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The Bears Don’t Have Trade Leverage

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There are a lot of desirable trade scenarios for teams that want to get a quarterback. Very few of those scenarios need to involve the Chicago Bears.

Carolina Panthers v Chicago Bears
Pace knows how to move up in the draft. Will he even get the chance to move back?
Photo by Wesley Hitt/Getty Images

The Bears are in a bad spot in the draft when it comes to trading back, and the reasons basically come down to two factors--the presence of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at #7 and the pair of top five picks held by Cleveland.

Let’s begin with the likeliest trade scenario--the quarterback-needy team that wants to move up. First, the Browns, Giants, Broncos, and Jets all draft ahead of Chicago. That means that even barring the possibility of some team trading with Tampa Bay, by the time Chicago’s pick comes around, there is a decent chance that the best three quarterbacks are off the board. Additionally, it also means that the teams most likely to want to select quarterbacks already have had that chance to trade with the Colts, the Browns (#4), and the Buccaneers. The Bears begin without much leverage.

The Bills

Imagine, for example, that the Bills wanted to move up. Using the traditional Johnson chart, their two picks first-round are valued at 1580 points, or 70 points more than Tampa Bay’s #7 (and 180 points more than Chicago’s #8). If Tampa Bay were to give back a fourth-rounder as “change”, this trade would be at book value. It would also be a smart move for a team that has a quarterback and could use an infusion of talent. The Bills have another offer for Tampa Bay, though. If they were to add their pair of second-rounders (#53 and #56) to the lesser of their first-rounders (#22), the value is almost a perfect match for Tampa Bay’s #7. They could probably be haggled into offering #21 instead, but from Chicago’s perspective it barely matters. This means that before they even pick up the phone to call Pace, they have two offers to get them ahead of Chicago and anyone who might want the Chicago pick. This is great for Tampa Bay, but it decreases—dramatically—the allure of #8.

Basically, unless Tampa Bay is unwilling to deal for reasons unknown, Chicago has no leverage here. However, the Bills don’t even need to deal with the Bucs. They can even get ahead of the Jets pretty easily here, by packaging #21, #22, and the second-rounder (#56) they got from the Rams in order to buy the “Houston” pick from Cleveland. That’s actually a substantial overpay to move to #4 (it’s an overpay by a late third-rounder, basically), but it might be worth it to get the correct QB, and no matter what the new Cleveland administration thinks about all of the previous trading, the real price here isn’t random future picks, it’s two current-first rounders after already taking the quarterback of their choice.

Josh Rosen (or whomever) might feel a lot better about being drafted by Cleveland knowing that they were also going to bring in a first-round tackle and a first-round receiver to develop along with him. In short, it’s a fantastic deal for these two teams, and it once more results in as many as four quarterbacks off the board before Chicago’s out-of-position #8 comes around.

Finally, it gets worse if Chris Ballard in Indianapolis subscribes to the new way of business. Things are actually worse for Chicago if we contemplate Rich Hill’s “1000-point” chart (which I have found in the past to be slightly more accurate in recent trades). By that chart’s values, based on actual trades that have happened since the new CBA, the Bills’ pair of picks have 513.53 points of value. That is functionally the same as the 514.33 points attached to the #3 pick currently held by the Colts. If Ballard agrees, and Buffalo should totally check, that would be a good deal for both teams. Buffalo would get access to no worse than the third-best quarterback (after Cleveland and New York) in the draft and Indianapolis would get a solid infusion of first-round talent on price-controlled contracts. That’s good for those two teams, but it’s less than awesome for Chicago.

The Rest

Okay, so if the Bills are a no-go, how about the Cardinals? The most obvious question is who are the Cardinals targeting at that point? Baker Mayfield? Again, there are a lot of teams likely to deplete the QB talent by #8, and if the talent isn’t there to motivate the trades earlier, why would it suddenly appear at #8? Arizona holds #15 and #47 (1480 points). That’s within a couple of percent of the value of Tampa Bay’s #7 (1500), and well-past Chicago’s #8 (basically up by a 4th-rounder). Now, it might be worth it to Arizona to play the Bucs and the Bears off of one another. Giving up that second-rounder might be more palatable if Chicago sent back its extra fourth-round pick. However, at this point Chicago is not getting ahead in the total number of picks (they are swapping firsts and exchanging a fourth for a second), and they are losing draft position in the hopes that the right guy will be waiting for them in the second round. Arizona, meanwhile, is also hoping that Tampa Bay doesn’t sell #7 out from under them.

Maybe Pace could talk to Washington? If the D.C. team loses out on Cousins (who maybe goes to the Bills? The Cardinals? Hmm…if he creates an opening that closes an opportunity for Chicago anyway), then Washington has the firepower to go past Chicago and get to Tampa Bay pretty easily (again, their first and second hold greater value than #7). If the Bills have already done that and swooped in at #7, then exactly who is Washington going after? Besides, Washington would be overpaying to offer #13 and #44, and so the Bears would basically be picking swapping first-rounders in order to gain a third-round pick (#78) and maybe some other “change” so to speak. This, again, depends on the talent ahead of them not being depleted.

Maybe the Chargers come calling? Their first two picks are of almost the same value as #8, and there’s a chance they are price-pointed out of some of the ritzier picks. However, why do they move to #8? If their goal is to land a quarterback, #9 (San Francisco) and #10 (Oakland) will likely be open for business at even cheaper prices, and there’s little fear that Chicago is taking a passer. In order for the Chargers to want #8 specifically, they would need to be afraid of someone else making a move. This would require at least two parties, and it’s tough to see who they would be trading against when there’s so much room to move ahead of Chicago.

Non-Quarterback Trades

The reality is that if the Bears do trade back, it will likely be motivated by individual players being available in a way that a particular franchise covets—not due to the allure of the quarterback position. However, they are not in a position to reap a windfall of picks. Could Miami want Calvin Ridley and not be willing to wait until #11? Sure. Maybe Cincinnati wants to sweep past San Francisco and Gruden in order to get the best tackle on the board—that move would be almost exactly the value of the Bengals’ third-round pick (from #12 to #8), and it might be worth picking up the phone—if Pace doesn’t want that same tackle for the Bears, after all. He might want a conversation with Hiestand first (especially if it’s McGlinchey).

That, then, is the problem with the #8 spot for a team in the middle of a rebuild. Yes, Chicago has its quarterback. However, there is room for improvement at nearly every other position group. While on the one hand that means that Chicago can trade back and pick up more picks because there will be tempting talent all through the middle of the first round, the same thing also means that it will make a lot of sense to Ryan Pace that he simply stands pat and gets the guy he wants after #7.