PHOENIX - Speaking to reporters Monday at the NFL owners meetings at the Arizona Biltmore, general manager Ryan Poles shared his thoughts on the Bears' most recent free-agent additions, draft preparations and more.
Entering the offseason with ample salary cap space and the No. 1 pick in the draft, Poles made the most of those resources, executing a slew of impactful moves. On the first two days of the new league year March 15-16, he signed nine free agents and acquired veteran receiver DJ Moore in a blockbuster trade with the Panthers.
The Bears sent the No. 1 pick to Carolina in exchange for Moore and four draft choices-in the first (9) and second rounds (61) this year, the first round in 2024 and the second round in 2025. Poles also signed linebackers Tremaine Edmunds and T.J. Edwards, guard Nate Davis, defensive end DeMarcus Walker, running backs D'Onta Foreman and Travis Homer, quarterback P.J. Walker, defensive tackle Andrew Billings and tight end Robert Tonyan.
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The Bears added a 10th free agent last Thursday in linebacker/special teams contributor Dylan Cole.
"As a club, we're happy with the progress that we're making, but at the same time we know we have a long ways we have to go to get this roster to where it needs to be," Poles said Monday.
"But what's cool is we've used different methods to improve. With the trade, with DJ Moore and the draft picks this year but also for the future, I think it sets us up nicely. And then free agency, I really wanted to marry need and value, and where that came together. I thought we did that well.
"Again, on paper right now we're better than where we were before, but we all understand we've got a long way to go."
Here are the major topics Poles covered Monday:
Why Bears partnered with Panthers
Poles revealed that the Bears received "good offers" for the No. 1 pick from four teams, adding: "Then there were a bunch where they were still thinking about it or still evaluating, and it was 'not for us right now.' But I could tell they had done enough work where they were comfortable sitting it out for what we were asking."
Poles explained that he made the deal with the Panthers because they were "highly motivated" and it gave the Bears the opportunity to acquire Moore, a talented No. 1 receiver who has recorded at least 1,100 yards in three of the last four seasons.
"The fact that there was a young receiver who had consistent production who had been healthy and was a great person as well to add into the mix really kind of took it over the top for me," Poles said. "Where we can improve the roster now, improve our quarterback, but also set us up for the future. Right now, we don't talk about it that much, but I guarantee at this point next year, having those two ones, we're going to be excited about it."
Poles did not try to leverage the Panthers' offer against other teams who were bidding for the No. 1 pick.
"I've had that happen to me in negotiating settings with agents," Poles said. "So I really don't do that; specifically shop deals around. I don't like that. But if I have something better, I have something better, and we can keep talking."
Moore 'another playmaker on the field'
Fired up after completing the trade, Poles texted Justin Fields to share the exciting news. But the Bears quarterback didn't immediately respond.
"I didn't get a response for a while," Poles said. "I said, 'Are you sleeping?' And then he actually was. He took a nap. He woke up and he was pumped up. He got to connect with DJ, and he's fired up."
Moore joins a Bears offense that also features receivers Darnell Mooney and Chase Claypool and tight end Cole Kmet.
"It's just another playmaker on the field," Poles said. "The one thing I really like is, we have three different types of receivers. We've got a guy [in Claypool] who's a big body guy that can play inside/outside. We have Mooney who can separate and run vertically and make plays. Then DJ is just a strong, physical guy who can separate and make plays after the catch too. I like how everything's set up. And then you throw Cole in the mix, too. [Fields] has weapons. We have to continue to work up front and get better there, too."
Bears backfield in motion
Poles is also pumped about signing Foreman, a bruising running back who excelled the past two seasons after being limited by injuries early in his career.
The 6-1, 236-pounder joined the Titans in early November 2021 after Derrick Henry had suffered a season-ending injury and rushed for 566 yards and three touchdowns in nine games, helping Tennessee win the AFC South.
Foreman signed with the Panthers last March and thrived after becoming Carolina's lead running back following a midseason trade that sent Christian McCaffrey to the 49ers. Foreman established career highs in all rushing categories with 203 attempts, 914 yards and five touchdowns. He had five 100-yard games-with efforts of 165, 130, 118, 118 and 113 yards.
"I liked the style and the scheme," Poles said. "That fits well. Good vision, burst. I love that he can finish runs with speed. He'll have a good opportunity to help us out."
Foreman was signed after David Montgomery opted to leave the Bears after four seasons and ink a three-year contract with the Lions.
Poles said he felt the Bears were "really, really close" to re-signing Montgomery.
"I would just kind of sum it up by saying players do have a choice," Poles said. "I thought we communicated well. I thought we negotiated well. At the same time, you don't always know what's going on in the background, but I thought we did a good job, we were transparent, we were organized and it just, it didn't happen. I felt like it was really, really close, though."
Poles knows that the Bears will face a fired-up Montgomery twice this season.
"He definitely is going to run with a chip on his shoulder, so we'll be ready for that," Poles said. "But I communicated with him, too. Happy for him. He's a guy I've respected since he was at Iowa State, and I love the way he runs. So, it's all good."
Bears focusing on draft prep
Traveling around the country to attend various Pro Day workouts has given Poles a chance to spend quality time with several NFL prospects.
"When we get back from [the owners meetings], we'll hit the draft and lock in the draft room," he said. "We took a couple really good trips, saw some guys that we liked, got some clarity on things by meeting with players. We're about to turn the page with the draft and take that next step."
Poles is excited about some of the prospects he met, but cautioned that "you want to be careful" in putting too much of an emphasis on measurables and in-person meetings.
"The further you get away from tape, the workouts in shorts and all that can sway you a little bit too far," he said. "So, you kind of want to stay in the same range but we learned a lot more about the players. A couple of them we met early, got them on the board, talked ball, got our coordinators or position coaches with them.
"Just to get familiar sometimes we just went to dinner to [get to know] the person, so we definitely feel better about it now than we did before. I think the cool thing is it's really weird, you get this job and you just take off and you run. You don't spend a ton of quality time with your coordinators and sometimes even your head coach, so the time spent with our offensive and defensive line coaches or coordinators just sitting on the plane, at dinner, that part was cool, too, just bonding as a group."
The Bears will also have 30 prospects visit Halas Hall leading up to the draft.
"We take them out to dinner; just want to see if they let their guard down and just talk," Poles said. "Sometimes when you go to the combine, they're uptight, they're nervous. It's an intimidating setup. We just want them to relax a little bit.
"The intelligence piece, not that you can see everything, but get them on the board and just talk more ball, watch film and then see how they move around our organization, too, and meet different people. That helps. And again, it's just part of the puzzle."
The Bears have the following 10 picks in the draft:
Round 1-9 (from Panthers)
Round 2-53 (from Ravens)
Round 2-61 (from Panthers)
Round 4-133 (from Eagles)
Round 5-148 (from Ravens)
Round 7-258 (supplemental selection)
"It's just adding to the core of players we want to win with here for a long period of time," Poles said. "We have some needs that we have to fill. But again, it's staying disciplined and really using the draft board and the value system that we have to do the right thing in the draft as well. This continues to set it up and set it up for this long journey that we're on."