Bears general manager Ryan Poles spoke to the media Tuesday at the NFL Combine in Indianapolis. Here are five things we learned from his 22-minute session:
(1) Poles divulged the No. 1 trait he seeks at the receiver position.
Regardless of whether they're big and strong, small and quick or somewhere in between, Poles wants all of his receivers to be able to make plays.
"They come in different shapes and sizes and speeds," said the Bears GM. "I think it comes down to playmakers. We saw that in the Super Bowl; guys that can make plays when their number is called. That's what we look for.
"And you can see that on college tape. I will say one of the benefits of the Combine is you get to see some of the physical traits as well—what sets them apart. Is it size? Is it length? Is it explosion? Is it speed? We'll put all that together. But I would say that all boils down just to being a playmaker."
(2) Poles intends to reshape the offensive line, literally.
"We're going to change it up a little bit just in terms of the style," he said. "A lot of those guys, and the message has been clear, we've got to change body types a little bit. We've got to get lighter. We've got to get quicker.
"Through that, I think there's some young talent that just needs to be pressed. That's part of our job is to create competition and bring the best out of them. We'll do that and we'll see if the cream rises to the top. Especially with the O-line play, a lot of times—and I don't want to speak for the coaches—but it's going to end up being the best five to roll out there."
(3) Poles is a big fan of the second and third waves of free agency.
While some NFL teams make high-risk, high-reward big splashes on the first day or two of free agency, plenty of quality free agents remain available after the first wave.
The key to maximizing the second and third waves is to keep your ear pressed to the ground and continually monitor a fluid market.
"You'll start to gather that information just with contacts into that first wave and you'll get a feel based on how you value players once they start to trickle down and the price points come down a little bit," Poles said.
"Because at the end of the day, you're going to overpay in free agency. That's just what it is. It's market price. So, it's really through the communication that you'll get an idea of when things settle down a little bit, but it's usually a couple days in."
With 26 Bears players due to become unrestricted free agents when the new league year arrives March 16, Poles and his personnel department figure to be very active.
"There are a lot of spots we've got to fill, so that volume piece is important and it really comes down to our evaluation, to make sure that we're right on there," Poles said. "And the other thing, too, that I've always loved is, usually in that volume piece, you're going to have some players that, they're motivated, they've got a chip on their shoulder and they want to get back into free agency and go at it again. So they play with a purpose.
"I've mentioned this before, but it's very hard to stay super motivated. You've got to be a special human being to be in that first wave and keep going. [If] you want your name etched in the stadium, that's what kind of mentality you've got to have. So, I definitely think there's a lot of good value down there. Plus, like I said, the mentality comes with it."
(4) Having only five picks and no first-round selection won't drastically alter how Poles approaches the Combine or prepares for the draft.
"I don't think it changes much," he said. "Obviously, you want a lot of picks. But that's just the hand we were dealt. We'll be open-minded on how we can create more picks, and we'll be smart about that. It just changes the focus a little bit of maximizing that second and third wave of free agency and making sure that we get the right type of players in.
"I don't want to get away from bringing the right type of players in and really setting that culture and making sure the core is strong and guys are motivated, [and] they're playing hard but they're playing together. I feel like if we can start that and then bring in that talent—if it's five picks, six picks, whatever it might be—then I think we can start to build from there."
The Bears have their own draft selections in Rounds 2, 3, 5 and 6 and an additional fifth-rounder they obtained in a trade that sent receiver Anthony Miller to the Texans. They dealt their first- and fourth-round picks to the Giants last April to move up nine spots in the first round to choose quarterback Justin Fields at No. 11. They also sent their seventh-round selection to the Texans in the Miller trade. The Bears' first pick in the draft will be the seventh choice in the second round, 39th overall.
(5) Poles liked what he saw of Darnell Mooney on tape and was even more impressed with the receiver after meeting him in person.
Selected by the Bears in the fifth round of the 2020 draft out of Tulane, Mooney has caught 142 passes for 1,686 yards and eight touchdowns. The 142 receptions are the most by any Bears player in his first two NFL seasons. Last year, Mooney led the team with 81 receptions for 1,055 yards and four TDs.
Poles described Mooney as "a bright spot" on the field while saying that he was "blown away by the person" after their first meeting at Halas Hall.
"He's got a quiet confidence about him," Poles said. "He's hungry to be special. I'm always looking for guys like that; just raising their own bar in terms of where they want to go. He wants to be special. You can feel that in him.
"I think we've all been around people that want to be the absolute best they can be and it's contagious and it gives you energy. It gives you hope. And it really shows me that we have to keep getting guys like that and adding them to the roster. Because if everyone has that mentality and they keep pushing each other, then all of a sudden the team starts to raise the bar and the standard. Then it's wins, then it's the division, and then it's going for championships."