Ryan Poles 'open' to trading No. 1 pick, will be disciplined in free agency

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Poles explains Bears' strategy for critical offseason ahead originally appeared on NBC Sports Chicago

LAKE FOREST, Ill. -- The first season of the Ryan Poles-Matt Eberflus era ended with the Bears going 3-14, finishing on a 10-game losing streak, and landing the No. 1 overall pick in the 2023 NFL Draft.

With Poles' teardown complete, the Bears now enter what could be a transformational offseason armed with over $100 million in salary cap and the No. 1 pick. Those assets have many dreaming of a wild spending spree that helps catapult the Bears from NFC North laughing stock to perennial contender.

As he has shown since he arrived a year ago, Poles plans to be disciplined when adding talent to his roster.

"We’re gonna identify needs," Poles said Tuesday. "What do we need? What are the holes in the roster? And then we’re gonna attack them with the same relentlessness that we did this past season. Obviously we have a lot more resources, so I’m excited to do that. But we’ve gotta stay sound in free agency. I know everyone’s talking about how much money we have and we’re just gonna go crazy. We’re gonna be sound so that we get the right players in here and we get good value.”

“And attack the draft always keeping value in mind. That’s gonna stay the same. It’s not gonna change just because we have the No. 1 overall pick.”

As for the No. 1 pick, Poles stated Tuesday that Justin Fields would be his starting quarterback in 2023. The Bears general manager said he'd "have to be blown away" to draft a quarterback at No. 1.

With the franchise quarterback already on the roster, Poles and the Bears will approach the draft with an open mind, which includes trading down.

"I think it goes back to what I said about flexibility," Poles said when asked about the No. 1 pick. "We can evaluate the talent there, we can see what player presents themselves in that position to help us, and then we can look at the scenarios. If the phones go off and there are certain situations where that can help us, then we’ll go down that avenue too. I think we have really good flexibility to help this team, regardless if it’s making the pick there or moving back a little bit or moving back a lot. We’ll be open to everything.

"It’s the flexibility of being able to do a lot from that spot," Poles said later. "But we have to move the needle to get better."

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So where do Poles and Eberflus start as they look to build a sustained winner this offseason?

“It’s hard to identify that right now but I always go back to the premium positions," Poles said. "We’re always going to look at pass rushers, we’re going to look at offensive linemen, corners. So that’s we’re always going to start and see can we play winning football with premium positions and then we move from there.”

Poles and Eberflus exited the media center at Halas Hall and headed toward the Bears' offseason of change.

The architects of this great rebuild have everything they need at their disposal. Now, their moment has arrived.

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