MORE PIECES FROM PACE
GM touches on Robinson talks, Quinn’s readiness and more
The four most interesting things — that had nothing to do with quarterbacks — that we heard from Bears general manager Ryan Pace on Monday:
A-Rob negotiations drag on
Pace said he doesn’t see Sunday’s season opener as the deadline for the Bears to reach a contract extension with wide receiver Allen Robinson.
Pace’s history, though, shows it’s exactly that. Since 2016, he has given guard Kyle Long, defensive tackle Akiem Hicks, nose tackle Eddie Goldman and center Cody Whitehair extensions in September before each played the first game in the last season of his contract.
Pace wouldn’t negotiate through the media, other than to reiterate that “we know how important A-Rob is to us, not just as a player but as a teammate.”
The talks don’t appear to be going well. Robinson — who has admitted his social-media posts can be a peek into his mindset — posted three “face” emojis on Twitter on Monday morning; instead of wearing smiles, their mouths were zipped shut.
At issue, undoubtedly, is a smaller 2021 salary cap because of the coronavirus pandemic.
“There’s some curveballs [about the cap], but we’re confident we’ll work through it,” Pace said. “That’s not going to permit us from doing the things that we want to do.”
Quinn knows the defense
Outside linebacker Robert Quinn, whom the Bears signed to a five-year, $70 million deal in the offseason, participated in exactly one full practice during training camp: the Soldier Field scrimmage. He has been absent from the last four practices during the portions open to media.
Coaches said the Bears were easing Quinn back in the wake of a personal issue. While that would normally concern any team, Pace pointed to Quinn’s experience — and his very specific job responsibility — and said he expects him to be fine.
“Obviously, he’s one of our more experienced players,” Pace said of
Quinn, who’s entering his 10th season. “The best thing he does is get after the quarterback and rush the passer, so it’s not like you know there’s a ton of X’s and O’s, necessarily, with some of that — just get off the ball and get the corner. But we feel good about where he is, from knowing our defense, even if he has had a little bit of a short training camp.”
Faith in rookies
The ever-enthusiastic Pace saved some of his most ebullient praise for rookies. He said tight end Cole Kmet, a second-round pick from Notre Dame, “might be one of the more . . . football-intelligent rookies that we’ve ever been around.”
Asked about cornerback depth, Pace singled out another 2020 second-round pick, Jaylon Johnson, and fifth-rounder Kindle Vildor. Johnson is listed as the Bears’ starter opposite Kyle Fuller.
“It was really cool to see the two young draft picks come in and play the way they played,” Pace said. “They played really well, with Vildor and Jaylon Johnson. It’s neat to see where they’re at. I think both those guys, especially with no offseason, just their football IQ, their professionalism, they made plays throughout camp. I think both those guys gained the confidence of their teammates around them.”
Cut day was different
The cancellation of preseason games because of the pandemic made cut day more difficult than in years past, Pace said. When considering waiver claims Sunday, the Bears were forced to rely on their college evaluations, as well as scouting notes on the few teams that occasionally live-streamed a training camp practice.
That led to an ice-cold claiming market. Over the previous 10 years, there were 410 waiver claims the day after cuts. On Sunday, there were 17. The Bears didn’t receive a player during the claiming process.
The Bears’ pro scouts were based at Halas Hall, while college scouts helped from their home bases throughout the country.
“We relied on our scouts, our previous pro grades, our college grades, being creative with how we were watching other teams from afar,” Pace said. “That all played into it, and then constant dialogue with our scouts along the way.”
Bears wide receiver Allen Robinson is still waiting on a contract extension, but history may be on his side.
GM Ryan Pace isn’t worried about linebacker Robert Quinn (left), and he lauded rookie tight end Cole Kmet.