The Eagles’ decision to trade Carson Wentz to the Colts took away another seat in the NFL’s unprecedented offseason round of quarterback musical chairs, leaving the Bears with one fewer option as they scramble to upgrade the most important position in sports.
In less than three weeks, the NFL’s three most obvious trade candidates have been moved elsewhere.
The Lions and Rams swapped quarterbacks Matthew Stafford and Jared Goff on Jan. 30. On Thursday, the Colts agreed to send a third-round pick in 2021 and a conditional second-rounder in 2022 for Wentz. That pick could improve to a 2022 first-rounder if Wentz plays three-quarters of the Colts’ snaps this year or makes the playoffs while playing 70% of their offensive downs, according to ESPN. The trade can’t be officially completed until March 17, the start of the league year.
The Bears researched and considered Wentz, but there’s no evidence they made a formal offer.
The Bears’ uncertainty at quarterback could stretch into late April. The Eagles were operating with a March 19 deadline, as Wentz was due a $10 million roster bonus on the third day of the league year. Other teams the Bears will engage in trade talks have no such ticking clock.
The Jaguars almost surely will select Clemson star Trevor Lawrence first overall on April 29 and can wait that long before trading quarterback Gardner Minshew. He went 6-6 playing under offensive coordinator John DeFilippo — who is now a Bears assistant — in 2019.
The Jets have the No. 2 pick, and if they decide to select a quarterback, there’s no motivation for them to tip their hand and move Sam Darnold, 23, before draft week. The same goes for the Dolphins, who have the third pick and second-year passer Tua Tagovailoa.
Neither franchise figures to move its young quarterback until it finds out whether the Texans will trade star Deshaun Watson. For now, the Texans say they won’t move him.
Quincy Avery, Watson’s personal quarterbacks coach, sounded envious of Wentz getting his way Thursday.
“What’s the criteria for a quarterback asking to get traded, and then actually getting traded?” Avery tweeted Thursday. “Asking for a friend.”
The Bears lack the ammunition to trade for Watson. Aaron Rodgers and Russell Wilson have been cryptic in the last month, but their franchises won’t trade them. Dak Prescott could get another franchise tag from the Cowboys, if not a long-term deal.
Who’s left? The Bears are fond of Raiders starter Derek Carr — he’s friends with Khalil Mack — and were once interested in his backup, Marcus Mariota. There’s no reason for the Raiders to move Carr, though, and Mariota might not be an upgrade over Mitch Trubisky, a pending free agent.
The Bears vowed to explore all their options this offseason. Would the 49ers move Jimmy Garoppolo without an obvious upgrade? Could the Falcons stomach a $44 million cap hit to trade Matt Ryan? The Panthers have been clear that Teddy Bridgewater isn’t the answer. Would they trade him regardless of whether they, as reported, plan to push all in on a Watson trade?
Next month’s free-agent class is pencil-thin. The Bears didn’t want Cam Newton a year ago. The same goes for Jameis Winston, who figures to re-sign with the Saints after Drew Brees retires. Ryan Fitzpatrick is 38. Trubisky, amazingly, might be the most compelling free agent.
The Bears could decide to trade up in the draft, but that’s no guarantee of long-term success, either. Wentz was the last remaining quarterback drafted between 2009 and 2016 who was still with his original team.
Whomever the Bears add will be imperfect. They’re available for a reason.
That was the case with Wentz, whose passer rating last year was the lowest of any 2020 quarterback with 400 or more attempts. He threw a league-high 15 interceptions in 12 games before being benched for rookie Jalen Hurts. A strained relationship with Doug Pederson contributed to the coach, who is one of Matt Nagy’s best friends, getting fired.
Wentz had a 73.4 passer rating, which was 24.9 points lower than the average of his previous three seasons. Only six quarterbacks have ever had such a drop-off, and four of them retired after their brutal season, per NFL Research.
The Eagles were willing to swallow a $33 million dead cap hit this year — the largest in the history of football — just to get rid of him.
The Colts parted with far less than the two first-round picks the Eagles were rumored to want. They hope a reunion with coach Frank Reich — his coordinator during a near-MVP season in 2017 — helps Wentz rebound.
The Bears, meanwhile, have moved on, hoping like mad they’re not left without a quarterback when the music stops.