Eight-time Pro Bowl pass rusher Von Miller expressed surprise when the Broncos traded him to the Rams for second- and third-round draft picks Monday. But the deal wasn’t all that shocking in today’s NFL landscape. Trade-deadline deals — historically a baseball thing — are becoming a part of NFL reality, too.
One move often begets another in these situations, so the Broncos’ big move puts just a little more focus on general manager Ryan Pace and the Bears heading into the deadline Tuesday. The Bears are 3-5 after their 33-22 loss Sunday to the 49ers at Soldier Field and looking less and less like a playoff team as the defense withers while rookie quarterback Justin Fields develops.
If the Bears were a baseball team, they’d be targeted as Cubs-like sellers. But in the second-floor offices of Halas Hall, Pace and right-hand man Joey Laine more likely think they’re the Braves. That might be their only hope.
The Bears have tradable commodities — not only spare parts such as backup quarterbacks Nick Foles and Andy Dalton, but key contributors such as receiver Allen Robinson, defensive lineman Akiem Hicks, outside linebacker Khalil Mack, tight end Jimmy Graham, linebacker Danny Trevathan and maybe even running back David Montgomery.
But while Broncos general manager George Paton — a former Bears pro-personnel honcho — had a Mack-like commodity in Miller, he also had something Pace doesn’t have: time. Paton is in his first season as the Broncos’ GM; Pace is in his seventh with the Bears.
It must be excruciating for Pace. He desperately needs cherished draft picks. After trading his first- and fourth-round picks in 2022 to the Giants to move up to get Fields in April, he has only two picks in the first four rounds of the 2022 draft and five picks overall (a second, a third, two fifths and a sixth). But he might need victories and a playoff berth even more. What does he do?
He might do something low-level but probably won’t go as far as a white-flag sell-off that would signal a rebuild, even with his defense showing signs of advancing age. Pace and coach Matt Nagy probably don’t have time to take another step back.
Nagy talked only in generalities when he was asked whether he had spoken with Pace — and chairman George McCaskey and president Ted Phillips, for that matter — about the trade deadline.
‘‘We always communicate,’’ Nagy said. ‘‘We’re always discussing the status of our team every week and where we’re at. Obviously, with the trade deadline coming up, we’ll go through different scenarios and situations.’’
But at 3-5, Nagy has bigger problems.
‘‘For me and my role, we are completely entrenched in the Steelers right now,’’ Nagy said. ‘‘I’ll be in on discussions with Ryan as those guys go through where we stand. That’s always a fluid conversation.
‘‘I have a ton of belief in the partnership that Ryan and I have working together. And him being the general manager and going through all that [trade-deadline] stuff, I know they’re holding all that down. Ryan has been phenomenal with me in trying to allow me to be the best head coach I can be and take things off my plate. I’m always there to help when I can and give opinions and suggestions. I think that’s what’s most important.’’
It’s a difficult situation for everyone at Halas Hall, a hole they dug by themselves. At 3-5 with a defense that has dropped to 15th in yards allowed and tied for 20th in points allowed, a slowly developing Fields in the 32nd-ranked offense in the NFL isn’t only Pace’s and Nagy’s best hope, it might be their only hope.
Trade deadline be damned.