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Pace discusses key Bears topics with media

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Speaking to reporters via Zoom Friday, Bears general manager Ryan Pace shared his thoughts on signing veteran quarterback Andy Dalton, receiver Allen Robinson II's status and more:

With Dalton's addition, Pace is convinced that the Bears have upgraded their quarterback position.

Speaking to the media Friday, Pace explained why the 33-year-old appealed to the Bears.

"The things we like as you look at it, obviously his experience—he's a nine-year starter, he's been to three Pro Bowls, a lot of leadership with Andy Dalton, his decision-making," Pace said. "He's won a lot of games in this league. Andy's been a durable player, too. I think that's something that's understated.

"And I think really Andy fits our style of offense. When you go through it with our scouts and coaches, he can handle the drop-back game, he can handle the RPOs, the play-actions, the movements. And we just felt, as we went through those free-agent quarterbacks, he's one of the more complete quarterbacks that we evaluated in free agency, and we're excited to have him."

Dalton has played 10 NFL seasons with the Bengals (2011-19) and Cowboys (2020). He has appeared in 144 games with 142 starts, completing 62.2 percent of his passes for 33,764 yards with 218 touchdowns, 126 interceptions and an 87.5 passer rating. He has also rushed for 1,335 yards and 22 TDs on 422 attempts.

Dalton was selected by the Bengals in the second round of the 2011 draft (35th overall) out of TCU. The 6-2, 220-pounder helped lead Cincinnati to the playoffs in each of his first five NFL seasons, twice as AFC North Division champions and three times as a wild card.

Dalton was voted to the Pro Bowl in three of his first six seasons in 2011, 2014 and 2016. He established career highs with 4,293 yards and 33 touchdowns in 2013 and a Bengals record 106.2 passer rating in 2015 when he threw for 3,250 yards with 25 TDs and seven interceptions.

In Cincinnati, Dalton worked closely with Bears offensive coordinator Bill Lazor, who served as Bengals quarterbacks coach in 2016 and offensive coordinator in 2017-18.

In Dalton's only season with the Cowboys last year, he became the team's starter after Dak Prescott sustained a season-ending ankle injury. Appearing in 11 games with nine starts, Dalton completed a career-best 64.9 percent of his passes for 2,170 yards with 14 touchdowns, eight interceptions and an 87.3 passer rating. His best performance came in a 37-17 Week 16 win over the Eagles when he connected on 22 of 30 passes for a season-high 377 yards and three TDs.

Unlike last summer when the Bears held an open competition between Mitchell Trubisky and Nick Foles for the No. 1 quarterback position, Dalton has already been assured that he'll be the team's starter this season. Asked what led to that decision, Pace said: "Because that's how we see Andy Dalton, as a starting quarterback."

"We're excited to have him, and again, that went into the evaluation process," Pace said. "He's been a starter in the league for a long time and produced at a high level for a long time. That's all of us collectively in the building—coaches and scouts—coming to that conclusion as we went through the free-agency process, and yeah, he's our starting quarterback as we head into the season."

Multiple media outlets reported that the Bears aggressively pursued a trade for Seahawks star Russell Wilson, but Seattle ultimately decided not to deal him. Other free-agent quarterbacks who were available this offseason included Ryan Fitzpatrick, Jameis Winston and Tyrod Taylor.

In addition to Dalton, the only other quarterback on the Bears roster is Foles, who was acquired last year in a trade with the Jaguars in exchange for a compensatory fourth-round draft pick. Foles did not perform as well as expected in 2020, throwing for 1,852 yards with 10 touchdowns, eight interceptions and an 80.8 passer rating.

"As we talked about last season, it's not just Nick," Pace said. "We had other issues with our roster from a personnel standpoint that we improved throughout the season and that we're still striving to improve now. It's just not all on Nick. But we're always looking to add to every position and get better everywhere, and there's no more core position than quarterback—and we feel like we've done that. We feel like we've gotten better with Andy. We're excited to add him … and with those two in there, we have a lot of experience heading into the '21 season."

Pace is excited that top receiver Allen Robinson II will return to the Bears in 2021. The team placed a franchise tag on Robinson, assuring him of a lucrative one-year contract.

"As I said before, the league gives us that tool for a reason and not just with us, you see it with multiple teams using the franchise tag," Pace said. "We tagged him for a reason. He's a really good player. We're glad he's part of our team. We know he'll be here in 2021. Again, he's a focal part of our offense. It's a resource that we have that we use and we'll continue to work through it."

Players who receive a franchise tag may negotiate a long-term contract with their teams through July 15. If no new deal is reached by that deadline, they cannot sign a multi-year extension until after the season.

Players who receive a franchise tag have until the Tuesday following the 10th week of the regular season to sign their one-year tender.

After spending his first four NFL seasons with the Jacksonville Jaguars, Robinson signed a three-year contract with the Bears in 2018. He has appeared in 45 games over three seasons in Chicago, catching 255 passes for 3,151 yards and 17 touchdowns.

Robinson had 55 receptions for 754 yards and four touchdowns in 2018 and followed with 98 catches for 1,147 yards and seven TDs in 2019. Last season he hauled in a career-high 102 passes for 1,250 yards and six touchdowns.

The 102 receptions were the sixth most in the NFL last year and tied for the second most in Bears history. Robinson was one of only five players in the league with at least 102 catches, 1,250 yards and six TDs, joining the Bills' Stefon Diggs, the Cardinals' DeAndre Hopkins, the Packers' Davante Adams and the Chiefs' Travis Kelce.

• With the NFL suffering significant revenue losses due to COVID-19 last season, the salary cap declined from $198.2 million in 2020 to $182.5 million this year.

As a result, an unprecedented number of veterans were released by NFL teams forced to shed salaries to get under the cap by March 17 when the new league year kicked off. It was no different for the Bears, who had to release veteran cornerback Kyle Fuller. 

"You knew as we went into it just the type of offseason it was going to be," Pace said. "We knew what we were going to be in for. We knew we were going to have to make some tough decisions. And really, you saw this throughout the league, some teams releasing multiple starters. Every team had hard decisions to make, really [in] a year where projection with the cap is almost a $30 million difference of where we projected it to be. This is the unfortunate part of it. 

"And again, I think as you look throughout the whole NFL, teams were dealing with this. Teams were having to make hard decisions. With us, it came down to one player, but we plan these things far in advance. There's a lot of people involved in those decisions. We always have contingency plans in place. And we wish Kyle nothing but the best. Those are hard moves that we have to make in order to construct our team."

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