ATM: In Early Free Agency, the Bears Have Given Themselves Options at Running Back

| March 15th, 2019

Under Ryan Pace, the Bears have always tried to give themselves multiple options on draft weekend by filling roster holes in free agency. That approach held true earlier this week as the team signed two veteran options at running back. Mike Davis isn’t a household name. Most probably wouldn’t consider Cordarrelle Patterson a running back. But the two men give the Bears needed flexibility at a pivotal position.

In an ideal world, the Bears would’ve replaced Jordan Howard and Taquan Mizzell with one player – an all-purpose back who can pound between the tackles and beat linebackers in the passing game. They still might find that guy in the draft, but now, with these acquisitions, they don’t have to.

Davis is a stocky runner with a low center of gravity. He can work between the tackles and bounce runs outside, a trait that makes him a much better fit for this running scheme than Howard. Davis also is a capable receiver, which could help him stay on the field.

But Davis didn’t sign a contract that guaranteed he’d be the starter or even get a majority of the snaps. He signed a contract to compete. Who he’s competing with remains to be seen.

Patterson is more of a gadget player, but the New England Patriots seemed to unlock something when they put him in the backfield last year. The Bears can use him to stretch defenses — playing the role Kevin White was supposed to in 2018. Or they can put him in the backfield and hand the ball off, match him up against a linebacker or get him in space.

(As a kick returner, Patterson is among the best in the history of the game. His 30-yard per return career average is roughly double what Mizzell managed last year. Seriously.)

In theory, Davis would replace Howard and Patterson would replace Mizzell in the offense.

Before this week, if the Bears were going to replace Howard, they would have to do it with someone who could run between the tackles and bring additional elements to the offense. They can still draft that kind of back, if he’s available, but the likelihood a player of that caliber is there with the 87th pick isn’t great. Anywhere from five to seven backs go before the 87th pick in the draft. Maybe the Bears will get lucky and a player like Miles Sanders or Damien Harris will drop.

If they can’t get that kind of player, Davis can handle much of the interior running Howard provided the team and the Bears can focus on more on a Mizzell-type runner. The team has met twice with Texas A&M’s Trayveon Williams, an explosive runner who might not have the bulk to handle a full load right away in the NFL. They also reportedly met with FAU’s Devin Singletary this week. Neither weighed in at even 210 pounds at the combine. Perhaps these two could become full-time, do-everything backs in the NFL, but if the Bears end up drafting one of them, they won’t need them to right away.

Of course the Bears could also not take a running back at all.

While fans have honed in on the position as a “need” area, the Bears don’t need to reach for a need. They certainly could use more depth at a number of positions and have to prepare for the inevitability that they will lose more players to free agency because teams like the Packers will always be willing to overpay the Bears 10th best defender. That is the cost of success.

All of a sudden, the Bears have options. That’s exactly how Pace likes it.

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