Not only is there is a “strong sense” that the Chicago Bears will add a veteran quarterback this offseason to push (or even supplant?) Mitch Trubisky, there is now a sense of what the team is looking for in its search.
Let’s revisit the tweet from ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler:
Strong sense here in Indy the Bears will be adding established veteran QB to push starter Mitch Trubisky, likely looking for pedigree and extensive starter's experience.
— Jeremy Fowler (@JFowlerESPN) February 27, 2020
Alright, this seems clear enough. The Bears are looking for an established veteran who has “pedigree” (whatever that means) and extensive starter’s experience (which is self explanatory). Chicago didn’t have this type of quarterback presence while Chase Daniel and Tyler Bray were behind Trubisky on the depth chart. So if they find a quarterback who checks these particular boxes, it would be a step away from what the team has done in recent years.
I have taken the liberty of combing through free agent options and possible trade possibilities the Bears could target in search of a quarterback who fits what the team is reportedly seeking in a QB2. If there is someone I missed, let us know in the comments, on Facebook, and on Twitter. As far as I am concerned, no stone should go un-turned in this search.
Free Agent Options
2019 stats: 133/196 (69.7%), 1,384 yards, 9 TD, 2 INT, 99.1 rating
Career games (starts): 44 (34 starts)
Notes: Bridgewater checks all the boxes at the highest level. He is a young, established veteran quarterback with a unique pedigree as a 2014 first-round pick and Pro Bowler in 2015, who has ample starting experience. Bridgewater’s teams are 22-12 when he starts, with an impressive 5-0 mark coming while he took over for Drew Brees when he went down with an injury last season. Plugging in Bridgewater as the competition for Trubisky would be ideal, but he might prefer a clearer path to starting instead of having to beat out an incumbent starter to win a gig.
Bridgewater’s price tag has varied throughout the offseason. It’s possible he gets a deal that would pay north of $20 million per year, but OverTheCap.com pegs his next contract as a two-year deal worth $18 million total and includes just $10 million guaranteed.
2019 stats: 160/247 (64.8%), 1,707 yards, 11 TD, 5 INT, 91.3 rating
Career games (starts): 67 (62 starts)
Notes: Keenum had a career year for the 2017 Vikings, completing 67.6 percent of his passes, throwing for 3,547 yards, 22 touchdowns, and just 7 interceptions. It added up to a career best 98.3 passer rating in a season in which he quarterbacked Minnesota to the NFC Championship Game. The Vikings lost that one, which cost them a chance at playing the Super Bowl in their own building, but you’ve gotta tip your cap to him for getting that group there in the first place. Remember, Kirk Cousins missed the playoffs while quarterbacking the same cast of characters. But I digress. Keenum has shown an ability to quarterback competently and work within the confines of the system. He’s no world-beater. And his ceiling is limited. But I can’t ignore the value of competent quarterback play.
Keenum’s projected deal from OTC is a one-year pact worth $11 million, but includes just $6 million guaranteed. That’s pretty much the going rate for QB2 types who could move into starting roles.
2019 stats: 95/160 (59.4), 1,203 yards, 7 TD, 2 INT, 92.3 rating
Career games (starts): 63 games (61 starts)
Notes: Mariota has the potential to do to another quarterback what Ryan Tannehill did to him last season. The similarities are too much to ignore. Both were top-10 picks … who had uneven years with the teams that drafted them … showed flashes despite constant change in regimes … but never consistently enough for their original teams to commit to them long term. Tannehill caught lightning in a bottle as he took over for Mariota last season. Perhaps Mariota can do the same in a new system without the pressure of living up to that first-round pedigree.
Bears GM Ryan Pace reportedly liked Mariota coming out of Oregon, where he won a Heisman Trophy. Pedigree, starting experience, and upside that comes with age? It’s not the most inspiring option, but it’s not one that isn’t intriguing.
2019 stats: 380/626 (60.7%), 5,109 yards, 33 TD, 30 INT, 84.3 rating
Career games (starts): 72 games (70 starts)
Notes: Winston could very well be in search of a clean slate and a fresh start when the new league year begins. His five-year run with the Buccaneers had its highs (Pro Bowl as a rookie in 2015, led the league in passing yards in 2019) and lows (a suspension to start the 2018 season, a league-leading 30 interceptions in 2019). But there is no denying the talent Winston possesses in his right arm. After racking up more than 5,000 passing yards and 30+ touchdowns as a 25-year-old in 2019, Winston could insist on holding out for a starting job. However, the musical chairs of quarterbacks that will be played out this offseason could leave him in a position where he has to fight for a new gig.
PFF’s brainiacs see a free agent fit for the Bears, even if I don’t.
Potential Trade Targets
2019 stats: 361/513 (70.4%), 4,054 yards, 21 TD, 8 INT, 100.8 rating
Career games (starts): 94 games (94 starts)
Notes: Where Carr is now reminds me of where Alex Smith was when the Chiefs acquired him in a trade from the 49ers. When Smith was dealt from San Francisco to Kansas City, he was a quarterback coming into his own, but at the end of the road with his original team, which was set to hand the keys over to a younger, more athletic option in Colin Kaepernick. The Raiders seem to be in a similar boat, but instead of being prepared to turn to a younger model, appear to be angling to bring in a big-name veteran to help usher in a new era of football in their new Vegas home.
Should the Bears acquire Carr, it probably wouldn’t be for him to compete with Trubisky — because I can’t imagine Chicago trading for a three-time Pro Bowl quarterback in the prime years of his career just to make him have to win a summertime competition. There’s been some buzz regarding the Bears and Carr (though, they aren’t the only ones reportedly interested), which makes the Vegas situation worth keeping an eye on as we move forward.
2019 stats: 314/528 (59.5%), 3,494 yards, 16 TD, 14 INT, 78.3 rating
Career games (starts): 133 games (133 starts)
Notes: I … I don’t understand the beef some Bears fans have with the idea of bringing in Dalton as an option to upgrade the team’s quarterbacks room. Dalton is a three-time Pro Bowl quarterback who led the Bengals to the postseason in each of his first four years in the league. We’re talking about THE BENGALS here, people. One of the most hapless franchises in the NFL. Andrew Gregory Dalton has played in four postseason games since arriving in the league in 2011. The Bears — as a franchise — have played in three playoff games since 2007. Let that marinate. Dalton has played in more playoff games than a 13-year-old Bears fan has seen in their lifetime. That stings.
The idea of acquiring Dalton has popped up throughout the offseason. And that the Bengals are going to be willing to work with him on engineering a trade isn’t a small thing. But if a trade doesn’t work itself out, he could become a free agent after the NFL Draft once the Bengals select Joe Burrow with the first overall pick.
2019 stats: 77/117 (65.8%), 736 yards, 3 TD, 2 INT, 84.6
Career games (starts): 58 games (48 starts)
Notes: Earlier in the offseason, it was predicted the Bears would trade for Foles — a quarterback who checks all of the boxes discussed above. Foles is an established veteran with starting experience. And while “pedigree” is undefined, I feel as if winning a championship and being named Super Bowl MVP totally counts toward having that. I suppose having a knowledge of Matt Nagy’s system (and familiarity with OC Bill Lazor and QBs Coach John DeFilippo) helps matters, too. Trading for Foles is tricky, but the Bears have started to clear cap space, which could help them fit a quarterbacking option under the cap. But if the Bears can pull off something similar to what the Browns did in taking Brock Osweiler (and draft capital) in exchange for absorbing the remainder of the four-year, $88 million contract Foles signed in the offseason, it is an intriguing opportunity that shouldn’t be overlooked.
Age: 35 (turns 36 on May 7)
2019 stats: Did not play (injury)
Career games (starts): 166 games (161 starts)
Notes: If perfectly healthy, Smith is a fantastic short-term fit for the Bears. Smith has 161 starts under his belt, a winning pedigree, success in Nagy’s offense, and proof (in Kansas City) that he is a capable teacher for an understudy. Trading for Smith isn’t as crazy of an idea as one might think. Washington is set to move forward with Dwayne Haskins as its quarterback of the future, and could look to move Smith (and his contract) off the books. The obvious hurdle to clear here is regarding Smith’s health. He hasn’t played competitive football since 2018, and that leg injury was awfully gruesome. If Smith was able to get a clean bill of health and the green light to play football again, I can see it being with the Bears. But there is a chance that he doesn’t get that clearance, which would take him off the table as a possible option.