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Trench Warfare: Pace’s Roster Building Strategy Comes Into Focus

| June 6th, 2016

The following is a guest column by the artist known as Data, also going by the name Johnathan Wood. If you’d like to write a guest column for DBB, email jeff@dabearsblog.com.

General manager Ryan Pace has had 2 offseasons to shape the Bears roster the way he sees fit. There are a number of different ways you can look at his moves and draw conclusions about his priorities, many of which have been discussed in detail. Pace himself has talked repeatedly about wanting size, speed, length, and football junkies. He has shipped out locker room problems and replaced them with high character football players (Ray McDonald aside).

But when I’m looking at what a GM prioritizes, I look at how he allocates his resources. Who does he invest his high draft picks and big free agent contracts in? Looking at Chicago’s recent moves through this lens gives a clear answer: Ryan Pace wants to build a team that wins in the trenches.

Winning in the trenches starts with the offensive line and the defensive front seven. And this is exactly where the overwhelming majority of Chicago’s resources have been allocated since Pace showed up. Pace has had 6 picks in the first 2 days of the draft, and 5 of them have been spent on trench players: Eddie Goldman, Hroniss Grasu, Leonard Floyd, Cody Whitehair and Jonathan Bullard. Of the 7 substantial free-agent deals Pace has handed out (several million dollars guaranteed), 5 have been trench players: Pernell McPhee, Bobby Massie, Danny Trevathan, Jerrell Freeman, and Akiem Hicks.

When it comes to the other guys, commonly referred to as skill position players, Pace is taking a quantity over quality approach to build youth and depth. He’s spent seven of nine day 3 draft picks on these players: Jeremy Langford, Adrian Amos, Deon Bush, Deiondre’ Hall, Jordan Howard, Deandre Houston-Carson and Daniel Braverman. All are certainly players with some promise, but none were premium investments, and clear positions of need (notably RB and S) have multiple late picks thrown at the problem in the hopes that at least one of them pans out.

It’s still early in Pace’s tenure, so time will tell how successful he is. But after two offseasons, his vision for how to build a team is clear. Prioritize guys who can win in the trenches, because having dominant players win battles up front makes the job of the smaller guys behind them easier.

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