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Bears mulling options for No. 9 draft pick

Bears general manager Ryan Poles and assistant general manager Ian Cunningham
Bears general manager Ryan Poles and assistant general manager Ian Cunningham

There seems to be plenty of clarity about what the Bears will do with the No. 1 pick in the NFL Draft Thursday night. But that's not the case with their No. 9 choice.

They could stand pat and select a player, trade up or move down.

"It's hard to answer right now," general manager Ryan Poles said Tuesday during his annual pre-draft press conference at Halas Hall. "As the draft unfolds, there's going to be some indicators that start to educate us on how we need to move to acquire the top talents in this draft."

The Bears would only trade down if they were assured of still landing a player they were targeting. Last year they moved down from No. 9 to 10 and took right tackle Darnell Wright, obtaining a fourth-round choice from the Eagles in the deal.

"We need to count the players in certain ranges, and we would feel uncomfortable if we got outside of whatever threshold that is," Poles said. "So it depends on the first couple of picks and how they move, and we'll count them up and say, 'You know what, here's the line. We can't go past that.'"

In addition to their two first-round picks, the Bears have only two additional choices in this year's draft: one in the third round (75) and one in the fourth (122). They traded away five of their seven choices, acquiring defensive end Montez Sweat and receiver Keenan Allen, among others.

Poles entered his first draft as Bears GM in 2022 determined to acquire more picks to bolster the roster. He accomplished that by completing four deals that generated five additional choices, increasing the number of Bears selections from six to 11. Despite having just four picks this year—which would be the fewest in franchise history—Poles is not motivated to add more choices because the roster has been strengthened and fewer underclassmen declared for the draft than usual.

"I feel really good where we're at," Poles said. "It's going to be really hard to make this team now. That doesn't mean you don't want more shots later. We'll always welcome a lot of picks. But it doesn't force you to panic about the situation we're in right now with how many picks we have."

"I think we both feel comfortable with how the board is set based off of the draft class," added assistant general manager Ian Cunningham. "Each year is different. This year I think there were 58 juniors that declared. So we kind of have to work in the constructs of this year with what we have given to us."

Cunningham, who has drawn interest from other NFL teams as a GM candidate, is excited to be entering his third season as Poles' assistant in Chicago.

"[I'm] just extremely grateful for the opportunity," Cunningham said. "Not many people in any walk of life get to work with arguably one of their best friends. So for me to be able to work alongside him, for him to trust me, we all knew that this was his goal. I have a similar goal. But it means everything for me just to be able to work with him every single day. I know my opportunity will come. It's been fun. It's been a fun ride. Looking forward to this week and kind of seeing things through."

Earlier this month, Poles told reporters that he and his staff were planning to break into three groups and debate the merits of drafting a receiver, tackle or defensive lineman at No. 9.

"The nice thing is from the work that we've done, I feel pretty good about just being flexible," Poles said. "That's why we did that project with some premium positions with O-line, with D-line, receiver, and all that feedback was outstanding. … There are different championship-caliber teams that have built their teams in different ways. And it really solidified that those premiums positions are important. So those three are there. It matches up with this draft pretty well."

Regardless of who and where the Bears pick in the draft, they want all of their selections to possess the same characteristics.

"They've got to impact the football team from a skillset standpoint," Poles said. "But we are going to look at some key things when we talk about passion for the game, coachability, dependability, resilience. Those things are going to be consistent from the first overall pick to a seventh-round draft pick. We want guys that have that. We have an indicator we put on their tag. We would put a Bear head on their tag [and] call them the grizzly, the top Bear. They have those traits, so we're always looking to hit those. And obviously, the earlier in the draft, you want to have those."

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