Bears general manager Ryan Poles recently spoke exclusively with ChicagoBears.com about constructing the 53-man roster and more:
What were your main objectives in putting together the Bears roster?
RP: "Really, it was a holistic thing: How can we add the most amount of talent possible at all the positions? We had a lot of free agents leaving when I walked into the door. We didn't have a first-round pick. We made a trade to get another second-round pick. We got some guys we really liked. And then we had to add volume. So we traded back a few times, and I actually think our hit rate right now is really good for trading back and acquiring a lot of players. I've been proud of those rookies. Similar approach with free agency. We didn't have a ton of money, so we really had to get guys that had specific traits and skillsets that we were looking for. And then same thing with the [waiver] claim period: 'Where can we add to the roster?' If it's a corner and they're like someone we had on the roster, can they also play special teams? So there were a lot of different thought processes, but it really was just how can we add the most amount of talent possible."
You made seven waiver claims after final cuts, the most of any NFL team. What was the process that led to those moves?
RP: "This process was introduced to me back to Kansas City by John Dorsey, and it's really kind of like a Ron Wolf philosophical thing. What we do is we start in the beginning of training camp, and once the preseason games get started, different scouts are assigned to different teams and you almost become the GM of that team. You're going to go ahead and look at the 53 and what guys are on the bubble, cap casualties, all those different things. You watch it through preseason and then what starts to happen is some of the guys start to pop. Are they going to make it? Are they going to keep six linebackers or five? What about four safeties or five? OK, well, they're loaded at this one position. They might have to waive a guy who's really talented but they really want him on the practice squad. So we just attack the tape. It's three weeks. We flash the guys who make plays, and we see who shakes free and then we ask ourselves, 'Does this player fit what we want and can he help the Chicago Bears?' That's how we do it. It's a long process, especially once that 15-page waiver report comes out. [After final cuts] we went to about midnight, 1 o'clock watching tape and getting organized for that."
You and coach Matt Eberflus have repeatedly said that all players returning to the Bears are starting with a clean slate. Why is that valuable for the player and the team?
RP: "Different experiences by our players and players in general who go to one place; maybe it's the system, maybe it's a coach, maybe it's an injury. There are so many different things that could happen. And then when they have another opportunity, they have the chance to come in and rewrite what's gone on. So if it was choppy before, all right, now you're healthy. Or maybe this is the scheme you should be in. Or maybe you relate to this coach a little bit better. So you come in, forget the past, let's go attack it and be the best player you can be."
There are 15 rookies on your 53-man roster. What's your philosophy about keeping so many young players?
RP: "It's always good to have guys that you drafted or that are rookies on the team. They're young and they can develop and you hope that they can perform and make plays for you. I think being a young and healthy team is always an important thing."