Now that Marvin Harrison Jr. has officially declared for the 2024 NFL Draft, there’s only one major prospect left to join the big list: Caleb Williams, the grand prize himself.
The presumptive top pick in the NFL Draft has given the indication he intends to make the NFL leap this coming season, even going so far as to skip USC’s bowl game last month.
Despite some ominous suggestions from his father, Carl, about his son being able to go back to school if they feel the situation isn’t right for him to go the NFL, the reality is Williams probably won’t pass up the chance to make his professional money now. Even though he could make monster NIL cash, nothing will hit quite like the $50-$60 million dollars a year he’ll be making in the league if he’s as good as people believe he’ll be.
So… why hasn’t he joined the party yet officially?
Williams has until Monday, January 15 to make his declaration for the draft as part of the underclassman pool seeking “special eligibility”. The other top quarterback prospects expected to go in the top-10 — Drake Maye and Jayden Daniels — each entered their names into the draft pool when they announced they were skipping their bowl games.
A lot can change in three days, of course. Perhaps Mr. Williams simply wanted the stage to himself. It’s also not totally unheard of for prospects to push their decisions to the last minute. Plus, as Kahler acknowledges, Williams may have already submitted his paperwork and simply not said anything. The list of underclassmen granted eligibility isn’t released until January 19, so we simply might have to wait for information.
For example, CJ Stroud didn’t announce his declaration for the 2023 NFL Draft until January 16, the day after the official submission date for paperwork.
Or could there be more to it?
Kalyn Kahler, senior football writer for The Athletic, tweeted that she asked Carl himself about Caleb’s holdup and didn’t get a straight answer from the quarterback’s representatives. But her following notes on the situation are very thought-provoking.
“Scouts I’ve talked to aren’t concerned by the silence yet,” she wrote. “But they wonder, is this part of Carl’s big strategy to disrupt the status quo?”
It's Friday, Jan. 12 and Caleb Williams has not yet declared for the NFL draft. The deadline is Monday Jan 15. On Wed, I called Carl Williams, Caleb's dad, to ask why the delay? He referred me to their publicist, who declined to comment until everything is "buttoned up." (1/9)— Kalyn Kahler (@kalynkahler) January 12, 2024
First, a side note: those rumors the Williams’ team reportedly talked about securing ownership stakes in the team that drafted him were apparently true, according to Kahler’s independent sourcing. That scenario can no longer happen as NFL owners ruled non-family owners may not own equity in teams, so the point is somewhat moot.
But here’s that part that might interest Bears fans.
If, for some reason, Williams decided not to declare by January 15, he could, in theory, choose to try and enter the supplemental draft. In that scenario, Williams would essentially enter an auction system: teams could submit bids on a player in a certain round and can obtain him. If multiple teams bid on the same player in the same round, the team that’s first in the lottery order would be awarded Williams.
The kicker: the Bears won too many games to be in the first of the three groups that would theoretically bid on the quarterback, all but guaranteeing they’d miss on him.
Williams would have to make a big concession if he wants to do that, though. Only players who can’t return to college can be granted eligibility for the supplemental draft. Williams, who has one year of eligibility left, would have to hire an agent — something he reportedly doesn’t intend to do — in order to remove his amateur status. So that route seems unlikely.
Why even discuss all these possibilities? Because there might be a chance Williams is trying to find a way to play somewhere other than Chicago — maybe even his hometown Washington Commanders.
He and his entourage have reportedly been wary of going to teams without a great history of developing quarterbacks, having reportedly spoken to Arizona quarterback Kyler Murray about the topic. Though the Bears are a far more illustrious franchise than the Cardinals and have significant assets with which to improve next season, one wonders if the Bears’ history with quarterbacks — including their recent mismanagement of Justin Fields — could appear less-than-ideal to Williams’ camp.
Entering the normal draft process doesn’t provide him much choice in the matter. The stories about John Elway and Eli Manning forcing their way to other teams don’t really happen anymore. Plus, there’s no reason for Williams not to like what Chicago’s building and the opportunities it affords.
Honestly, this could end up becoming a non-story and certainly would be an afterthought if Williams becomes a Bear on the first night of the NFL Draft. (If he doesn’t, that’s no assurance the Bears don’t take another quarterback high in the draft, by the way.)
But if Williams wants to use his star power and anticipation for his entrance into the league as a bargaining chip, this could get interesting.
Scouts, Kahler noted, have no doubt that Williams will declare for the draft. The question is when, how and who he’ll be with.
Right now, the odds still favor the Bears. We’ll see if that continues.