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Was passing on Jalen Carter the right move?

In round 1 of the NFL Draft, Ryan Poles passed on the controversial Georgia defensive tackle for Darnell Wright

NFL: APR 27 2023 Draft Photo by Scott Winters/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Alright Chicago Bears fans, before you read any of this article, let me just say that I really like the selection of Darnell Wright. I love the fact that he’s already a very good pass blocker. I hope that means we are going to see a philosophical shift in 2023 to more of a passing team. I love that Wright will be the guy protecting Justin Fields in open space when Fields rolls out to his side, which is Fields natural side to move. I love that Ryan Poles invested in the offensive line. I am happy Darnell Wright is a Chicago Bear.

That being said, it’s worth a discussion if the better selection was Jalen Carter. Ryan Poles wouldn’t say much about the decision to pass on Carter other than saying that character counts. If how Carter responded to the tragedy in January was enough to be scratched off the board, then Poles is a man of conviction. No different than Poles passing on Peter Skoronski because he has conviction about length thresholds. Obviously, two very different situations but handled the same way by Poles and this regime.

The decision to pass on Jalen Carter is going to be one that Chicago Bears fans could debate for years. This felt like 2014 when the Bears were one pick away from Aaron Donald but he just didn’t fall far enough. In this case, the elite defensive tackle prospect was there for the Bears but they decided the risk outweighed the reward.

Wright will most likely become, at a minimum, a solid right tackle. He has the potential to be great one. If Carter’s character or motor does in fact become an issue, Poles will be applauded by Bears fans for years to come with this decision, but if Carter becomes a true difference maker, if he becomes a perennial All-Pro that changes the face of a defense by just his presence, Poles will be criticized for having a talent like that available to him at nine and choosing to go another direction.

Only a handful of people truly know how the meetings with Carter and the Bears’ brass went. Based on Poles’ comments on Thursday, clearly Carter didn’t pass with flying colors. If he did, he would most likely be a Chicago Bear today. However those meetings went, they clearly left the Bears with some lingering questions. It was clear after hearing Poles and Tennessee coach Josh Heupel speak, that Wright left no concerns after his workout with the Bears.

It comes down to risk-reward. The Bears felt Carter wasn’t worth the risk. The Philadelphia Eagles felt he was. Many fans say the Eagles have the culture to handle a question mark like Carter and the Bears don’t. Culture develops quickly. With a full year under his belt, Matt Eberflus and the Bears coaching staff should already be well on their way to establishing the culture in the locker room they desire.

Rookies become veterans in a hurry. With guys on the roster like Eddie Jackson, Jaylon Johnson, Tremaine Edmunds, TJ Edwards, Justin Jones and the like, the Bears have plenty of trustworthy veterans on defense to set the culture needed to support Carter.

Other fans will say the Eagles can afford to take that kind of risk with a ready-to-win roster with Carter and the Bears can’t. I’d disagree. The Bears need good players, but they also need difference makers. They need special talents. Yes, Wright could become one, but you can’t compare their ceilings. Every scout in America would tell you that Carter’s ceiling is far taller than Wright’s. But Wright’s floor is certainly better than Carter’s.

The decision between Carter and Wright won’t be black and white. It is not one selection was right and one selection was wrong. There are nuances to both. The question will be- did Ryan Poles make the best decision for the future of the Chicago Bears franchise?

Only time will tell.