The new league year might not open up for another 42 days, but the first road map to the Chicago Bears’ offseason has been revealed.
In a piece predicting what will happen this offseason, ESPN’s Jeff Dickerson lays out some lofty expectations for the Chicago bears Spring: “Look for Chicago to either trade for or sign a proven No. 2 such as Andy Dalton or Marcus Mariota when the new league year begins,” Dickerson predicts. “The Bears can’t afford to waste another season waiting for Trubisky — the second overall pick of the 2017 draft — to develop. It’s now or never.”
Dickerson’s prediction makes it seem as if there is a sense of urgency for the Bears to ramp up the competition for quarterback Mitch Trubisky. Between using “it’s now or never” and offering up that the team “can’t afford to waste another season” while waiting for development, Dickerson goes a long way to drive a point home. And that he specifically mentions Andy Dalton and Marcus Mariota as options is extra juicy.
Dalton, 32, figures to be an option who will become available at some point this offseason. Because even though he still has one year remaining on his contract with the Bengals, Cincinnati is expected to select LSU quarterback Joe Burrow with the first overall pick of the 2020 NFL Draft. That means Dalton’s time in Cincinnati is coming to an end sooner rather than later. So with that in mind, it would make sense for Chicago to be positioned to pounce and trade for a quarterback who has been successful (three Pro Bowls, two 4,000-yard passing season), but also has experience as a backup.
What the Bears would have to give up in a trade to the Bengal isn’t mentioned, but we can come up with some comparable situations. Like when the Titans traded a 2019 seventh-round pick and 2020 fourth-rounder to acquire Ryan Tannehill and a 2019 sixth-round selection last March. Or when the Broncos sent a 2019 fourth-round pick to Baltimore to acquire Joe Flacco. In any case, keep in mind the Bears are working with limited draft capital, as they project to have just eight picks.
Should Chicago decide against trading draft capital in their search to find someone to push Trubisky, perhaps pursuing Marcus Mariota is a more tenable option. Mariota, 26, could be to the Bears in 2020 what Tannehill was to the Titans in 2019. Wouldn’t it be ironic if Tannehill’s unforeseen breakout would ultimately help frame Mariota’s profile as a change-of-scenery candidate who could have it all click after leaving the team that drafted him? Because that will likely be the narrative attached to Mariota this offseason, who will either seek a place where he could potentially knock off an incumbent starter in a head-to-head competition after losing his job to Tannehill in 2019.
Elsewhere, Adam Jahns of The Athletic shares the latest installment of his “fix-it series” and takes what he calls an “educated guess” at what the Bears will do in the offseason to get right at the quarterback spot.
“As Pace did in 2017, he’ll take multiple swings at getting the most important position in sports right,” Jahns writes. “But this time, Pace will have (Matt) Nagy’s direct input as he pursues one in free agency and then tries to draft another.”
Jahns’ educated guess comes with some names and practical options. For example, Jahns presents the idea of waiting out the Bengals until Dalton becomes a free agent, signing him, then drafting Utah State’s Jordan Love or Oklahoma’s Jalen Hurts “later in the draft” as an option that makes sense. In addition to offering up Dalton and Mariota, Jahns offers up the likes of Teddy Bridgewater and Philip Rivers (though, the latter options might be out of the price range of which the Bears can afford) as free agent targets, as well as Georgia’s Jake Fromm, Washington’s Jacob Eason, and Colorado’s Steven Montez as draft-eligible prospects who should get a look from Chicago’s scouting staff.
In any case, we will monitor the Bears’ quarterbacking situation as this offseason develops because this feels like we’re experiencing the first steps in a larger longer journey.