Ryan Poles’ Chicago Bears rebuild should closely follow Denver blueprint

Chicago Bears ()David Banks-USA TODAY Sports
Chicago Bears ()David Banks-USA TODAY Sports /

It’s no secret that the Chicago Bears have some work to do on their roster to truly compete. However, I think the biggest misconception surrounding team building is that teams need to find the quarterback first. The Broncos’ team-building process over the last few years shows that isn’t necessarily true.

After winning the Super Bowl in 2015,  Denver only posted one winning record in 2016 when they went 9-7. The next five seasons saw them win no more than seven games in any season. However, while they were losing, Denver wasn’t out every offseason spending all their cap on high-end free agents or making aggressive trades in the draft.

The Broncos, over the past five years, built almost entirely through the draft and matched that with key role players in free agency that didn’t break the bank. What was the result of this? The ability to become the most attractive quarterback (QB) destination and easily take on their new QB’s salary. In addition, while Wilson is 33, the rest of the Broncos roster is at an average age of 25.6 (good for the 13th youngest in the NFL).

This is the road the Chicago Bears need to go down if they want to build a long-term contender. Luckily, it seems like Ryan Poles is laser-focused on building through the draft and targeting low-risk, high-reward free agents. See, the Bears’ ultimate goal has to be to develop their team such that it doesn’t matter whether Justin Fields reaches his ceiling (as we all believe) or not.

Whether or not Fields develops, the Chicago Bears’ mission to build a contending roster remains paramount.

In the Broncos case, they committed to building their team around Drew Lock despite knowing for three years that he wasn’t the answer. Yet, they continued improving their team and it put them in a position to acquire an elite QB and immediately compete for a Super Bowl.

For the Bears, it’d be absolutely terrific for Justin to reach his ceiling and become the first true franchise QB for the Chicago Bears in the Super Bowl era. However, their contingency plan has to be to build a team great enough to win now such that if Fields doesn’t pan out, another franchise QB points to them as their ideal trade destination.

We’re entering a new era of player movement in the NFL. Players are no longer content staying in losing situations. Matthew Stafford is probably the last of a former breed of quarterback who will stay loyal and committed to the team that drafted them in spite of the situation. Three years in a row has seen a major QB move via trade or free agency. Tom Brady in 2020. Matthew Stafford in 2021. Now, Russell Wilson in 2022. Deshaun Watson hasn’t even been traded yet.

As a result, teams without QBs are even more incentivized to build strong teams and attract potentially unhappy QBs. It’s no longer about tanking for a draft pick to take the next raw prospect. It’s also about making the team look as attractive as possible for unhappy, established veteran QBs.

I believe the Chicago Bears are in a great situation where they have a young QB to build around, and I personally think Justin will reach his potential, but at the same time, Ryan Poles must not bank on this becoming reality. It is imperative that he build out the rest of this team, making them younger and chock full of promising talent such that whether or not Fields develops they’ll be in a position to be a major player on the QB market.

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