The Chicago Bears are heading into a crucial offseason that will help determine whether or not they make it back to the playoffs in 2020. There are many personnel questions that this team will need to answer over the coming months. One of those questions revolves around the quarterback position. And while head coach Matt Nagy and general manager Ryan Pace have said that Mitchell Trubisky (3,138 passing yards, 17 TDs, 10 INTs in 2019) is the "unquestioned starter." they also know that his play must improve. One major way to push him in the right direction would be to tinker with the depth at his position.
Currently, the only other quarterback currently on the roster is Chase Daniel. Tyler Bray spent last season with the Bears, primarily as a member of the practice squad, but his contract ended in early January. Daniel is a pending free agent and while he's been fairly effective as Trubisky's backup (950 yards, 6 TDs, 69 percent completion rate with Chicago) and has gone 2-3 when called on to fill in as the starter in his two seasons (eight games played total) with the team, he's not viewed as the long-term solution. Even if Daniel is re-signed (which is no sure thing given he may have other suitors), the team will more than likely bring in at least one new face this offseason to change the dynamic of the quarterback room. Who that ends up being will determine the level of competition Trubisky could face in training camp for the starting job.
One avenue that the Bears could choose would be to select a quarterback in the 2020 NFL Draft. There are plenty of young arms available, and quite a few of them appear to be good fits for the Bears' offense under Nagy. Chicago doesn't pick until the second round due to the Khalil Mack trade (Las Vegas Raiders get Chicago's first-round pick, No. 19 overall). But with as many as seven total picks (exact number won't be known until NFL awards compensatory picks) at their disposal in the upcoming draft, the Bears could still use one of these on a quarterback.
With the NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis set to begin on Feb. 23, here are some names that could be available in late April for the Bears depending on how early they decide to take a quarterback.
Jalen Hurts, Oklahoma
The Heisman runner-up in his one season at Oklahoma, Hurts could still be on the board when the Bears make their first of two second-round picks at No. 43 overall (also have pick No. 50). Hurts may not be lumped in with the top signal-callers in this draft class but that doesn't mean he's not a good fit for Chicago. Between Oklahoma and Alabama, Hurts accumulated 9,477 passing yards, 3,274 rushing yards, and 124 total touchdowns. He helped the Crimson Tide win a national title (2018 season), won three conference titles (2 SEC, 1 Big 12), and posted a 38-4 record as a starter for two of college football's elite programs.
There are similarities between the offense that Hurts ran at Oklahoma under head coach Lincoln Riley and what Nagy likes to do in Chicago. Hurts' dual-threat abilities would give Nagy's playbook another layer. He's not as talented as the last two No. 1 overall picks produced by the Sooners (Kyler Murray, Baker Mayfield), but Hurts has shown he can flourish under the right system.
Jordan Love, Utah State
Here's a player who's moved up the draft boards recently, all the way up to the first round in Athlon Sports' latest mock draft. Love was responsible for 9,003 total yards of offense and 69 total touchdowns during his three seasons in with the Aggies. And while he doesn't have the accolades that Hurts does, he certainly has the talent to play at the next level. He can make the NFL throws and has enough mobility to evade defenders. he has an outside shot of falling to the Bears in the second round but they also may have to move up in order to take him.
Jacob Eason, Washington
After losing his starting job to Jake Fromm at Georgia, Eason transferred to Washington and had to sit out a season. But once he got under center for the Huskies in 2019, he showed why he was a five-star prospect out of high school and what he is capable of when healthy. Eason completed 64.2 percent of his passes for 3,132 yards and 23 touchdowns, posting a 143.9 passer rating in the process. He's a solid pocket passer and his strong arm could add another element to the Bears' offense. Some think Eason could end up a first-round pick if the right team falls in love with him.
Nate Stanley, Iowa
While he doesn't possess the arm strength or mobility of either Jalen Hurts or Jordan Love, Stanley does have intangibles on his side. The Wisconsin native went 27-12 as the Hawkeyes starter including a sparkling 3-0 in bowl games. He completed 58 percent of his passes and posted a 134.1 passer rating. Stanley ranks second in school history in passing yards (8,302), touchdown passes (68), and total touchdowns (70). He also ranks third all-time in total yards (8,198) as he operated head coach Kirk Ferentz's pro-style system to near perfection. Stanley should land an NFL gig because of his accuracy and efficiency; perhaps the Bears will be the team to give him that opportunity.
Tyler Huntley, Utah
The Utes have posted a 46-21 record since 2016. And in that time, they've played in four consecutive bowl games (2-2 record), won back-to-back Pac-12 South titles (2018-19), and consistently finished as a Top 25 team (No. 16 last season). Huntley is one of the reasons for the Utes' success during this stretch. During his four seasons at Utah, Huntley has accounted for 8,555 total yards and 63 combined touchdowns. He can get it done with both his arm and his feet, and he forces teams to adjust their game plans. Huntley did not receive an invitation to the Scouting Combine, so he'll have to wait until Utah's Pro Day to get his chance to impress scouts and team officials.
Mason Fine, North Texas
Fine is another mid-major product that has gotten the attention of scouts and draft analysts but didn't receive an invitation to the Scouting Combine. The numbers are there, three straight seasons of 3,000-plus yards, 25-plus TDs, with a completion rate of 62 percent or higher in each. But obviously there are questions about the level of competition he faced, among others. The good news for Fine is he'll get his chance to show he's a viable NFL signal-caller, albeit as a developmental project. The good news for Chicago is that Fine should be available late in the draft, which is where most of the team's picks fall right now, or he could be a UDFA candidate.
— 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's a co-host of The Rewind Sports: 60. Follow him on Twitter @GabeSalgado82.
(Top photo courtesy of chicagobears.com)