There’s no absolute right way to approach NFL free agency. Some general managers go all-in and fix as many of their roster’s weaknesses with high-priced veterans, while others play the long game and instead focus on second- and third-tier veterans with a preference on building through the NFL draft. Chicago Bears general manager Ryan Poles’ first experience as a GM in free agency is just 48 hours old, but if we’ve learned anything from his early approach to the process, he fits the profile of the general manager who prefers the draft as his primary method of roster construction. That doesn’t mean he’s been completely inactive during the legal tampering period. Poles struck quickly with the signing of defensive tackle Larry Ogunjobi, and on Tuesday night, he locked up former Green Bay Packers offensive lineman Lucas Patrick.
Patrick will likely start at center for the Bears in 2022. He’ll sign a two-year, $8 million contract once free agents can put pen to paper, according to multiple NFL insider reports.
Patrick was a smart and calculated target for Poles, who made it clear soon after he was named Chicago’s general manager that he wanted a more athletic and mentally-tough style of play from his offensive linemen. Patrick fits both of those descriptions, and his familiarity with new Bears offensive coordinator Luke Getsy and the system that will be installed in Chicago is a huge plus.
One way to figure out the potential impact a free-agent signing will make to his new roster is by looking through social media posts of fans from his former team. It’s especially true whenever a player leaves for the hated arch-rival, and there isn’t a bigger rivalry than the Bears-Packers.
Packers fans and media personalities haven’t let their hatred for Chicago get in the way of acknowledging Patrick’s job well done on Twitter shortly after his deal with the Bears was revealed.
Patrick started 28 games for the Packers over the last two seasons, including 13 at center in 2021. His positional versatility—which is a trendy #DraftSZN term of art—is an added bonus; he started 15 games for Green Bay at right guard in 2020.
Patrick’s ability to play both guard and center is critical when evaluating his signing. The Bears lost James Daniels, who was one of their starting guards in 2021, in free agency to the Pittsburgh Steelers. Sam Mustipher, Chicago’s starting center last year, is an upgrade waiting to happen. Patrick’s versatility gives the Bears flexibility as they begin their offseason workout program; the offensive coaching staff can plug and play him wherever he’s needed most.
Smart money (as in $4 million guaranteed) is on Patrick starting at center in Week 1. He’ll turn 29 before the start of the season and if he excels in his first year in Chicago, he’ll be around a lot longer than just two years.
Will this transaction make headlines or be viewed as one of the best of the 2022 free agency period? Of course not. Nor should it. But for a Bears team that needs an injection of talent along its interior offensive line, Patrick represents a job well done by Poles. And that’s why I give this move a respectable B- grade.
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