Bears News

As Bears write a new story, they’re confident in what the future holds

1 year agoChris Emma

LAKE FOREST, Ill. — All throughout Halas Hall, the Bears’ home headquarters for more than 25 years, there are relics of the past and reminders of franchise heritage. 


The main doors open to a large lobby that serves as a museum of Bears history, with quotes along the wooden walls from the great George Halas himself. The players’ entrance along the north side of the new 162,500-square-foot football operations facility leads with a corridor of the team’s retired numbers, a reminder each day of legacy. The south wing features championship hardware from a 103-year history, including the Lombardi Trophy from Super Bowl XX. 


It all resonated with new Bears linebacker Tremaine Edmunds, who walked alongside his parents through Halas Hall for the first time last Thursday. He was enamored by the team’s past. 


“It’s just a great tradition,” Edmunds said. “I mean, you talk about great linebackers, in particular middle linebackers, why wouldn’t you want to come to a place like this? It’s such a great tradition. I’m just excited to write my own story now.” 


The 24-year-old Edmunds was the Bears’ marquee addition in free agency, a five-year standout and two-time Pro Bowl linebacker with the Bills who hit the open market just entering his prime. After signing a four-year, $72-million deal, Edmunds instantly becomes one of Chicago’s best players upon arrival at Halas Hall.  


But the Bears did not break the bank in free agency, this despite boasting the most salary cap space of any team in the NFL. Even after signing a haul that includes Edmunds, T.J. Edwards, Nate Davis, DeMarcus Walker, Robert Tonyan, D’Onta Foreman, PJ Walker and Travis Homer – plus acquiring star wide receiver DJ Moore in a deal for the No. 1 overall pick – Chicago still has more salary cap space of any team with north of $38 million available. 


Ryan Poles, the Bears’ second-year general manager who embarked on a rebuilding process in 2022, stood true to his plan of building a team that can last at the top. 


“We got better as a football team,” Poles said. “The goal going into this offseason deal was to improve our roster now, but also stay flexible in the future so we can stay healthy, opportunistic and continue to get better. Because obviously we know this process takes some time to do it the right way.” 


Since he was hired by the Bears in January of 2022, Poles never planned to throw money at their roster voids. During his introductory press conference, he hinted of the process that was to come – a teardown of the aging roster he inherited, an escape from the burden of salary from his predecessor and a careful build back up.  


The Bears are still forming off the foundation they set in Year 1 with Poles and head coach Matt Eberflus. While the flurry of activity this month inspired hope for what’s to come, it also reminded of the patience needed. 


The Bears hope to become in 2023 what the Jaguars were in 2022, having gone from the worst record in the NFL to 9-8 and champions of the weak AFC South class. Jacksonville made sound investments with its league-leading salary cap space last March and built around a promising young quarterback in Trevor Lawrence, who has begun to deliver on his potential and guide that franchise forward. 


Bears quarterback Justin Fields has been provided a greater opportunity at success with the arrival of Moore into his offensive arsenal, plus better protection up front and a stronger supporting cast. If the 24-year-old Fields thrives in his third season, this team is capable of winning playoff games next January. A defense that was gashed in 2022 now has the front-line talent to change games with Eberflus’ HITS Principle, as dynamic players like Edmunds, Edwards and Walker add to a budding unit. 


What the Bears can accomplish this season would be largely the byproduct of Fields and the opportunity presented in this reshuffled NFC North. But it’s not necessarily that Poles’ plan is nearing completion. 


Poles needs at least two more drafts for the Bears to truly form one of the best teams in the NFL, establishing a more complete roster. He has 10 draft picks in hand for late April, including the No. 9 overall selection sent from the Panthers. It’s very likely the Bears will trade down multiple times and select more than 10 times, an acknowledgement by Poles that depth is still desperately needed. 


That’s why the Bears backed out on the rising markets for premier free agents like Javon Hargrave, Mike McGlinchey and Jawaan Taylor, who each landed lucrative deals elsewhere. Poles prioritized that “flexibility” he has touted all offseason and recognized what it represents moving forward. 


The Bears will spend much of their remaining salary cap space to address the bottom of the roster for 2023, plus expected contract extensions for Jaylon Johnson, Darnell Mooney and Cole Kmet. Poles will find opportunities to sign established veterans released by other teams to clear salary cap. When the Bears begin their offseason program next month in Lake Forest, they will be a vastly different and improved football team. 


The goal this season for Poles is to have the Bears contending for the playoffs and positioned for greater success to come. What he has accomplished to this point fulfills those aspirations. 


For a franchise that proudly celebrates its past, the Bears are confident in their work for the future. 


“It’s about building something special,” Edmunds said. “It’s about building a culture and definitely building that here, brick by brick.” 

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