As we continue to focus on the Chicago Bears' offseason, the discussion surrounding their quarterback position remains front and center. The team has insisted that Mitchell Trubisky will remain their starter, but the Bears are expected to add at least one other signal-caller for competition during training camp. There are several routes Chicago can use to add to its quarterback room. Potential options in the upcoming draft and from the XFL have already been discussed and grabbing a veteran in free agency is another.
There will be quite a few big names available when free agency starts next week. (It's currently scheduled to begin on Wednesday, March 18, but that could change if the NFL decides to delay the start of the new league year.) Drew Brees and Dak Prescott are included in this group, but they are pretty much guaranteed of staying put. Tom Brady figures to be the biggest fish to try and reel in, but the Bears just don't seem like a viable option for him. But here are some others on the market that could be of interest to Chicago and vice versa.
The former Minnesota Viking and New Orleans Saint will be one of the most sought-after players on the market in 2020. It's easy to forget that he's only 27. And because of that, paying for Bridgewater's services could be an issue for the Bears, as they currently rank 26th among all teams in terms of cap space, according to Over The Cap. But if the Bears can swing a deal for the former Louisville standout, they'll be getting one of the most improved players in the league. Things for Bridgewater didn't work out in Minnesota, but he experienced a career resurgence with the Saints this season.
After playing in nine games in 2019, five of which were starts in place of an injured Drew Brees, Bridgewater completed 67 percent of his attempts for 1,384 yards. He also threw nine touchdown passes, averaged 7.1 yards per attempt, and only took 12 sacks. The five starts he made in place of Brees were all victories — that helped the Saints win the NFC South — which proved that Bridgewater can still start in this league. But let there be no doubt that there will be a bidding war for his services.
The No. 2 overall pick in the 2015 NFL Draft had an up-and-down career with the Titans. And after being benched this season for Ryan Tannehill (who helped lead the Titans to the AFC Championship Game), all signs point to the 2014 Heisman Trophy winner finding a new home. And while Mariota had his share of struggles with the Titans, his numbers are actually solid. Since entering the league, Mariota has completed 62.9 percent of his passes for 13,207 yards and 76 touchdowns. Mariota also has run for 1,399 yards with another 11 scores while averaging nearly six yards (5.8) per carry.
The numbers that do concern teams, however, are his somewhat modest career passer rating (89.6), the 155 sacks he's taken, the 44 interceptions, and the 14 lost fumbles (out of 33 total). But Mariota certainly has the physical skills to play in this league. Perhaps a change of both scenery and coaches would do Mariota some good. It would be interesting to see how Matt Nagy would use Mariota's skill set if he were to join the Bears.
Should the Bears decide to go to the proven veteran route, Rivers would certainly fit that mold. Rivers could be someone to help mentor Trubisky just as Doug Flutie did for him as a younger player. Rivers has the credentials to be a mentor, as he ranks sixth all-time in passing yards (59,271), touchdown passes (397), and completions (4,908). He's also 10th all-time in career passer rating (95.1), and ninth in completion percentage (64.7).
Rivers is an eight-time Pro Bowler, he's played in 11 playoff games, and has won four AFC West titles. Sometimes the best "quarterback whisperer" is a fellow quarterback. Besides, at 38 and after making more than $218 million in career earnings, Rivers should be affordable for the Bears at this point in his career, depending on the situation he's looking for. And there will be competition for his services, with the Colts, Buccaneers, and Panthers among teams that will likely engage him in conversation once free agency starts.
After seven seasons for five different teams, Keenum has managed to find staying power in the NFL. Since 2013, Keenum has completed 62 percent of his passes for 14,368 yards and 75 touchdowns while averaging 6.9 yards per attempt. His passer rating has been above 90 in two of the last three seasons, and he can run the ball if needed (428 yards, 6 touchdowns). And at 31, Keenum should still have some gas left in the tank.
— 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.