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Bears would draft a QB if ‘he was the highest guy on our board in a strong way’

For the fourth time this offseason, Bears general manager Ryan Pace passed on an opportunity Tuesday to announce the team’s plans for Mitch Trubisky’s option before its due date.

Bears quarterback Mitch Trubisky has a fifth-year option decision due in May.
Bears quarterback Mitch Trubisky has a fifth-year option decision due in May.
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Neither the Chiefs nor the Texans have had to spend the offseason ducking questions about whether they’ll pick up their quarterback’s fifth-year option.

The Chiefs have the best passer in the game, Patrick Mahomes, and a Lombardi Trophy to prove it. The Texans have Deshaun Watson, who is better than his coach-turned-general manager, Bill O’Brien, deserves.

Neither team had to at least entertain a reporter’s question about drafting a quarterback this week, either.

Bears general manager Ryan Pace can’t say the same.

“You know we’re always going to take the best player available,” Pace said in his annual predraft news conference, which was conducted via video chat. “If a quarterback was there, and he was the highest guy on our board in a strong way, we would consider that.

“I think we’d consider every position. Let’s face it — the draft is risky enough. When you deviate from taking the best player, I think you just increase your risk.”

Pace learned that lesson first-hand when he traded four picks to move up one slot and draft Mitch Trubisky second overall.

Three years and one Nick Foles signing later, the Bears don’t have a surefire answer at quarterback for the short or long term.

Parsing Pace’s answer, perhaps there’s no chance any of the quarterback candidates at Picks 43 and 50 — Georgia’s Jake Fromm, Oklahoma’s Jalen Hurts and Washington’s Jacob Eason — will have the Bears’ highest grade “in a strong way.”

Pace spent all offseason making short-term improvements. Drafting a quarterback in the second round wouldn’t help this year’s team.

Still, if the Bears like one of the quarterbacks available in the second round, they absolutely must consider him. Neither Trubisky nor Foles is good enough to preclude it — either as a thought exercise or an executed pick.

The Bears have lost enough confidence in Trubisky that they traded a fourth-round pick for Foles, to whom they owe $21 million guaranteed, $24 million in base value and even more in potential incentives.

That investment speaks more to the Bears’ lack of faith in Trubisky than any decision they make about his 2021 option. For the fourth time this offseason, Pace passed on an opportunity Tuesday to announce the team’s plans for Trubisky’s option before its due date.

“Right now, our focus is all on the draft,” Pace said. “We know we have until May 4 on that. We’ll cross that bridge once we get through this weekend.”

Each team can give its first-round pick a fifth-year option, but the decision is due before a player’s fourth season. Top-10 picks are paid the price of the previous season’s transition tag price at their position, while players picked outside the top 10 are paid via a formula that averages the salaries of the third through 25th top salaries at their position.

The option is guaranteed only for injury, meaning the Bears could pick it up next month and still cut Trubisky after next season at no cost, as long as he can pass a physical — the way they did with outside linebacker Leonard Floyd last month.

Trubisky would be due about $24.8 million in 2021. And, yes, Mahomes’ and Watson’s options will cost less than Trubisky’s.

Mahomes and Watson will negotiate new deals long before then, though.

As for Trubisky? He’ll know the Bears’ plans May 4 — unless a draft-day surprise Friday makes his fate abundantly clear.