Matt Nagy needs more production from his signal-caller or he could be looking for a new job
As another NFL season concludes, the Chicago Bears find themselves in familiar territory once again. A season with more bad than good, an early postseason exit, more questions than answers, and, of course, another quarterback controversy.
And it's the situation with the quarterback position that's the most pressing issue. Mitchell Trubisky gave another Dr. Jekyll/Mr. Hyde impersonation, Nick Foles wasn't as good as advertised, and Tyler Bray attempted just five passes. So here is where the Bears currently stand with their signal-callers...
Trubisky will enter free agency for the first time in his career, Bray will hit the market once again, but Foles is under contract for the next two seasons. The Bears need to get the quarterback position right this time. If general manager Ryan Pace and head coach Matt Nagy want to want to keep their jobs beyond 2021, they need to just let Trubisky find a new home. Bray could stick around as the No. 3 signal-caller again, but Foles is the wild card in all of this.
I say this because the Bears can either restructure his contract to create more cap space (they're currently projected to be $8.8 million over the cap, which hasn't been officially set yet), or they could trade him for more assets. While getting Deshaun Watson would immediately thrust them into contention, the Bears don't exactly have the assets that the Texans would be seeking in any deal. And this is providing that the Texans grant Watson's trade request in the first place. Not to mention that the Bears' cap situation would force them to make some tough choices to absorb Watson's contract (owed $175 million through 2025 per Spotrac).
Matthew Stafford, who Chicago reportedly expressed an interest in possibly acquiring, is no longer an option with Detroit agreeing to trade him to the Los Angeles Rams. And while pending free agents like Jameis Winston and Andy Dalton have been mentioned, I see each re-signing with the teams they were on this past season. But not all hope is lost for the Bears in their quest to try and fix the quarterback position. Here are some other options the team should consider to remedy their dilemma under center.
Trade for Carson Wentz
This is the hot rumor right now, so we may as well address it first. The No. 2 overall pick of the 2016 draft has made it clear he doesn't want to be a backup, and even with a new coaching staff taking over, it appears that Wentz and the Eagles are headed towards a divorce. It doesn't help that Wentz struggled mightily this past season, leading the league in both interceptions (15, tied with Drew Lock) and sacks (50), despite playing in just 12 games.
Wentz entered the league with so much promise and was playing at an MVP level in 2017 prior to tearing his ACL and giving way to Foles, who went on to lead Philadelphia to a win in Super Bowl LII. Wentz has succeeded before, so perhaps he just needs a change of scenery, and there's some similarity to the offenses that former Eagles head coach Doug Pederson and Nagy run, as both come from Andy Reid's coaching tree. But Wentz did not play well at all this past year, and he has accumulated some baggage in a short amount of time. And there's also his contract, as his four-year, $128 million contract extension has yet to kick in. But first, what would it cost the Bears to acquire Wentz in a trade?
Presumably, their first-round pick (No. 20) is definitely involved along with at least another pick (or more), and Foles could also potentially be sent back to Philadelphia. He enjoyed his greatest success with the Eagles and would give the new coaching staff a reliable backup should Hurts get injured or struggle. The financial aspect will have to be worked out, but Philadelphia also would be looking to gain some financial relief by trading Wentz, especially given their cap situation (currently projected at $49 million over). There are a lot of details to work out (Chicago would probably try and restructure Wentz's contract), but it's been reported the two teams have had discussions about a possible deal.
Trade for Teddy Bridgewater
Year one in Charlotte didn't quite work out for Bridgewater, and Panthers head coach Matt Rhule appears likely to head in a different direction. Although Bridgewater had a decent season from an individual standpoint (69.1 percent completion rate, 3,733 passing yards, 15 TDs, 279 rushing yards), the Panthers posted a 4-11 record in his 15 starts. Now, you can't blame all of that on the quarterback, as the Panthers have issues on both sides of the ball. But the QB is the focal point of the team, and with where Carolina is picking (No. 8 overall), one of the top signal-callers in this draft could be an option.
If the Panthers choose to go that route, then perhaps Bridgewater would be available. If it's before the draft, Chicago could offer its first-round pick and Foles to not only give Carolina two of the first 20 picks but also a more established veteran backup than the options (P.J. Walker, Will Grier) currently on the roster. Timing and the potential pieces for any trade would be factors here and Bridgewater's contract ($22.9 million cap hit for 2021 season) would need to be addressed as well. But he also would appear to offer an upgrade for the Bears' offense.
Sign Cam Newton
Perhaps another change of scenery is in the works for Newton. In each of the last two seasons, Newton has posted career lows in pass attempts, completed passes, passing yards, and touchdown passes. He's also dealt with injuries, and he contracted COVID-19 during this past season. And with the Patriots missing the playoffs for the first time in 12 seasons, I imagine more changes are on the way in Foxboro.
When healthy, Newton is a force to be reckoned with. His combination of size (6-5, 245), speed, and strength makes it difficult for defenses to tackle him. He's a former league MVP (2015), has been a winner (78-67-1 in his career as a starter, including playoffs), and is one of the most dangerous dual-threat quarterbacks (200 career TD passes, 72 rushing) in NFL history.
But Newton is not getting any younger (turns 32 in May) and his play has clearly declined over the past three seasons. There's risk in turning the offense over to Newton, but as a free agent, he's probably not in line for a huge contract and may be willing to take another prove-it deal (made $1.75 million with the Patriots) if he's promised the starting job. Nagy's offense is suited for a mobile quarterback, so it may be worth taking a chance on Newton.
Draft a QB
This would be the most obvious solution. The Bears have the 20th overall pick this year, it's the first time they've had a first-round selection since 2018 (drafted Roquan Smith eighth overall). And while Chicago isn't high enough in the draft to get Trevor Lawrence, Justin Fields, or Zach Wilson, there are other options.
There's a slight chance that North Dakota State's Trey Lance (2,947 passing yards, 1,325 rushing yards, 48 total TDs for the Bison) could still be on the board when the Bears go on the clock and some mock drafts have them taking Alabama's Mac Jones (led the nation last season with 4,500 passing yards, 77.4 percent completion rate) in that spot. Chicago also could try and move up somehow but that would cost them valuable draft capital, at minimum.
Other options include Davis Mills, Kyle Trask, Jamie Newman, Kellen Mond or Ian Book, but the scouting reports on each vary depending on whose you read. The Bears know better than any team that the draft is more risk (trading up to select Trubisky with the No. 2 overall pick in 2017) than reward (watching Watson, Patrick Mahomes go later), but even if they choose to wait and take a quarterback later perhaps the team can find the next diamond in the rough.
Dream for Dak?
This one seems the most unlikely, but stranger things have happened in the NFL. Prescott is set to become an unrestricted free agent, although Dallas could choose to apply the franchise tag, which is projected to be around $38 million for 2021, again. Even though there is some concern about how Prescott will fare coming back from his season-ending ankle injury, which reported required a second, unrelated procedure in December, it seems unlikely that he won't be back with the Cowboys. There could be some lingering hard feelings with how the team has handled contract negotiations to this point, but even if Prescott hits the market, it's hard to see Chicago winning the subsequent bidding war for his services, especially given the commitment it would require combined with the team's current salary cap situation. That's not to say it can't or won't happen, and there's no doubt that Bears fans would welcome Prescott with open arms.
— Gabe Salgado is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. He's also written for NBC, Fox, The Sporting News, The Sports Journal, The Undefeated and Complex. He can also be heard on WGN Radio. Follow him on Twitter @GabeSalgado82.
(Top photo courtesy of chicagobears.com)