The Chicago Bears are gearing up for the 2022 NFL season, which features plenty of new and returning faces within the organization. There are a number of players, coaches and front office members that are crucial to the team’s success this season.
Every day from now until the start of training camp, we’re counting down our 30 most important Bears for the 2022 season. We’ll recap their 2021 season, look ahead to 2022 and tackle the biggest question facing them this year.
Next up at No. 6 is general manager Ryan Poles, who’s rebuilding the Bears for the future.
AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh
Position: General manager
Experience: 1st season as GM (14th season in NFL)
2022 cap hit: N/A
Kansas City Chiefs
Poles was a rising star among the Kansas City Chiefs organization, where he survived three different GM regimes and continued to climb the ranks within the organization. Poles has extensive scouting experience, where he oversaw all aspects of scouting players, helped with free agency preparation and assisted GM Brett Veach with the NFL draft.
Poles was with Kansas City for his entire NFL career, which spanned 13 seasons, before joining the Bears. He’s seen how a successful NFL franchise operates. The Chiefs have won at least 10 games in each of the last six seasons, which also includes two AFC championships and a Super Bowl.
While it took the Chiefs a little bit to get going in 2021, Kansas City had another impressive season. They compiled a 12-5 record and made it to the AFC Championship Game for the fourth straight year. The Chiefs nearly made it back to the Super Bowl for the third straight season. But Kansas City lost a 27-24 thriller to the Cincinnati Bengals in the AFC Championship Game.
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Poles didn’t exactly inherit a good situation in Chicago — new GMs rarely do. But Poles clearly laid out his intentions as GM — to build through the NFL draft and get the Bears back on top in the NFC North. He wasted no time going to work on this roster. While Poles has been hesitant to use the word “rebuild” — he prefers “retool” — make no mistake that’s what he’s doing with the roster. Poles’ first significant move was trading Khalil Mack to the Chargers in exchange for second and seventh round picks and salary cap freedom in 2023. The Bears also parted ways with Eddie Goldman, Tarik Cohen and Danny Trevathan, all players who had significant salary cap hits.
In free agency, Poles didn’t sign any big-name players to lucrative deals, which didn’t really come as a surprise. But it still infuriated plenty given the focus on hopeful franchise quarterback Justin Fields. Poles’ biggest moves included signing center Lucas Patrick, wide receiver Byron Pringle, linebacker Nicholas Morrow and defensive tackle Justin Jones. But he had his misses, too, including the failed signing of defensive tackle Larry Ogunjobi (who failed his physical) and losing out on offensive guard Ryan Bates after the Bills matched his offer sheet from Chicago. Poles re-signed just two of the team’s pending free agents in safety DeAndre Houston-Carson and long snapper Patrick Scales, which made it clear that he didn’t think much of the departing roster.
The Bears did address some big needs in the NFL draft with second-round cornerback Kyler Gordon and safety Jaquan Brisker, who could develop into defensive cornerstones for this team. Chicago also added third-round wide receiver Velus Jones Jr., who has an opportunity to thrive in Luke Getsy’s offense. Poles also found some potential steals in fifth-round offensive tackle Braxton Jones and defensive end Dominique Robinson.
But the Bears roster isn’t inspiring any hope. ESPN’s Keyshawn Johnson flat out said “this roster sucks.” But with Poles, it was always clear that he was building for the future. It’s not exactly a recipe for immediate success. But the plan is to be successful in the long run.
Big question: Did Poles do enough to help Justin Fields this offseason?
AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh
Poles has been criticized for his handling of Fields this offseason. Specifically how he didn’t make any big moves at wide receiver or offensive line during free agency. But Poles has been busy fixing what former GM Ryan Pace left behind, including getting rid of expensive veterans and getting younger on the roster.
It’s not exactly what people want to hear in regards to Fields, who’s coming off a rocky rookie season where he was under pressure constantly and Darnell Mooney was his most consistent weapon. But Poles is banking on new offensive coordinator Luke Getsy and quarterbacks coach Andrew Janocko to help Fields make progress in his second season. Getsy built his offense around Fields’ strengths, including utilizing his mobility, play action and taking pressure off him with a strong run game.
The Bears will have around $90 million in salary cap space heading into the 2023 season, which gives Poles plenty of room to make some big moves in free agency. Including adding a big-name wideout and retooling the offensive line, as needed. Let’s just hope that Fields shows some kind of progress in Year 2.
30 Most Important Bears of 2022
We’re counting down our 30 Most Important Bears of 2022. Check back every day leading up to the start of training camp.
6. GM Ryan Poles
5. COMING 7/22
4. COMING 7/23
3. COMING 7/24
2. COMING 7/25
1. COMING 7/26