1st-and-10: Bears’ tank is no longer empty

As painful as the 10-game losing streak at the end of a 3-14 season was, with D.J. Moore, Darnell Wright and future draft picks — plus Justin Fields in place — GM Ryan Poles’ rebuild is better off for it.

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Wide receiver DJ Moore (12) had 63 receptions for 888 yards and seven touchdowns for the Panthers last season.

Wide receiver DJ Moore (12) had 63 receptions for 888 yards and seven touchdowns for the Panthers last season.

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In January, general manager Ryan Poles was a little sheepish about having the No. 1 overall pick in the 2023 draft after the Bears lost their final 10 games to finish 3-14. But he has to be feeling a little better about it today.

Had the Bears won four of the games they lost by five points or fewer in 2022 — against the Commanders (12-7), Dolphins (35-32), Lions (31-30) and Falcons (27-24) — they would have finished 7-10 and had the No. 13 overall pick in the draft.

Instead, they finished 3-14 and ended up with offensive tackle Darnell Wright (No. 10 overall), wide receiver D.J. Moore, cornerback Tyrique Stevenson (No. 56 overall, after trading up five spots), the Panthers’ first-round pick in the 2024 draft, the Panthers’ second-round pick in the 2025 draft and the Eagles’ fourth-round pick in the 2024 draft.

There’s value in finishing and winning in the NFL, especially if it’s because of the quarterback. But Poles likely knows he’s better off with the haul he received for falling into the No. 1 overall pick. Players such as Moore can teach you how to win, and Poles has provided quarterback Justin Fields with an NFL-quality supporting cast.

The Bears still could have ended up with Wright at No. 13. But the rest of that haul is gravy, starting with Moore. The 26-year-old veteran might not be Davante Adams, Justin Jefferson or Stefon Diggs, but he has one quality the Bears’ offense desperately needs: a knack for getting open to keep drives alive to give a formative offense a chance to develop rhythm and chemistry.

The Bears averaged 5.6 plays per drive last season, 28th in the NFL. This offense needs to hit singles as much as it needs to hit home runs, and Fields, Moore and a better supporting cast give the Bears the chance to do both in 2023.

The Panthers’ 2024 first-round pick is the second key to the deal, with No. 1 pick Bryce Young eventually expected to beat out former Bear Andy Dalton for the starting quarterback job.

(For what it’s worth, nine of the 12 teams that started a rookie quarterback who was drafted in the top five since 2014 ended up with a top-10 pick in the next draft. Six of them were in the top five.)

The Panthers were 7-10 last season, even with a muddled quarterback situation. On paper, their 2023 schedule doesn’t appear difficult, though that can change in the NFL. The NFC South didn’t have a winning team last season and matches up against the NFC North and AFC South, the two other divisions that didn’t have a wild-card playoff team last season. At least Bears fans will get to root for somebody else to lose for a high draft pick in 2023.

2. Free agency and the draft have put the Roquan Smith trade in a more specific relief. In effect, the Bears traded Smith for linebacker Tremaine Edmunds and defensive tackle Gervon Dexter (the second-round pick they acquired from the Ravens). The Bears also saved $2 million a year — the difference between Edmunds four-year, $72 million contract and the five-year, $100 million contract Smith signed with the Ravens.

(Trading Smith also greased the skids for the Bears’ 10-game losing streak that earned them the No. 1 overall pick.)

That’s a more palatable deal than the initial trade, but only if Edmunds provides Smith-like production in coach Matt Eberflus’ defense — with the all-important ball production, of course.

3. Another offseason ‘‘trade’’ worth watching is linebacker Nicholas Morrow for linebacker T.J. Edwards. Morrow, who led the Bears with 116 tackles last season, signed a one-year, $1.55 million contract with the Eagles in free agency. Edwards, who led the Eagles with 159 tackles, signed a three-year, $19.5 million contract with the Bears.

On paper, it’s an upgrade for the Bears, but the disparity might not be as great as it appears. Morrow played behind the worst defensive line in the NFL last season; Edwards played behind the best. It will be interesting to see how each player adapts to his new surroundings.

4. It would have been a risky leap of faith for Poles to move on from Fields and select Young — or any of the quarterbacks — in the draft. But let’s be real: Poles didn’t give himself much of a chance to be ‘‘blown away’’ by any of them.

The Bears traded the No. 1 overall pick before any top quarterback had his pro day and before they could have a top-30 visit with any of the top prospects. The latter is where you’re most likely to be blown away.

Fields was just enticing enough in 2022 to make him the easy choice over anyone in the 2023 class.

5. Consider it a sign of progress that offensive line coach Chris Morgan has a much better idea of what his lineup will look like in May.

Braxton Jones will stay at left tackle. Free agent Nate Davis will start at right guard. Teven Jenkins will move from right guard to left guard. Cody Whitehair and Lucas Patrick will compete for the starting job at center, with Doug Kramer and Dieter Eiselen behind them, as the roster stands now.

And Wright is the presumed starter at right tackle. When asked about Wright at rookie minicamp, Morgan didn’t push back on that assumption, emphasizing everything Wright has to learn.

‘‘He just needs to come in and get acclimated,’’ Morgan said. ‘‘He just has to get better every day and take a step every day. That’s all we’re focused on right now.’’

6. Wright’s experience on the right side allows the Bears to keep Jones on the left side after an impressive rookie season as a fifth-round draft pick.

‘‘It benefits [Jones] greatly to stay over there and continue to work on the left side,’’ Morgan said, ‘‘the stance, the set, the calls, his eyes, all of it.’’

7. When former Bears coach John Fox’s staff coached in the 2017 Senior Bowl under the Ryan Pace regime, the Bears drafted one player from that game: Kutztown guard Jordan Morgan in the fifth round.

It was a different story this year, when offensive coordinator Luke Getsy was the head coach of the American team in the Senior Bowl. Three of the Bears’ first four picks played for Getsy: Wright in the first round and defensive tackle Zacch Pickens and Stevenson in the second.

Running back Roschon Johnson, a fourth-round pick, played for the National team in the Senior Bowl.

8. Wide receiver Darnell Mooney’s status heading into organized team activities bears watching. Mooney had surgery to repair a broken left ankle suffered in Week 12 against the Jets last season. He’s running but still limited in the offseason program. The Bears begin OTAs May 22.

‘‘He’s great with his rehab,’’ wide receivers coach Tyke Tolbert said. ‘‘He’s out here every single day. [His] attitude has been great.’’

Asked whether Mooney would be back in time for training camp in July, Tolbert said, ‘‘I certainly hope so.’’

9. Rookies to watch at OTAs: 1. WR Tyler Scott; 2. Johnson; 3. Dexter; 4. Wright; 5. Pickens; 6. FB Robert Burns; 7. DT Travis Bell; 8. LB Noah Sewell; 9. WR Thyrick Pitts; 10. Stevenson.

10. Bear-ometer: 8-9 — vs. Falcons (W); vs. Vikings (L); at Browns (W); at Packers (L); vs. Lions (L); at Commanders (W); vs. Cardinals (W); at Saints (L); at Chiefs (L); vs. Raiders (W); vs. Panthers (W); at Lions (L); at Buccaneers (L); vs. Packers (W); at Chargers (W); vs. Broncos (L); at Vikings (L).

(Note: Exact schedule will be announced Thursday).

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