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Bears lead the trend in NFL by investing top dollar in QB Chase Daniel

No team in the league is spending more on a backup quarterback this season.

Chase Daniel should get significant action against the Giants on Friday.
[Brian O’Mahoney/For the Sun-Times]

There’s a very good chance the Bears will need Chase Daniel this season.

Backup quarterbacks always talk about preparing as if they’re starting, but that scenario has become much more likely lately with so many injuries at the position. It’s grossly negligent for any team to plan on someone starting all 16 games.

“No question about it,” Daniel said. “These guys are trying to hunt you down and hurt you at the quarterback position.”

So while Mitch Trubisky might go through a few series against the Giants on Friday, Daniel is likely to see more significant action. He played 26 of 60 offensive snaps in the preseason opener and completed 11 of 13 passes for 120 yards.

These games matter for Daniel because they’re probably the last live action he’ll see until being called upon whenever the next emergency arises. He’ll get little or no work with the first string. Instead, he’ll have to prepare the best he can with a mix of reserves — some of whom won’t make the roster.

No complaints from Daniel. He’s used to it. This is his 11th season in the NFL, and he has been a career backup. He adjusted well after a great run at Missouri that included a fourth-place finish in the 2007 Heisman Trophy voting.

He has survived primarily on smarts, and that’s the biggest reason the Bears need him. Daniel has adapted to and mastered multiple offenses in his career and is fully fluent in coach Matt Nagy’s schemes.

That makes it easy for everyone else when he enters a game, and it’s helpful on a daily basis in practice. Daniel even sounds like a coach when he discusses his role.

“The experience factor weighs heavily, and I can get guys lined up,” he said. “The offense has really come a long way since we first started running it back in 2013. We continue to make tweaks and fit our personnel in there the best that we can.”

Daniel went his first four years without playing much for the Saints before joining Nagy, then the quarterbacks coach, and Andy Reid in Kansas City. Nagy and Daniel were together three years before Daniel bounced to the Eagles and back to the Saints. Nagy was eager to get him back last year when he took over the Bears.

Sure enough, the Bears needed him. Trubisky went down with a shoulder injury, and Daniel started against the Lions and Giants. He completed 69.7 percent of his passes for 515 yards with three touchdown passes and two interceptions for a 90.6 passer rating — certainly within reasonable expectations for a backup quarterback.

It was the first time he had started since 2014, and the two starts matched his previous career total.

Front offices have been increasingly intent on setting up contingency plans at quarterback, and half the league needed more than one starting quarterback last season. Twenty-two of the projected backups will make at least $1 million this season.

“It puts a premium on backup quarterback play,” Daniel said. “I think that’s why some of these backup-quarterback salaries are going up. It’s a vital part of your offense because you want a backup quarterback that can come in and not only hold the fort, but win games.”

The Bears believe Daniel can do that and signed him to a two-year, $10 million deal. He’s a free agent after this season, but general manager Ryan Pace said they “expect Chase to be a Bear for a long time.”

Daniel’s $6 million salary-cap hit for this season is the biggest by far for a backup quarterback, followed by the Giants’ Daniel Jones at $4.7 million, and 11th-highest on the Bears’ roster.

They can afford it because Trubisky is still on a manageable rookie deal that carries a cap hit of $7.9 million this season and $9.2 million in 2020. Even with what they’re paying Daniel, they rank 20th in the NFL in quarterback spending.