It wasn’t expected, but it’s certainly been fun. The Chicago Bears once again have a QB controversy thanks to Tyson Bagent.
Bagent is showing signs that he can actually play at the NFL level.
It’s not a knock against the kid, but quarterbacks coming in from a Division II college certainly aren’t expected to make a leap like Bagent has done so far.
Let’s not get too far ahead of ourselves, Bagent has played excellent, but he’s played against largely third and fourth stringers in week one and second and third stringers in week two. It’s preseason, teams aren’t exactly scheming and planning for the Bears offense. They are playing basic defenses and working to get their feet under them.
That being said, PJ Walker has played against second and third-stringers for two consecutive weeks and has been dreadful every step of the way.
Through 2 preseason games:— Bill Zimmerman (@BillTZimmerman) August 20, 2023
PJ Walker is 5-12, 25 yards, 0 TDs, 1 INT, 2 sacks, 2.1 Y/A, 14.6 passer rating
Those performances wouldn’t be as alarming as they are, but when you pair it with the reports coming out of training camp that Walker was consistently struggling, it’s time to get concerned about the Bears' backup quarterback situation.
One thing that has also changed significantly this year is the new QB3 rule. Why this is impactful is that, for the most part, all NFL teams carried 2 QBs on the 53-man roster and stashed a QB or two on their practice squad. That means for the Bears to have a QB poached off their practice squad, they’d have to be elevated to QB2 on a new team. That almost immediately eliminates someone like Bagent from getting poached. But that’s not the case. Teams that want to take advantage of the QB3 rule need to have three QBs on their 53-man roster. That means if Bagent is on the practice squad, a team could poach him to their 53 as a third quarterback, and that is significantly more likely.
If the Bears love Bagent, and there’s no reason to think they don’t, he’s going to have to make the 53-man roster. They could stash him on the practice squad, and he may not get poached, but that would certainly be a roll of the dice. One thing we learned with Ryan Poles, if he likes a developmental player, he will keep them on the 53. Just look as far as last year when Ja’Tyre Carter spent the 2022 season on the 53-man roster despite rarely being active on Sundays. Carter has shown so far this preseason why Poles liked him so much.
If the Bears want to keep all four of their quarterbacks, the solution is simple. Keep Walker on the 53-man roster with Bagent and put Nathan Peterman on the practice squad. It’s hard to think anyone would poach Peterman, but I do have a suspicion, despite his struggles, that if Walker was released by the Bears, another team would most likely pick him up.
But before the Bears do that, they have to answer another question: if Justin Fields is banged up, who do you want coming into the game to try to keep the ship afloat? I’m not sure if Ryan Poles and Matt Eberflus know that answer.
Walker has the best track-record of the trio, but with how he’s performed, he certainly doesn’t seem like the answer. Bagent has played the best but let’s not pretend that preseason is the same as regular season. If the Bears are up 20-17 with five minutes remaining in the third quarter and Fields rolls his ankle and is going to miss the rest of the game, do you trust a rookie QB from a Division II school to step in and keep the lead? The coaches may not despite his strong preseason. And finally, we have Peterman who, if you combine his veteran status with his preseason performance, might be the best answer to that question.
First, let me say that I hate that I wrote that sentence about Nathan Peterman. But I keep seeing on social media that “If Justin Fields is hurt, the Bears season is over anyway so what difference does it make?” What if the Bears are 8-7 and Justin Fields is just going to miss the last two games and the Bears need to go 1-1 in their last two games to make the playoffs? Who do you want in at quarterback? Stop saying QB2 doesn’t matter. It does.
If you want to keep the two QBs that are playing the best, you keep Bagent and Peterman on the 53-man roster and you cut Walker. But if you cut Walker, you are eating the $2 million you guaranteed him. While that’s not a massive amount of cash, that’s still certainly admitting a pretty hefty mistake.
But if you keep Walker and Bagent on the 53, who is the QB2? It’s hard to give that job to Walker, but will the coaches trust Bagent? And what’s the point of PJ Walker as your third quarterback? If he can’t be your second QB, being the third one seems almost pointless for him.
The best decision, unless Walker plays significantly better over the next couple of weeks, is going to be to release Walker and see if he can make his way to the practice squad, but give Peterman and Bagent spots on the 53 with Justin Fields. But again, would the Bears be willing to do that? Ryan Pace would not. Ryan Poles just might. Regardless, it makes for a fascinating conversation leading into the Bears’ final preseason game.