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The Chicago Bears Will Be Fine in 2020

Some people believe that giving away a pair of first-round picks will haunt the Bears for years to come as they struggle to build a roster. What flexibility does Ryan Pace have left to him if he needs to make a big move in 2020?

NFL Draft
What do these young faces have to look forward to, now?
Photo by Jon Durr/Getty Images

Imagine that it’s 2020, and in the post-apocalyptic wasteland that is the NFC North, Soldier Field has turned into a Thunderdome-like dystopia. The Khalil Mack trade has crippled the Bears organization.

2018 under Matt Nagy was a disaster. Mitchell Trubisky’s ancient Toyota Camry caught fire on the way to practice one day, and the young man from Ohio was so impressed by emergency responders that he left football forever, returning home to join the Mentor Fire Department. Chase Daniel was a competent fill-in, but he was only a placeholder. Immediately the cry went up from around Chicago--if only the Bears could take another gamble in the 2019 draft! Why, Halas, why? Why have the great spirits of football forsaken the Bears?

Of course, the injury news was worse. Adam Shaheen never returned from the worst ankle sprain in human history, and James Daniels and Cody Whitehair were so confused from having to switch places that they regularly tried to snap the ball together. Whitehair entered the concussion protocol (not from a hit, the poor man was just confused), never to be seen again.

The 2019 draft was obviously a solemn affair, what with the Bears not picking until #62 (it would have been #63, what with the Bears bottoming out in the NFL, but the Colts were fined their first-round pick when Jim Irsay tweeted out inappropriate photo-shops of Roger Goodell). That third-rounder was spent on another interior offensive lineman, as Pace was wont to do. Then something strange happened.

Pace traded away his fourth-rounder for a future third from some middle-of-the-road team.

And now it’s 2020. The Bears need a quarterback, because the Trubisky experiment failed. The Bears have a massive 10-12% of their cap space invested in an elite pass rusher. The only major Bears on offense who are under 30 include:

(LT) Charles Leno, (LG) James Daniels, (C) New Guy from 2019, and (RT) Rashaad Coward

(RB) Jordan Howard, Tarik Cohen

(WR) Anthony Miller, Taylor Gabriel, Allen Robinson

(TE) Trey Burton, and Ben Braunecker

Meanwhile, the ancient Eric Kush (all of 30) is filling in at right guard, perhaps using a walker.

Meanwhile, on defense, the sub-30 crew looks like this:

(DL) Jonathan Bullard, Eddie Goldman, Bilal Nichols

(EDGE): Khalil Mack, Leonard Floyd, Kylie Fitts

(LB): Roquan Smith, Nick Kwiatkowski, Joel Iyiegbuniwe

(S): Eddie Jackson, Adrian Amos

(CB) Kyle Fuller, Bryce Callahan, and Kevin Tolliver

Clearly, the lack of new talent from the crippled 2019 draft has held back the Bears’ roster development. And, of course, there’s the glaring hole under center (wait, shotgun and pistol predominate…) at QB.

The Bears are hopeless, and they’d be drafting Top 10 again if they hadn’t sent the pick to Oakland Vegas Gruden.

If only Ryan Pace liked to trade up! Then, the Bears could bundle that third-rounder the young GM picked up in 2019 (190 points), his own second-rounder (#42, or 480 points), and the Raiders’ second-rounder he got in the Mack trade (#48, or 420 points) into a package worth just under 1100 points. If he could do that, he’d be picking 14th or so in 2020, and if he wanted to send his own third-rounder as well, he’d be able to get up to #10 again without giving away any future picks. Still, what sort of GM would be willing to maneuver through a draft so brashly?

Even then, though, he’d be stuck picking 10th and not have any other picks until the fourth round. A critic might point out “only 13 of the 30 first-round quarterbacks taken in the last ten years would still have been there at No. 10 overall.” That is, sadly, true. If Pace were to need to do this, he would on average be limited to only the second- or third-best quarterback available, not the best, and he would have only 5 picks in the 2020 draft, assuming that the conditional fifth-rounder from the Mack trade did not come into play.

Clearly, the Bears of 2020 will be lamenting the Mack trade. Too much of the future was given away. Having only five picks in exchange for getting back into the first round is way, way worse than having a full seven.

Some might naively claim that the package was actually well-designed to give Ryan Pace the exact lever he needed (a second-round pick to maneuver in 2020) to leave himself an escape hatch. Perhaps those reckless fans would point out that the trade actually did little more than cash in two “possibles” for an “almost certainly.” In that case, the future was mortgaged in the same sense that Pace took out a home equity loan to build a new addition. You could call it the “dining-on-quarterbacks” room, and it’s where Vic Fangio will host a barbecue every Sunday.

I guess it’s all fine.

Carry on, and Bear Down.