Writers of Pro Football Prospectus 2008

02 Apr 2009

Bears Add Orlando Pace

"On the same day the Chicago Bears added a new quarterback, they got someone to protect him." That's the lead on the ESPN story, and I can't top it. Before everyone in Chicago gets too excited, remember that Pace has not played a full season since 2005. He did play in 14 games last year, though, and 33 is not terribly old for an offensive tackle.

Posted by: Vincent Verhei on 02 Apr 2009

31 comments, Last at 06 Apr 2009, 2:57pm by Will Allen


by Eddo :: Thu, 04/02/2009 - 10:00pm

Best case: Pace has one or two more healthy, quality years left.

Worst case: he can act as a sort of mentor for Chris Williams.

When paired with the Cutler trade, this seems like a low-risk move, and I don't mean that relatively. Now that the Bears have, in their opinion (and mine), a franchise QB, adding another tackle option seems like a safe signing.

by tuluse :: Fri, 04/03/2009 - 12:28am

Wouldn't best case be he pulls a Willie Roaf and plays for 4 more years at a probowl level?

I would say the expected result is 1 or 2 years at average or better play.

by Lou :: Thu, 04/02/2009 - 11:01pm

I agree. I still think Pace has 2 good years left in him. now williams can move to RT and Omiyale to LG. The Bears line might actually be able protect the QB and open up holes for Forte this year! I'm so damn excited for football season, i keep forgetting baseball hasn't even started yet:(

by John Walt :: Thu, 04/02/2009 - 11:05pm

I hear ya. May-July is a loooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooong three months for football fans. Sigh.

by Bobman :: Thu, 04/02/2009 - 11:56pm

I am wholly in agreement. Such is life, my friend. Especially when you root for the Colts and the Pittsburgh Pirates. Baseball season is just six months of numbing pain, which is only stopped by the sweet, sweet arrival of football. (and last year your damn Bears ruined even that for me!)

by Bobman :: Thu, 04/02/2009 - 11:52pm

Can a Marvin Harrison signing be far behind? They get a shiny new, proven QB. Protect him with a older, but HOF-worthy tackle. Now to surround him with weapons. Dante' Stallworth? Uh, no. Marvin may not be what he was at his peak, but he's still liable to be better than what Chicago has--a good security blankie for Cutler, and Hester's the guy they will use to stretch the field. Plus they already have some TE talent to work the middle of the field. Marvin should be able to catch another 60 balls for 700 yards and 7 TDs--not huge production for him, but pretty good for the Bears.

I'd rather see 88 retire or re-sign in Indy, and have no idea of the Bears' cap room, but I bet they show Cutler some love soon, either in the draft, or another vet signing. Is Brandon Stokley around still?

by MilkmanDanimal :: Fri, 04/03/2009 - 12:10am


Down, Orlando.

by Lou :: Fri, 04/03/2009 - 12:20am

I was actually thinking the Bears would target Torry Holt. I hadn't considered Harrison, i just can't imagine him in another jersey. But yeah, the bears now need to target a vet WR or hope Robiskie falls to them in the second as he has in some mocks ive seen.

by MR_TIGGUMS (not verified) :: Fri, 04/03/2009 - 7:17am

So a team known for rarely splurging in free agency bucks the trend and, well, splurges in free agency. And what did it get them? A meek, underachieving diva of a quarterback and a walking injury lineman. Sure, they may win 9 games as opposed to 6, but I don't see the point. They won't be able to draft Cutler some quality weapons for some time, probably after Pace completely breaks down. The defensive line still has little depth, the linebacking corps is aging, and the secondary could use a serious injection of talent. There were other needs here, and Kyle Orton (call me crazy) looked to be turning the corner last year into a quality starter. Instead of giving away first-round draft picks for a somewhat better option, they should have drafted a wide receiver, and then focused the rest of their picks on people who can stop Adrian Peterson and Greg Jennings.

by Mike B. In Va :: Fri, 04/03/2009 - 10:29am

A meek, underachieving diva of a quarterback

Why is it that people on this site insist on perpetuating this? In what league is throwing for 4500 yards and 25 touchdowns underachieving - or, to keep it FO-friendly, finishing the year at #5 in DYAR? Do Bears fans just like to complain?

by DEW (not verified) :: Fri, 04/03/2009 - 12:59pm

It's not just people on this site; all the talking heads on TV seem to have suddenly decided that this offseason means that Cutler lacks "intangibles," that he doesn't have sufficient "swagger," that he lacks skill in the "clutch," and all the other stuff that means they don't have to debate his measurable performance. It's like the entire media (who up until the end of 2008 had been bowing down to Cutler as the best thing in his draft class and the next Elway, etc., etc.) has decided that it's a better story to say that he sucks.

Then again, if you decide that Cutler is a top-tier quarterback, a leader on the field, and a winner who pulled a legendarily bad defense, awful special teams, and a running game that was fighting Seattle's WR corps for grocery baggers to sign to an 8-8 record and the fringe of the playoffs pretty much by his own action, then you can't write stories about the "controversy" about whether he or McDaniels was more responsible for the offseason meltdown. Seriously, imagine if the new coach in Indy had wanted to trade for Matt Cassell and Peyton Manning got upset about it; would we even be having this discussion?

(Not actually saying that Cutler is Manning by any means--see if he keeps up this level of performance for another five years and then we can talk like that--but it's truly absurd how people can actually stand up and argue with a straight face that the Broncos will be better off with Orton and Simms rather than Cutler.)

by TomC :: Fri, 04/03/2009 - 2:52pm

Re: Bears Add Orlando Pace
by Mike B. In Va :: Fri, 04/03/2009 - 9:29am

A meek, underachieving diva of a quarterback

Why is it that people on this site insist on perpetuating this? In what league is throwing for 4500 yards and 25 touchdowns underachieving - or, to keep it FO-friendly, finishing the year at #5 in DYAR? Do Bears fans just like to complain?


Dude, I guarantee you not a single Bear fan is complaining. All the hate is coming from outside of Chicago.

by Rich Conley (not verified) :: Sat, 04/04/2009 - 6:39pm

Why is it that people on this site also keep ignoring that he threw 18 picks, more than everyone in the league except Lord Favre?

by AlanSP :: Sun, 04/05/2009 - 9:46pm

Because he also threw more passes than everyone except Drew Brees (who had 17 picks). His INT % was 2.9%, which is a little worse than the league average of 2.8%, but it's not exactly a red flag like you see with, say, Sage Rosenfels.

by Jimmy :: Fri, 04/03/2009 - 8:42am

I nominate the Bears for 2009 Offseason Champions!

by James-London :: Fri, 04/03/2009 - 11:03am

Most teams would like a meek, under-achieving diva like that. I think the last 36 hours or so have been very good for Chicago, particularly if Pace stays healthy.

Phil Simms is a Cretin.

by Chris (not verified) :: Fri, 04/03/2009 - 12:32pm

Jackie Slater played a long long long time, I don't think it would be out of the question for Pace to rip off 3 pro bowl seasons. He might be the best college offensive lineman in history, and you could also argue the NFL. This guy was considered a Heisman candidate at OSU and I can actually remember people watching HIM manhandle defenders in college rather than traditionally watching the QB, RB flow of the play.

If anybody can come back and dominate, it's Pace.

I think people are overrating losing 2 first rounders ( how often do teams draft mediocre/bad picks with first rounders anyway???), but at the same time I think people are overrating the Bears chances.

If they won the division over Minny/GB, it would be a surprise to me mixing in those new players. It wouldn't be impossible, but certainly less than a 50% chance.

by tuluse :: Fri, 04/03/2009 - 1:38pm

Really, a team has an under 50% chance of winning it's division? Please tell me which teams have a better than 50% chance of winning their division.

by MJK :: Fri, 04/03/2009 - 2:05pm

I'm sure that Raiderjoe could think of one...

Although, seriously, the closest you'll probably come are in the western divisions. I would say Arizona and San Diego have the highest probabilities of winning their respective divisions. San Diego might even be over 50%, with KC in rebuilding mode, Kyle Orton under center with a rookie head coach and an evolving defense in Denver, and Al Davis still owning the Raiders.

by Anonymous (not verified) (not verified) :: Fri, 04/03/2009 - 2:17pm

I'm kind of shocked the Bears aren't getting almost unanimous love on this site and not just for getting Cutler.

The Bears' O-line is completely overhauled for this season compared to next. They've kept above average (or better) Kreutz and Garza. They replaced turnstile St. Clair with Orlando freaking Pace! They're installing first round pick Williams at the right tackle. Added Omiyale as left guard and have Shaffer as a swing tackle. Do you remember all the cloud of dust running plays the Bears had last year? It was brutal to watch the running futility. Most Bears fans would also confess that every 3rd down they feared for Orton's life and usually he got only 3 steps before having to desperately get rid of the ball. Now they have an actual line that can pass block and run block and has depth. That alone is a MASSIVE reason to like them this year. But they've also added a franchise QB on top of that.

Personally, I liked Orton and I thought he was going to be serviceable at worst and potentially much better this year, especially with the new line, another year in the system and a healed ankle. I was concerned at how many bombs he failed to complete to an open Hester and hoped it would improve, but I wouldn't say I was certain it would happen. Now with Cutler, not only does he have unquestionable arm strength and deep accuracy, but what I like most about him is his ability to keep plays alive. Scrambling for a first down to keep a drive alive? Huge. When coverage has to last that extra few seconds, big plays can happen. That's also huge. I am concerned about the INTs, of course, but overall how can you not love what he can do for this team? I think absolutely everyone benefits, including the Bears defense.

Normally, I'm not a "go spend on free agents" guy, but in this case, I think Holt is practically a must next-move.
Some people still question Hester as a WR, but he worked and improved a lot and he would have had massively improved numbers if Orton could have connected with him on the numerous plays he was open deep and then maybe people wouldn't be so blah about him. Bennett, I couldn't even comment about. Some people say he's good, but he also never got on the field. Some are saying a reunion with Cutler's going to significant for him. I don't know what to think. Davis, I actually liked two years ago, lots of 3rd down receptions, but last year he was TERRIBLE. Man, he was never open and dropped EVERYTHING. Don't know what to make of him, but very few people want him in the WR discussion. I still think he's got some value. The Bears have two chances to add a significant WR: free agency and their 2nd round pick. So, yes, here is where I think Holt would be a great pick up (if not too pricey of course). His numbers were down, but I think he's got a decent amount left (certainly more than Harrision) and could be an exceptional possession receiver and unofficial WR coach. There's no guarantee Robiskie will still be there for the Bears to pick and no guarantee he (or any other WR picked up then) will step in and be what the Bears need at WR.

Plus, if you sign Holt, I think the entire offense is set with only marginal improvement to be had, while the defense has lots of needs, so almost the entire draft could be dedicated to defense. Is Marinelli going to get the old pass rush back with the horses already in the stable? Do the Bears add one DT or one DE or both? One safety or one CB or both? That's how many questions are on the defensive side and they could address them with all their picks if they pick up Holt.

Do I think the Bears overpaid? Maybe. I'm certainly not feeling that they stole Cutler, but overall I think the Bears are much improved over last year and still to get better when they address their defensive needs. And remember they were 9-7 last year and 2 or 3 close games from much better (and in the playoffs). I am shocked some people think the Bears are only going to win about 9 games next year. I'd put them at 11 or 12 easily. O-line improvement: huge. QB improvement: very big, if not huge. Everyone expects Marinelli alone to improve the d-line and they still have moves to address WR and the other defensive needs. I think the Bears are clear NFC North champs and in the discussion for NFC champs (pending moves yet to come).

by Josh :: Fri, 04/03/2009 - 2:31pm

The Bears now have the best young QB in the game in Cutler, a good young TE in Olsen, and one of the best receiving RB's in Forte, who is also young. They seem to now be set at the non-WR skill positions, and they also have Hester, who is EXPLOSIVE.

by Chris (not verified) :: Fri, 04/03/2009 - 2:53pm

I'd give SD, NE, Indy, Pitt all 50% probabilites or better of winning their divison.

Maybe you give Detroit a 10% chance of winning the North
Chicago 20% chance
Gb and Minny 35%...

by BigCheese :: Fri, 04/03/2009 - 6:39pm


The Bears, who came one miracle play from Atlanta from making the post-season, and now actually have an OL and a QB, have basically half the chance of winning the division than a Vikings team that needed a longshot FG against a Giants team that was resting their starters to clinch the division, were one Dan Orlovsky stepping out of the end zone away from being hte only team to lose to the Lions, and are now led by Sage Rosenfels?


Or than a Green Bay team whose defense was non-existant, and are switching to a scheme they don't have the players for?

Need I remind you what happened the last time the Bears had a decent passing attack? And I can bet you that if we sub in Cutler and Forte for Grossman and Jones (who's a very good RB, dont' get me wrong), we'd still be talking about how Manning needs to win a ring to be cemented as one of the all-time greats. Or rather, a lot of people with no clue about football, would.

Face it, the balance of power in the NFC North just shifted and big. Not only are the Bears probably the favorites to win that division (and not in a close race either), but I'd say there's more chance of the Lions not ending up in the cellar than the Bears not ending up on top.

And I'd even put Chicago right alongside with the Giants, Philly, and Atlanta as the most likely to reach the SB. I'd put Arizona in there, but I'm afraid of the SB losers' hangover.

- Alvaro

by mrh :: Fri, 04/03/2009 - 4:16pm

Re Roaf vs. Pace

When Roaf came to KC in 2002 he turned 32. He had missed the Pro Bowl in 2001 after 7 straight appearances. The previous three seasons he had played 16, 16, and 7 games. Basically, he had one down, injury-plagued season.

Pace will be 34 this season (in November). He has missed THREE straight Pro Bowls after having 7 straight appearances. The previous three seasons he has played 8, 1, and 14 games. He has had THREE straight down, injury-plagued seasons.

The comparison isn't there. Pace is older and farther separated from his prime than Roaf was. It's more likely that Pace will not start a game than he will make another Pro Bowl, but most likely he'll play a serviceable tackle for less than 16 games. If that's an improvement over what was, great. But he's a stop-gap at best.

by tuluse :: Fri, 04/03/2009 - 4:32pm

I agree for the most part, but I don't think it's that unlikely he never goes to a probowl again. However, I was talking about the "best case" scenario. It's in the realm of possibilities that he pulls that off, so it's the best case. It's not likely. I'm not expecting it, or even hoping for it, but it is the best case of what could happen.

I'm expecting 1-2 years of average to slightly above average play.

by Chris (not verified) :: Fri, 04/03/2009 - 4:37pm

Pace is older than Roaf by a freaking year... who cares.

I'd take that bet that Pace is more likely to start in a pro bowl than start a single game.

I also doubt that he will start in 3-4 straight pro bowls as that is a best case, but I also wouldn't under estimate the guy.

by mrh :: Fri, 04/03/2009 - 11:08pm

The point is that he's NOT ONLY older but has appeared to be more worn down as evidenced by more games missed and more time away from being recognized as a top tackle. If he were over a year younger than Roaf was, the other things might not be as significant.

Here's the list of post-merger Pro Bowl tackles after age 34 (from p-f-r, by the age definition used there, Pace will be 34 this season).
Name, age(s) during Pro Bowl seasons - # of games missed previous 3 years, gap in years from previous Pro Bowl appearance to age 34 appearance:
Shell, 34 - 5 games, 1 year gap
Slater, 34-36 - 4 games, no gap
Tuinei, 34-35 - 5 games, no previous Pro Bowls
Zimmerman, 34-35 - 0 games, no gap
Roaf, 34-35 - 9 games, no gap
Walter Jones, 34 - 2 games, no gap

Only 6 players have Pro Bowls as tackles at age 34 or old; none of those six missed more than 9 games total in the previous 3 seasons (Pace has missed 25); only Tuinei had more than one year gap between his age 34 Pro Bowl and his last previous appearance. Pace obviously WANTS to play this year (or at least make money). He COULD do something unprecedented given his injury history and make the Pro Bowl this year. I think the small chance of a career-ending injury in pre-season or not beating out Schaffer or Williams exceeds the small chance of him being in the Pro Bowl.

by tuluse :: Sat, 04/04/2009 - 2:50pm

I will just say, tackles over the age of 34 who made the probowl has to be a pretty small sample size.

I don't expect Pace to make a probowl, I do expect him to start for the majority of the year, and play at a level equal to John Tait in 2006.

by Sidewards :: Sun, 04/05/2009 - 12:20pm

In addition to being a small sample size because of the age and pro bowl status, Tackles who make it to 34 in the league are by and large above average.
It seems that they wouldn't be able to stick around for that long without at least pro bowl consideration.

by Chris (not verified) :: Mon, 04/06/2009 - 8:36am

Making the pro bowl isn't just about talent. Pace has that name recognition and can get in even if he plays "well". Chris Samuels isn't even an All Pro kind of guy, and I believe Pace can make it in the NFC ( with the AFC having better and younger LTs).

You seem to forget that Pace is a physical freak and one of the most highly touted lineman in history. SI was leading the charger for him winning the Heisman about a decade ago. Orlando Pace isn't just an ordinary lineman, and starting 1 game isn't much.

by Will Allen (not verified) :: Mon, 04/06/2009 - 2:57pm

Taking a chance on Orlando Pace's health, and getting rid of St. Clair, is a no-brainer. There is a better than average chance that Cutler will be one of of the top five qbs in the NFC, if not the entire NFL. The Bears have improved their chances of getting to the Super Bowl considerably. I'd say their biggest risk is that Tommie Harris doesn't play at the extremely high level he has played at previously.