Bears general manager Ryan Poles spoke exclusively to ChicagoBears.com senior writer Larry Mayer Tuesday at Halas Hall:
LM: Having significant salary cap space and the No. 1 overall pick in the draft, what excites you most about what you can accomplish this offseason?
RP: "I would say flexibility. We can look at different scenarios that pop up and really be flexible with adding talent to our roster, not only for this year but also for next year. Last year having limited resources, it was really, really hard. For this one I think we can be a little bit more aggressive than we were last year."
LM: The Bears haven't had a first-round pick in three of the last four drafts. How much do you anticipate having the No. 1 selection will energize the team's personnel department?
RP: "Knowing we had a first-round pick throughout the whole season, our group in the front office and our scouts on the road are extremely excited. I've challenged them in terms of this draft being really important for us to take the next step. So there's a ton of energy. Obviously, having one of the premier picks for a premier player is a really cool opportunity because I think that player should have the ability to not only help us on the field but our culture. He should be able to check a lot of boxes. Our guys are hungry trying to find those players that qualify to be in that space."
LM: How will the draft preparation be different this year than it was last year when the Bears didn't have a first-round selection?
RP: "It's the same approach. We're going to put players on the board based on the value that they have for that position. It comes down to sound decision making, and our approach will be pretty similar to what it was before."
LM: What did you learn from going through the process with the Chiefs in 2013 when they had the first overall pick and spent it on tackle Eric Fisher?
RP: "I think really just being consistent. You need to have the same approach whether it's the first, 10th or you don't have one. You want to always assume—and we did last year—that you have a first-round pick so that your board is true to the values of the players, not forcing certain players into certain areas just to be drafted in that spot. I'd say consistency is really the one thing I learned through that process."
LM: What's the single most important trait that you're seeking in players you intend to add in free agency and the draft?
RP: "Passion for the game. They've got to love football. Football's hard. As you know just from this year, you hit adversity. To keep the locker room right, to keep working at your craft, to take ownership of what you do well, what you don't do well, if you have passion for the game, there's so much that's covered in terms of progressing, developing and being the absolute best player that you can be."
LM: How can you tell whether a player possesses a passion for the game? Is it evident on tape?
RP: "You can determine a little bit on tape. But pairing the tape—the tenacity, the finish, the relentlessness—on top of talking to resources and getting a feel for how the player handles different situations. You may not be there for all of them as a scout, but you're going to talk to different resources in the building to find out when there is adversity, how did they handle it? How much are they in the building? Are they a football junkie? Do they eat, breathe and sleep football? Do they love it? When you start getting responses that check those boxes, you feel good about where that player is in terms of having an absolute passion for football."