The NFL Playoffs are just beginning, but for the Chicago Bears, the off-season has already begun, and it is one of the most important off-seasons in the franchise's history. Depending on what the final cap number is for 2023, the Bears will have somewhere in the area of $120 Million of cap space to spend if they so desire. That's close to double the next team's cap space available. They also hold the first pick in the 2023 NFL Draft.
If there was ever a chance to turn the fortunes of a club around in one year, this is it!
I have written about the Draft before on this site, but now that we know what pick the Bears hold, it's time to write about it some more. In this Draft, there is no Trevor Lawrence, Myles Garrett, or Chase Young type of players available at the top of the Draft. There are players/quarterbacks similar in value to Jared Goff, Carson Wentz, Zach Wilson, and Trey Lance. With players of that value, does that mean the Bears can get a ransom of Draft picks to trade out of the number one slot? Not really, at least not yet. It's still way too early in the process.
In order for clubs to trade up, they have to be driven to get a certain player. Today, in early January, it's too soon to know who would be the player or quarterbacks other clubs would be driven to Draft.
Regardless of what some Draft Analysts want to tell you, Draft Boards haven't even begun being put together. That process usually starts in February and continues right up until the Draft, and it's always a very fluid process.
Right now, a "Board" would consist of the highest grade on each prospect in a clubs scouting system. Grades aren't close to being final, as clubs don't have anywhere near all the information that is needed to place a final grade on a prospect. The information that is still needed is verified measurables, the medicals, psychological testing, intelligence testing, interviews, and workouts. Coaches haven't begun to evaluate players yet, and their input is an important part of the overall process.
The reality is it will be mid-March before we begin to "hear" who the hot players are. It is after the Combine, Pro Days, and Private Workouts that clubs start to "fall in love" with certain players.
Look at it this way: two years ago, did anyone anticipate that Zach Wilson and Trey Lance would go two and three in the Draft and that Justin Fields would "fall" to 11?
Of course not.
When San Francisco made the trade to move up to the three slots, most thought that it was for Mac Jones. Obviously, it wasn't Jones.
If the Bears want to trade out of the first pick, they have to be patient and let the clubs with a quarterback need get full evaluations on their top-rated quarterbacks and then begin "falling in love" with one of those prospects.
It's easy to figure out what clubs have a quarterback need and are currently drafting in the top 10. Houston, who has the second pick, has an obvious need, as does Indianapolis, who currently has the fourth pick. The Colts have gone the veteran route the last three years since Andrew Luck's retirement and haven't had success. They need to draft and develop a young quarterback in the worst way.
Las Vegas, at seven could need a quarterback because they are moving on from Derek Carr, but they could also go with Jarrett Stidham, who started the last two games of the season. Carolina, who is also hiring a new Head Coach, picks at nine. So, there are at least four teams with needs in the Top 10 of the Draft. That could change if the Raiders trade Carr to one of those teams.
As of today, it's difficult to measure who Houston has an affinity for, and one of the reasons is they don't have a coach. Once they hire a new Head Coach, we can begin to guess what type of quarterback they are looking for. By sitting at number two, they can easily just take the best QB (who very well could be their top QB) without having to move up to number one.
I have already seen some published outlandish trades for Houston to move to one from two. They are so preposterous it's almost not worth mentioning them. Moving from two to one is only a 400-point move, which is a mid-second-round pick. If Houston gave up their number two, which will be the 32nd pick this year because Miami's first pick has been forfeited, they are paying about a 160-point premium to move up one slot.
Yes, I know fans want a ransom for the top pick, but that doesn't always happen. The trade chart is not an absolute but rather a guide, and while it holds fairly firm in mid to late rounds, in the first round, it often depends on market conditions and how driven a team and/or teams want to move up.
Right now, in early January, there is no consensus number one QB in this Draft. Some clubs currently have Alabama's Bryce Young as their top-graded QB, while others have Ohio State's C.J. Stroud or Kentucky's Will Levis. What would help the Bears is if one of those three separates from the pack and is the clear QB1.
An ideal scenario for the Bears would be for Houston to move from two to one to grab their top QB, then the Colts to move from four to two, so they could assure themselves of getting the next QB who very well could be their top-rated QB. Those two trades, at minimum, would leave the Bears with at least the number four pick in this Draft, three second-round selections, including two in the top five of the second round, and an extra first-round pick in 2024. With a first and three seconds, plus all the cap space they have, the Bears could turn that roster around quickly.
Early in my career with the Giants, we had a first and three seconds in the 1986 Draft. Three of those four players became fixtures for the Giants and helped us get to and win the Super Bowl following the 1986 season.
In the first round, we selected Notre Dame 5-technique Eric Dorsey who played on the DLine rotation as a rookie. In the second round, we were able to select Pepper Johnson, who started right away at one of the inside linebacker positions, and corner Mark Collins who was a day-one starter. Without those three players, we don't go to and win the Super Bowl.
The fact is, if the Bears can trade down, it greatly enhances their ability to show a drastic improvement in 2023.
Let's hope it happens.