That was Ryan Poles’ reaction when he learned the Buffalo Bills matched the offer sheet Ryan Bates signed with the Chicago Bears last week, which gave the first-year general manager more work to upgrade the offensive line.
The Bears were optimistic that they would end up with Bates, a versatile linebacker who had generated as a limited free agent. The Bills were good against the salary cap and the Bears offered a player with only four career-regular season starts $ 17 million in a four-year contract with the first two years, about $ 8.85 million, fully guaranteed.
The bills chose to bring Bates back with those conditions and Poland heard the news when they met with reporters Monday afternoon at The Breakers, the site of the NFL’s annual meeting.
It’s a setback for the Bears, who have attracted Bates despite competition from the Minnesota Vikings and New England Patriots.
Bates did not intend to make or break the 2022 or 2023 seasons, but it further challenged Poland to carry out its goal of making the Bears up front and better for full-back Justin Fields.
Almost all of the front-line players worthy of big money have been scooped up, something that has made Bates a little different. The Bears and the other teams involved spotted a diamond in the rough. Of course, it’s hard to get limited free agents and something the Bears have not done in 16 years since beating Nickel fullback Ricky Manning Jr. away from the Carolina Panthers.
So what’s next?
“We will adapt and we will continue to add players,” said Poland. “It is beyond your control. It’s just part of the deal where you put your best foot forward and we have. We came strong.
“There is always work to do. … We were also in conversations with other people who are still out there. There is always work to be done, especially up front, so we will keep at it. ”
What the Bears have not done yet is identify a replacement for James Daniels, who left for the Pittsburgh Steelers in free agency, and they have yet to get specifics about an offensive tackle plan. Poland have indicated the team can look to second-year players Teven Jenkins and Larry Borom at the packing positions. He was adamant about which side they would play, but that was more than he offered the last time he spoke at the reconnaissance combination.
Part of the hesitation is fair. Staff and coaches want to see players on grass. They want to work with them. But it is also an indication of the serious level of distress in the trenches.
“They will compete, but at the same time we are always looking for talent as well,” Poland said of Borom and Jenkins. “If we add another pack, I want to see all those guys compete.
“I know Teven was right in college, Larry was left in college, so there’s a level of comfort there, but Teven played a few links last year due to his whole medical situation, so we’ll go play with that and we’ll see. which fits best. ”
Some in the league have said they expect the Bears to follow a veteran left barrel. The choices are slim, but there are more options to consider than last August when the team struggled to find Jason Peters.
Eric Fisher is available after spending last season with the Indianapolis Colts. Fisher returned after suffering a torn Achilles tendon from the Kansas City Chiefs at the end of 2020, so he worked through it at the start of the season and was later hampered by a chest injury.
If the Bears sign Fisher or another veteran, it will create a situation where Jenkins and Borom compete for the right packing. Maybe one could be bumped into the right guard, presumably the place Bates is going to play if the team lands him.
But Poland said he “can not force anything,” which means he can not add a player to that left barrel if there is no pass.
“Larry played left in the SEC, I think he will be good,” said Pole. “Teven played left last year, he has room to grow. So they did. Yes, sure, I would love to have experience, but sometimes it’s just how it all plays out. ”
What the Bears have achieved is to add a center, sign Lucas Patrick to a $ 8 million two-year contract, and sign Dakota Dozier for a one-year minimum agreement. Not only is Patrick familiar with attacking coordinator Luke Getsy from their time with the Green Bay Packers, he has a nasty streak that the Bears like.
“This is how he survives, and this is what we need up front,” Poland said. “Just doing it yourself is contagious. Other people either have to go along with it or you just do not fit in. It will improve the rest of the group and we will continue to add such guys. ”
The Bears have two draft picks in round 2 and one in round 3, and it can be a fertile area to find solid inline linemen. It is unlikely they will land a future left pack there. In addition, the depth map at wide receiver needs more work and there are several needs in the secondary at cornerback and safety.
In other words, Halas Hall remains a work in progress, but Poles believes steps have been taken to better support Fields.
“It’s a difficult challenge,” he said. “But I think as a whole with the scheme, with coaching, with some of the additions we had, I think it will get better. I think he’s going to be put in a situation where he’s going to be comfortable, and I’ve said it from the beginning, allowing him to do what he does best will allow him to get away from that point. growth.
“I want to give him everything I possibly can, but you still have to build a whole team. You can not empty in one area and then only upload in one area. ”