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How News of the Big Chicago Bears Trade Went Down

Greg Gabriel shares some insider juice on how he heard about the huge Bears - Panthers trade.

NFL: Detroit Lions at Carolina Panthers Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

I have been in the football business almost 42 years now, having started in July of 1981 as a part time scout for the Buffalo Bills. Over that time period, I have been able to make a lot of friends, many of whom are high up the “NFL insider” hierarchy. Those friendships pay off when things like yesterday’s huge Chicago Bears trade came about.

Going back to last week’s Combine, Bears General Manager Ryan Poles seemed very confident that a deal was going to take place and perhaps soon. He stated there were scenarios where he could make a deal before free agency began, which would, of course, help the Bears in their pursuit of new talent.

Poles’ proclamation was followed by articles in Football Morning in America by Peter King and Monday Morning Quarterback by Albert Breer. Both Poles and Bears Head Coach Matt Eberflus sat down with the two of them to discuss the Bears’ offseason and potential trade.

In both articles, it seemed as if Ryan Poles was speaking with confidence when discussing the trade. A matter-of-fact type confidence. As it turns out, the deals were just about done when those discussions with Breer and King took place.

After reading King’s article, I thought to myself that there was no way Poles would have made those quotes unless he had a trade “in the bag.”

I have known Peter King since the mid 80’s when I was a young scout for the New York Giants. At that time, Peter was the beat reporter for Newsday, a Long Island Newspaper. We struck up a friendship and have remained friends ever since. In my opinion, he is the ultimate “Insider” because when Peter King calls, most high-level decision makers pickup. Very few people outside a personnel department ever see the inside of a draft room on draft weekend. Peter is in a different draft room every year.

Anyway, I sent Peter a text on Monday morning asking, “In your opinion, does Poles really have an offer of two future firsts, or is he just postering to raise the ante?” Peter replied that it was his thought that Poles was being 100% honest. Later Monday, a scouting friend of mine who knows Ryan well said, “Poles is very honest, I’m not sure he knows how to lie.” Well, this time of the year is the “Lying Season,” so no one can be 100% sure, but still, I was confident something was going to happen and happen soon.

After seeing a lot of “smoke” on a trade on Monday, things seemed to quite down until yesterday afternoon.

At about 3:00 PM, I received a text from a friend that said, “A lot of smoke on a trade between Chicago and Carolina”. I texted back what I just wrote earlier about what Peter King had told me. His reply, “it might be within hours and will include #9, D.J. Moore, and some undetermined picks”.

I was confident that something was going to happen, but I wasn’t 100% sure that it would be yesterday. I tweeted, “Hearing some nice things, just don’t know of fact. We’ll wait and see”. I’m not a news breaker, and I don’t want to be, but when I hear something, I let it be known when it is safe to say it. The last thing I ever want to do is betray the confidence of friends. That is why I only tweeted a “tease.”

With minutes of my tweet, my “DM’s” lit up with questions and statements saying that they have heard something was going down with the Carolina Panthers. One was from Windy City Gridiron’s Bill Zimmerman, who said, “hearing Carolina is getting #1 within 48 hours.” I told him, “true, and there is a player involved.”

Bill worked as a producer at SiriusXM for a long time, and as such, he gets some really good info.

WCG’s Aaron Lemming, who also writes for CBS’ The Bear Report, DM’ed me with “hearing juice on a Panthers trade.” So, it was out there but still rumor, in my opinion.

I then texted a local writer who, up to then, had heard nothing. When I told him the package, his first thought was, “Why would Carolina make a trade for #1 and trade away their best offensive player?” I replied that in order to get something, you had to give up something.

About an hour went by, and there was no further news, so I decided to push a little. I sent a text to an NFL Network Insider telling him what I was told. He sent back… “checking”. Within 6 minutes, the NFL Networks Ian Rapoport tweeted out the scoop. At that same moment, I got a text from my friend at the Network saying, “You got it right!”

Did this trade come about yesterday? Not from what I have been told. In fact, I was told that it was pretty much a done deal when everyone left the Combine last Sunday night. Ryan Poles had sat down with clubs that may be interested while in Indianapolis. He let it be known that he wanted a deal done soon.

A deal for the top pick in the Draft has never been made this early in the process, so I don’t think some of the clubs involved were ready to deal. Carolina, on the other hand, wanted to be in position to get the quarterback of their choosing, so they were open to making a deal. From what I understand, the key element in this trade was wide receiver D.J. Moore. There would be no trade unless Moore was part of the package.

In January, while in Las Vegas for the East-West Shrine Bowl, I had a chance to meet with Ryan Poles. It was a nice discussion that lasted about an hour. When the topic of wide receiver came up, he told me he was looking “for another separator…similar to Mooney but a little bigger.” Poles got just that in D.J Moore.

Moore has the opportunity to do for the Bears and Justin Fields what Stefon Diggs did for Josh Allen and the Buffalo Bills. The ironic thing is when the Bills made that trade, Allen was going into his third year, and Diggs had completed five strong seasons in Minneapolis. Well, the exact same circumstances are with this trade. Justin Fields is entering his third season, and Moore has had five successful seasons in Carolina.

Josh Allen turned the corner in year three. He went from a rising talent to NFL Superstar, and the Bills became contenders.

Let’s hope for the same in Chicago.