CHICAGO — Two months ago, the Chicago Bears were rumored to be in the mix for Carson Wentz.
The buzz around the NFL, for a weekend anyway, was that they were the leading candidate to partner with the Philadelphia Eagles in a deal. It turned out the Bears never were a serious suitor for Wentz, who eventually was dealt to the Indianapolis Colts.
Brace yourself. Until the start of the draft on April 29, the Bears will be linked with every team in the top 10 that might be considering trading down — and probably even teams not considering trading out, starting with the Atlanta Falcons, who have been reported to have taken calls about the No. 4 pick.
That is what happens when you’re desperate for a quarterback and the only move you’ve made is signing 33-year-old Andy Dalton to a one-year contract. Just as the Eagles seemingly used the Bears in negotiating efforts to maximize their return for Wentz, teams are going to throw them out there when talking about trading picks in the top 10 to drive up the price.
If the Bears aren’t in panic mode regarding quarterbacks room, they probably should be. General manager Ryan Pace and coach Matt Nagy are under pressure to win this season, and the addition of Dalton might provide them with more confidence than it has the fan base, but they know without a legitimate prospect they hardly have constructed a makeover plan in the wake of the Mitch Trubisky era.
Every team is shielding its intentions. The San Francisco 49ers likely know which quarterback they’re targeting at No. 3, but whose name will be called after Clemson’s Trevor Lawrence goes No. 1 to the Jacksonville Jaguars and Zach Wilson is taken second by the New York Jets remains unknown. Sifting through the smoke and determining the facts and teams’ intentions are always risky, and there’s even more unknown in an unprecedented draft coming off a COVID-19-effected scouting process and college season.
It’s almost unthinkable that Pace and Nagy’s plan for an offensive reboot and quarterback do-over ends with the addition of Dalton, who puts the Bears in a year-to-year proposition at the position. So the Bears need to find a quarterback who gives them promise, a challenging task with them picking at No. 20 in Round 1.
Questions begin with when Ohio State’s Justin Fields, Alabama’s Mac Jones and North Dakota State’s Trey Lance will come off the board. Some believe five quarterbacks could be selected in the top nine or 10 picks. Others believe one will slide out of the top 10, which would make a potential trade-up scenario less costly. Are the Bears zeroed on one or two of the three quarterbacks or good with all three? Would they be content with a quarterback in the next tier of options that likely includes Stanford’s Davis Mills, Texas A&M’s Kellen Mond and Florida’s Kyle Trask?
Who could be a trade partner for a team moving up for a quarterback? Start with the Falcons at No. 4. Sources say to keep an eye on the Detroit Lions at No. 7 and Carolina Panthers at No. 8. The Denver Broncos at No. 9 are another possibility. However, the Lions and Broncos also could be in the market for a passer.
“I think everybody is trying to trade out,” said a front-office source for a team selecting in the top 10. “We’d trade out in a second. Why wouldn’t you? If someone is moving up for a quarterback, let’s go.
“I look at the Bears, and there could be a desperation move by them. They couldn’t get it done in free agency. They’re trying to get it done in the draft. They need to get a guy to develop. They need to pull the ‘give me some more time’ move.”
That is one possibility regarding the Bears’ intentions in Round 1, and multiple sources have said the Bears are believed to be among a group of teams exploring a trade up. But it’s all pre-draft banter, and Pace, who is scheduled to discuss the draft with media Tuesday in a session likely to reveal next to nothing, doesn’t want to tip his hand.
Considering the roster and what Pace and Nagy are trying to accomplish, it’s easy to believe they are fixated on landing a quarterback. If the Bears are intent on drafting one of the top-five quarterbacks, they might have to trade up to No. 7 with the Lions or No. 8 with the Panthers.
Compensation to move from No. 20 to No. 4 would be expensive. The 49ers traded the 12th pick along with 2022 and 2023 first-round picks and an additional third-round pick to move to No. 3 in a deal with the Miami Dolphins. The Bears might have to pay something similar for the fourth pick, especially considering the Falcons would have to move back to 20. A move to No. 7 or No. 8 wouldn’t be quite as pricey, but as one GM said: “Throw the draft trade chart out when you’re talking about moving up for a quarterback. It doesn’t mean (crap) and it’s almost irrelevant if there are multiple teams angling for the pick.”
Some believe Pace will want to protect draft assets as much as possible because the Bears have multiple needs to fill beyond getting a quarterback prospect. They need a wide receiver and surely would like to add a cornerback, offensive tackle, inside linebacker and more. Trading up would mean dipping into future draft capital to make a bold move.
If the Bears can’t move up for a quarterback, don’t want to pay the cost necessary or are smitten with another prospect, they have plenty more to consider. They could look to add a quarterback in Round 2, but since 2015 only four quarterbacks have been drafted in that round because teams believe prospects who have a shot of panning out are pushed up the board. Waiting until No. 52 could be risky to get a QB, which means a trade up in Round 2 could be in order.
A full week for more scuttlebutt remains. Pace will have an easier time explaining why the team believes a big move for a quarterback prospect was needed than confidently backing a quarterback depth chart that has Dalton, Nick Foles and some late-round flier.©2021 Chicago Tribune. Visit chicagotribune.com. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.