By: Peter Bobrinskoy
Free Agency. The two words that are the scariest and most damaging parts of the National Football League. For years and years the Chicago Bears have tried to win while being very active in Free Agency. Every year Phil Emery, the former general manager of the Bears, tried to make big splashes in March and every year it did not result in making the playoffs. He kept on believing that people like Jerome Bushrod, Jared Allen, Michael Bush, Jeremiah Ratliff, Lamar Houston, Ryan Mundy, Martellus Bennet were the answer to the Bears problems when in fact they were what damaged the team.
The Bears have never tried to win through the NFL draft. They have never tried to take advantage of the compensation picks that the NFL gives out. For those who are not familiar with compensation picks, they are extra draft picks given out every year to the teams that stay out of free agency while other teams take their players. For example Bill Barnwell of ESPN.com explains it through the Patriots, “The Patriots mostly stay out of free agency, choosing to make selective forays for undervalued assets (like Brandon LaFell) or talents at the top of the market they would otherwise be unable to acquire (like Rosevelt Colvin and Adalius Thomas in years past). By doing so and having other teams target their free agents, the Patriots come in line for various compensatory picks from the NFL’s obtuse, black-box system. These picks aren’t tradable, and no team can receive anything higher than a third-rounder as part of the league’s system, but their value can add up over time. The Patriots have made 25 compensatory selections during Belichick’s time with the team, and the estimated value of those picks — based on their draft slot alone — is roughly between the value of having the first overall pick and the second overall pick. All for not signing free agents.”
You see it is as simple as that. When you are not active in free agency, you are rewarded extra draft picks. When you are active in free agency you do not receive those picks. Do you know of a team that takes action with the compensation picks and puts all of their resources to the NFL draft——- the Green Bay Packers. In the past three seasons the Packers have had 28 draft picks. The Bears have 20. The Bears believe that overpaying older free agents and not receiving compensation picks is going to lead them to the Super Bowl. And this is not the only division where this is occurring. The AFC East is a perfect example of this. The Jets keep trying to buy success through free agency and never put all of their resources into the Draft. While the Patriots, for the most part, stay out of free agency and build their team off the draft.
In 2015 the Packers lead the NFL in 92% of their team were drafted by the Packers. The Bears were slightly behind that with 54.1%. Oh and the Packers had 12 wins and the Bears had 5. People want to say that the reasons the Packers have had more success over the Bears for the past 25 years is because of their stability and success at the Quarterback position. Yes that is very true. Brett Favre and Aaron Rodgers have been huge to the Packers’ success. However they were also put in positions to succeed. When Aaron Rodgers and Brett Favre started their first NFL games they were surrounded by great draft driven talent around them. When Jay Cutler starts for the Bears, every year he has draft picks being cut in order to make room for “flashy” new free agents, and his team has continuously failed to surround good and a lot of draft picks around him. One could say that if Aaron Rodgers was drafted by the Bears in 2005, he would be just another quarter.
The lesson of this blog is that the winners in March are never the winners in February. And the problem is that the Bears have never learned this. There was optimism with Ryan Pace when on his first press conference after being hired he stated that the Bears were going to be a “Draft Driven” team. However a month later he decided to sign Pernell McPhee, Antrell Rolle, and Eddie Royal to the Bears. He made the same mistake Jerry Angelo and Phil Emery made. He’s going to try to buy success instead of drafting it.