ORLANDO, Fla. — None of the Bears’ three Pro Bowl participants could touch the ball Sunday. Return ace Cordarrelle Patterson is playing in an all-star game that has outlawed kickoffs, while safety Eddie Jackson and cornerback Kyle Fuller are defenders.
Bears fans will have plenty to watch, though, when the NFC plays the AFC at 2 p.m. Sunday at Camping World Stadium:
• Deshaun Watson. The Quarterback Gods have already conspired to drive Bears fans crazy. Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes won the MVP last year, thumped the Bears in December and will play in the Super Bowl next week.
Would it be any surprise, then, if Watson won the Pro Bowl MVP? The Texans quarterback won’t start for the AFC — that honor goes to the Ravens’ Lamar Jackson — but he figures to march his team to a score at some point. The game has an over/under of 51.
That would give Bears general manager Ryan Pace yet another reason to regret his decision to trade up one spot to draft Mitch Trubisky No. 2 in the 2017 draft. The Chiefs took Mahomes 10th and the Texans drafted the Clemson star 12th.
Watson threw for 4,165 yards last year and 3,852 this season. Both marks are better than the Bears’ franchise high.
• Austin Hooper. The Bears need to add a tight end this offseason. Hooper, who is set to become a free agent unless the Falcons give him the franchise tag, is the best available. He averaged 60.5 receiving yards per game last season, fifth-most among tight ends.
“I’ll just let my agent handle the whole process,” Hooper said after practice Saturday. “Right now I’m just having fun down at the Pro Bowl. I’m not thinking about any particular team too hard. I’m enjoying the experience. When free agency opens, we’ll see how it all plays out.”
The Bears can’t count on Trey Burton to return at full strength — but should treat it as found money if he does. With former second-round pick Adam Shaheen playing his way to irrelevance, the Bears figure to add at least one tight end. Signing a free agent would be a faster fix than the draft, given how difficult the position is to learn in coach Matt Nagy’s scheme.
Hooper and Chargers tight end Hunter Henry are at the top of their free agent class. The Bears might not be able to afford either.
“I’m definitely a little bit nervous,” Hooper said. “I don’t know what my future holds. I don’t where I’m going to be across the country. I’m taking it day-by-day and enjoying myself.”
• Kenny Golladay. The St. Rita High School and NIU alum became a full-blown star in 2019, catching a league-high 11 touchdowns and finishing seventh with 1,190 receiving yards. The Lions receiver capped it by being named to his first Pro Bowl this week, replacing the Buccaneers’ Chris Godwin, who is hurt.
Even Bears fans upset about Allen Robinson’s snub can’t argue against Golladay’s inclusion, considering he played eight games with a backup quarterback. Gollday should be able to show off Sunday with Russell Wilson, Drew Brees and Kirk Cousins under center.
• Ryan Tannehill. The quarterback will start Sunday’s game on the bench — the same place he sat to start the Titans’ season. When Marcus Mariota finally flamed out, Tannehill went 7-3 as a regular-season starter, won two playoff games and is now entrenched as the Titans’ starter.
He’s a walking reminder of the value of a veteran quarterback — and the pressure the Bears are under to find one this offseason.