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5 things we learned from Bears GM Ryan Poles


ORLANDO, Fla. – Speaking to reporters Monday at the NFL owners meetings in Florida, Bears general manager Ryan Poles discussed the acquisition of receiver Keenan Allen, the departure of quarterback Justin Fields and more. Here are five things we learned:

(1) Poles is ecstatic about the acquisition of Allen.

“I thought it was an absolute perfect fit. I don’t think there’s a better receiver in the league that can be better for a young quarterback …” Bears GM Ryan Poles on WR Keenan Allen

The Bears traded a 2024 fourth-round pick to the Chargers March 14 in exchange for Allen, a six-time Pro Bowler. With Allen joining DJ Moore, the Bears are the only NFL team with two receivers who both compiled at least 1,200 yards last season.

"With the trades, Keenan Allen popped up, which was a really cool opportunity for where we're headed, which is going to be with a young quarterback," Poles said. "I thought it was an absolute perfect fit. I don't think there's a better receiver in the league that can be better for a young quarterback in terms of understanding the NFL, timing, space, reading defenses.

"I think that's a great addition. It balances the field with DJ on the other side, Cole [Kmet] and [Gerald] Everett at tight end, [D'Andre] Swift at running back. We have a lot of really cool things that can get going and allow us to be dynamic and really special."

Allen, 31, has spent his entire 11-year NFL career with the Chargers, who selected him in the third round of the 2013 draft out of California. The 6-2, 211-pounder has appeared in 139 games with 134 starts and caught 904 passes for 10,530 yards and 59 touchdowns.

Allen was voted to five straight Pro Bowls from 2017-21 and was chosen for a sixth time last season when he led the NFL with a career-high and franchise-record 108 receptions for 1,243 yards and seven TDs despite missing the final four games with a heel injury.

The Bears initially were interested in signing veteran receiver Mike Williams, who was released by the Chargers March 13 after teaming with Allen the past seven seasons. But Williams is rebounding from a torn ACL he sustained early last season and was out of the country. The Bears had hoped to bring him in for a physical but pivoted to Allen when they discovered he was available.

"That's one of the things that our staff does really well: just identify potential cap casualties based on what other teams are looking to do," Poles said. "We didn't have total clarity on it, but when it happened, we were able to adjust and get into some conversations that we could capitalize on it. My time in KC, I watched him do some really cool things for a long period of time. And to watch the tape, it actually blew me away of how high of a level he's still playing at his age."

(2) Poles was proud to re-sign cornerback Jaylon Johnson.

The Bears placed a franchise tag on the 2020 second-round pick March 5 but were able to ink him to a four-year extension two days later.

"We talked at the combine, and I thought we were close, and we got over that deadline by a couple days, but we were able to close that thing up," Poles said.

"Jaylon's done an unbelievable job. He's grown since we've been together and we expect him to continue to grow, bring others along and continue to lead our group, especially that defensive side of the ball."

Johnson has started all 53 games he's played in four seasons with the Bears, registering 161 tackles, five interceptions, 41 pass breakups, four tackles-for-loss, three forced fumbles and one fumble recovery. Last year he was voted second-team All-Pro and named to his first career Pro Bowl after recording 36 tackles, a career-high four interceptions—one of which he returned 39 yards for his first career touchdown—and 10 pass breakups.

(3) Poles described trading Fields as "probably one of the harder things I had to do."

The Bears dealt their 2021 first-round choice to the Steelers March 16 in exchange for a 2025 sixth-round pick that could become a fourth-round selection if Fields plays at least 51% of Pittsburgh's snaps this season.

"I always kind of touch on the empathy part," Poles said. "Having that conversation with my own son was hard. His jersey's up in his room. So it kind of puts that into perspective of how difficult those moves are. But I really felt like that was best for our organization and best for Justin. I said that at the combine. I wanted to do right by him. We did that.

"We had a really good conversation. Actually went to [coach Matt Eberflus'] house and we had that conversation together with him over the phone, and again, one of the harder things we had to do, but I thought it was necessary for us to head in the right direction."

(4) The Bears could have acquired a pick in this year's draft for Fields but dealt him to the Steelers for a 2025 choice because it was better for him.

"They have a starter with Russ [Wilson]," Poles said, "but there was more of an open competition it felt like from my perspective where there were other opportunities where there were some quarterbacks that were either veteran guys or young guys that had already been paid, so it would have been a tougher situation for him to get on the field."

Poles expected a more robust trade market for Fields.

"I was a little bit surprised," Poles said. "But as you do research and we have conversations, you have to kind of adjust to the market. But I think just with how other teams are built, if you look at the beginning, there are probably teams that are looking at the draft for guys to fill in. On the back end, playoff teams probably have someone in place. So really it was a smaller pool of teams."

(5) Poles and Eberflus phoned several Bears veteran players to inform them of the Fields trade before it became public.

"We try to do a really good job communicating with the players," Poles said. "We expect the same from them; if they're going through something or have a problem with someone, we want them to come to us and communicate that rather than keep it in.

"We feel like the transparency was good; let them hear from us first. You could tell they appreciated that. It was, 'You don't need to do this,' but we feel that we should. I feel that goes a long ways with our guys."