell off, but in the last two seasons, he has proven to still be a very reliable player. At 28 years old, he should still have some good football left in him and gives the Bears a much needed slot receiver. Going into free agency, the Bears had a huge need along the defensive line as they were transitioning to a new scheme and didn’t have many defensive linemen who fit. Pace resisted going after the over the hill big ticket player and waited until phase two of free agency. His plan may be working. Yesterday, the Bears signed three veteran players who can help improve the defense as they are “fits” to what the Bears are doing. The first player signed yesterday was defensive tackle Jarvis Jenkins, formerly of the Washington Redskins. Jenkins was a Washington's second round draft choice in 2011 but tore an ACL his rookie year. It wasn’t until the last two years that Jenkins has started to play to his potential. In 2014, he started 14 games and had a career high of 29 tackles and three tackles for loss. He will be a good rotational defensive lineman for Chicago. As he only signed a one year contract, there is minimal risk involved. The second player signed was inside linebacker Mason Foster. Foster is going into his fifth year in the league and, early in his career, played some outstanding football for Tampa Bay. When Lovie Smith came in as the new Tampa Bay head coach a year ago, Foster was looked at as a player who didn’t really fit Lovie’s Tampa 2 scheme. With his contract up, the Bucs decided not to re-sign him. Foster is a smart, instinctive player and is an excellent fit for the Bears new scheme. Again, the cost was minimal as he signed a one year deal. The third player signed was by far the most controversial. Defensive tackle Ray McDonald is only 30 years old and has been a very productive player for the 49ers for years. The bad news is that last August he was arrested but not charged in a domestic violence issue involving his fiancé. The San Jose, California police decided against pressing charges after a thorough investigation. Last December, a woman accused McDonald of sexual assault. Almost four months later, no charges have been filed and McDonald has filed a law suit against the woman. It is obvious that the McDonald signing comes with risk and could backfire on the Bears. If that happens, Pace loses a lot of the credibility he has built up in Halas Hall. Pace did a tremendous amount of research before pulling the trigger on the transaction. The Bears new defensive coordinator Vic Fangio came from San Francisco where McDonald played. Fangio has a four-year relationship with McDonald and vouched for Ray both as a person and a player. The same can be said for defensive back coach Ed Donatell, who spent the last four years with McDonald. The Bears also contacted the NFL regarding what their investigation of the incidents showed. Finally, McDonald flew to Chicago to meet with Bears Chairman George McCaskey. After a two hour meeting with McDonald, McCaskey agreed to the signing. Regardless of whether or not the Bears feel they have done all their homework, the signing could backfire on Pace and the Bears. If McDonald had no issues, he would have been the second or third best defensive linemen available this off season after Ndamukong Suh. The money he could have gotten would have been in the $5M range per season. With the issues present, the Bears were able to sign McDonald to only a one year contract. If he screws up, it won’t cost the Bears anything other than bad publicity. If all of these signings work out, Pace will be looked at as a shrewd, young, front office executive. If the McDonald signing fails, then it will be just the opposite. In my view, with the contract structured the way it is, the risk is minimal and the reward high. Pace has spent the last two weeks in free agency making moves to allow the Bears to draft the best players available. It will be interesting to see how he handles draft day. Follow Greg on Twitter @greggabe

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