Ryan Poles explains why Bears didn't sign Orlando Brown Jr., OT in free agency
Poles explains why Bears passed on Brown, tackles in free agency originally appeared on NBC Sports Chicago
LAKE FOREST -- The Bears entered the offseason with needs across the roster. That's expected after a 3-14 teardown season that ends in the No. 1 pick.
Offensive tackle was of the areas general manager Ryan Poles was expected to address early in free agency. The Bears were heavily involved in conversations with right tackle Mike McGlinchey, but he took a five-year, $87.5 million deal with the Denver Broncos.
Orlando Brown Jr. was one of the top names on the market. Poles was in Kansas City when the Chiefs traded a first-round pick to the Ravens to acquire Brown before the 2021 season. Brown's market was slow moving, and many thought the Bears, with $40 million in salary cap space, might jump into the pool and snag a top-level left tackle.
They did not.
The Cincinnati Bengals signed Brown to a reasonable four-year, $64 million deal Wednesday.
Why weren't the Bears interested in adding the best tackle on the market?
"I'm not going to get into the specific player, but the scheme match is a big deal there," Poles said Thursday during a press conference at Halas Hall.
The Bears entered free agency with almost $100 million in salary cap space. The acquisition of wide receiver D.J. Moore knocked that down to around $75 million—still plenty of money to revamp a leaky offensive line.
But after losing out on McGlinchey, the Bears watched Jawaan Taylor sign with the Kansas City Chiefs, and Kaleb McGary return to the Atlanta Falcons. With Brown not viewed as a scheme fit, the Bears remain on the hunt for a top-tier tackle.
Many thought Taylor could eventually land in Chicago. He got $20 million a year to replace Brown in Kansas City.
It's clear that the Bears, despite their heavy wallets, didn't want to play in the very deep end of an exploding tackle market.
"Yeah I will stick to this: It comes down to value and where we felt comfortable with our research, our evaluations, analytics, all of that," Poles said when asked about his approach to the tackle market. "You know there was a certain point where we were comfortable with based on the value and the evaluation that we had. And if it surpassed that, we were OK with moving on."
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The Bears did add to their offensive line in free agency, signing right guard Nate Davis to a three-year contract. Davis has only played right guard in his career, which leads to several questions about the outlook of the interior of the Bears' offensive line, mainly the futures of Teven Jenkins and Cody Whitehair.
From where we stand Thursday, the Bears have four players on their roster with tackle experience: Braxton Jones, Larry Borom, Alex Leatherwood, and Jenkins.
Additions are needed and will be made. The Bears currently have a gaping hole at right tackle, and as much as they like Jones at left, they hope to see more from the fifth-round pick.
“For a young rookie from Southern Utah to start and play every snap, we thought he did some really good things," Poles said when asked about Jones. "Some growth and development from him. He’s working out, getting bigger and stronger. So right now, he’s the starting left tackle. If we could create competition and move guys around to see what the best five is, that’s what we will do.”
After a 2022 season in which quarterback Justin Fields was under siege weekly, the Bears were expected to make wholesale improvements to their front five, with a focus on the bookends.
McGlinchey's price exceeded their line, and they didn't view Brown as a scheme fit. They'll have to live with those decisions as their quest to build a competent offensive line drags on.
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