The Chicago Bears will obsessively search for a new quarterback this offseason.
Their general manager said as much on Wednesday, sounding as if he had full authority to leave no stone un-turned in his search.
So with all of that in mind, I’ve rounded up some quarterbacks who could hit the market in one way or another this offseason. Some are free-agents-to-be when the new league year begins. Others could be free agents who are cap casualties or released in order to create cap space. There are also possible trade options, as well as potential draft targets. There is no shortage of avenues, but there is a shortage of great options. Nevertheless, we march on.
Matt Ryan, Atlanta Falcons
The Falcons own the fourth pick in the 2021 NFL Draft and could be heading for a rebuild. Picking in the top-5 positions them to draft a quarterback who isn’t Trevor Lawrence, should one fall to them. There’s a non-zero chance that Justin Fields (Ohio State) or Zach Wilson (BYU) tumbles out of the top-3. And if that happens, I can see the Falcons swooping in. Otherwise, I suppose they could opt for Trey Lance (North Dakota State). But because the Falcons are on the precipice of a rebuild, and Ryan, 35, isn’t getting any younger, Atlanta’s current QB is worth keeping an eye on.
Back in October, it was suggested that the Bears trade for Ryan. That wasn’t happening after the Falcons cut ties with their GM in season. But the reasons as to why Atlanta should entertain dealing Ryan – and why the Bears should be interested – still exist.
Jimmy Garoppolo, San Francisco 49ers
In February 2017, it was reported that trading for Jimmy Garoppolo was “far and away” the Bears’ top priority. And at the time, it made sense. Chicago needed quarterback help, the Bears and Patriots were training camp workout buddies and had been trade partners in recent years, and Garoppolo’s contract was expiring, while Tom Brady was still thriving. Despite persistent buzz throughout the offseason, a deal never materialized, and Chicago turned its laser focus onto Mitchell Trubisky. Nearly four years later, Garoppolo is an established starter with the 49ers. And yet, he could be on his way out the door.
PFF’s Sam Monson believes it’s time for the 49ers to think about moving on from Garoppolo, as his injuries and limitations are enough to put that question into motion. Should San Francisco follow through on that idea, they could save $24.1 million in cap space with a minuscule $2.8 million dead cap hit. GM John Lynch has proven to be an excellent trader. And since his team owns the 12th pick in the upcoming draft, I can see the 49ers using that draft capital toward swinging a deal for a high-profile quarterback — which would pave the way for Garoppolo’s move into the open market.
Mac Jones, Alabama
Let’s just say the Heisman Trophy finalist saw his profile rise during the national championship game:
There’s no question about it- @macjones_10 made himself money last night. Very impressed with TWO incredibly important “traits” he displayed for @alabamaftbl in the natty. @getupespn @rollbamaroll @rolltide #CFP pic.twitter.com/gY78OfWtzI
— Dan Orlovsky (@danorlovsky7) January 12, 2021
Mac Jones had a bonkers year for Alabama. He completed 77.4 percent of his passes, threw 41 touchdowns, minimized turnovers with just four interceptions, and took just 10 sacks. On the surface, I watched a player with solid processing ability, touch on his passes, and the moxie to lead a team to a national title. Of course, he was playing alongside a Heisman winner, future pro talent, probably some future Heisman winners, and for arguably the greatest college football coach in history. Nevertheless, Jones has intriguing traits that are worth diving into when the time comes.
Trey Lance, North Dakota State
There was a time when Lance could have made a case to be this class’ QB2. One NFL Draft insider dared to consider ranking Lance as QB1. Instead, things went sideways on his college football season. Nevertheless, one pundit declared Lance was the 2021 NFL Draft’s “most interesting prospect” after announcing his intent to forgo his remaining college eligibility. For what it’s worth, the Bears were at Lance’s showcase game (but it was kind of a dud).
Zach Wilson, BYU
This year’s version of Joe Burrow – i.e. a prospect who skyrockets out of nowhere to become this draft class’ darling prospect – has swag, sauce, and an aura around him because of how he played at BYU. Wilson, 21, threw for 3,692 yards, 33 touchdowns, and just 3 interceptions. And for good measure, he added 254 rushing yards and 10 touchdowns. And for really good measure, he clowned Aaron Rodgers’ lack of “swag” — only to later draw comparisons to the Packers QB. So … that’s fun.
Wilson is QB3 on the respective draft boards of Mel Kiper Jr. and Todd McShay. Moreover, he could be one of the few options worth trading up in the draft to select (and ultimately build around).
Justin Fields, Ohio State
It’s no secret we’ve been thinking about the Bears’ future quarterback for quite some time. In fact, in April 2020, Justin Fields jumped on our radar as a possibility when he was mocked to go to the Bears with the 13th pick in the 2021 NFL Draft. Here’s what we said at the time:
Fields was the truth last year. A dynamic dual-threat quarterback with arm strength and accuracy, as well as the ability to break down a defense with his mobility. That type of athletic profile, prospect pedigree, and leadership skills (which ultimately led Ohio State to the college football playoffs last year) should probably land Fields higher than 13th, but Miller clearly believes there are some skill-position players that should be taken ahead of the Ohio State quarterback.
A mock draft in late December had Fields dropping out of the top-10. And while Fields has since played his way back into the upper-crust of quarterback prospects, the Bears should still be interested.
Dak Prescott, Dallas Cowboys
We’ve been traveling this road for a while now. So why not keep on trucking along? We first broached the topic in July, discussing Prescott and the non-zero chance he’s the Bears’ quarterback in 2021. In October, an NFL executive said they believed the Bears and Colts were top options if Prescott hits free agency. Prescott checks a bunch of boxes. He is an established NFL quarterback with Pro Bowl talent who minimizes mistakes and makes big plays. How his very ugly looking leg injury impacts his future remains to be seen, but rolling the dice on Dak isn’t the worst option.
Deshaun Watson, Houston Texans
It started innocently enough. The rumored possibility of Deshaun Watson asking for a trade out of Houston raised eyebrows. And now that the Watson-Texans drama is out there for everyone, we might as well dream the biggest dream. Admittedly, trading for Watson is a long-shot. Remember, he has a no-trade clause that he can wield whenever he wants. Even still … ESPN’s Max Kellerman offers a compelling case as to why Watson should want to engineer a trade to the Bears:
I see no lies from Mr. Kellerman.
The Bears are the team that brings this city together. We can bicker about Cubs-White Sox. Argue about how the Blackhawks should go about rebuilding their future. Debate the Bulls’ general direction. HOWEVER, the one thing we can all rally around is our hope that the Bears can one day land a real, honest-to-goodness, franchise quarterback. Not only would Watson be that, his arrival would right the wrongs of the past. It’s a shot-in-the-dark, but one worth taking.
Hopefully, having Cordarrelle Patterson already on the case will help matters.