It’s not officially official just yet, but the Chicago Bears have reportedly made a trade sending pass-rusher Robert Quinn to the Philadelphia Eagles for a fourth-round pick.
Once the deal officially goes in the books, the fallout will be plentiful. So let’s just get into it right now to be prepared.
UPDATE: It’s official.
The Bears Draft Pick Situation Improves Slightly
As things stand, these are the picks the Bears currently own going into the 2023 NFL Draft (pick positioning projection via Tankathon based on current standings):
- Round 1 — 14th
- Round 2 — 45th
- Round 3 — 76th
- Round 4 — 107th
- Round 4 — 128th (from the Eagles, via the Quinn trade)
- Round 5 — 138th
- Round 7 — 207th
The Bears currently do *NOT* have a sixth-round pick in the upcoming draft. Their sixth-round selection belongs to the Dolphins because of the deal that brought Jakeem Grant Sr. to Chicago. Grant was a Pro Bowl returner whom we’ll fondly remember for making splash plays on a team that didn’t give us much to root for in 2021. But remembering that the Bears don’t have a sixth-round pick because lame-duck then-GM Ryan Pace was willing to risk it all in order to improve slightly on the margins gnaws at me a little. Let’s call it water under the bridge and move on.
If you believe trading Quinn for a fourth-round pick isn’t the best return, I understand where you’re coming from. But it really isn’t an awful one. Even if the Eagles go on to win the Super Bowl, getting the 32nd pick in the fourth round for a 32-year-old player who Pro Football Focus currently grades as the fourth-worst edge defender among the 112 qualifiers for the leaderboard isn’t too shabby. And I’ll never thumb my nose at adding valuable draft capital. Especially after seeing how GM Ryan Poles seemingly created Day 3 draft picks out of thin air.
Trading Quinn wasn’t just about moving a 32-year-old veteran off a team that isn’t contending and onto one that has Super Bowl aspirations. Instead, the Quinn deal was more about using a current player as a trade chip who could net a return that would help build the next great Bears team. No one wants to see popular and productive players go, but trading Quinn checks some boxes for the Bears. So let’s keep that in mind as we’re letting it all sink in.
Creating More Cap Space
The cap gymnastics that come about from the Quinn deal are fun to navigate, so let’s do it together. First, with PFF’s Brad Spielberger shining some light on some of the funny money.
First of all, kudos to the Bears for chipping in the maximum amount of cash to ensure the best possible return. That is absolutely what they should be doing right now, so it’s good to see they got that part right (consider the unsavory alternative of accepting a 5th round pick just to save $6.48M).
Second of all, Brad does tremendous work in breaking down the financial stuff and deal valuation on the football side of things. So when he tweets that a fourth-round pick is a “great return” then I believe him. Full stop.
As for the elephant in the room — a.k.a. the Bears’ cap space for 2023 — it continues to grow as a result of the Quinn trade.
Using the cap calculator at OverTheCap.com (what a resource this is for us!), we estimate that the Bears are going from $115,976,523 in available cap space in 2023 to roughly $125,000,000. In other words, that deal creates nearly $10M in additional cap space, which is nearly double the next team. Hot diggity dog! That’s a whole lotta wiggle room under the cap. And when you consider the Bears’ needs that are on the horizon, every dollar counts.
Matt Eberflus Has a New Mountain to Climb
Beating Bill Belichick on his home turf on Monday Night Football was a tough task. But winning football games isn’t a head coach’s only job. And this upcoming challenge for Eberflus figures to be a doozy. Because while scheming defensively without Quinn (something we’ll get to momentarily) is going to be a test, doing so while handling the emotions of his teammates and friends won’t be easy.
Take Roquan Smith, for example, who didn’t take the news all too well:
Brett nailed it. I can’t imagine it’s easy to process trade news of a teammate in real time. And to do it live, in front of the media, during your weekly availability stings on another level. It’s not just that Quinn was a high-profile name sent away in a trade. This is a player who was part of the Bears’ most recent playoff run. And someone whose Bears career arc went from (1) big splash signing presented as the missing piece before the 2020 season, (2) a struggling player whose teammates were there for him while he tried to find his footing, (3) franchise single-season sack record-holder a year later, (4) voted as a team captain, before (5) being traded.
Roquan won’t be alone in feeling strongly about losing a teammate and friend. And it is up to Eberflus and his staff to tread water during an emotional time for those players. You want to be a CEO-style head coach in the NFL? Good luck.
So … Who’s Going to Take Quinn’s Place?
Not to be a forgotten piece in this puzzle, but figuring out who will take Quinn’s snaps is pretty important. At some point down the road, we’ll begin diving into draft possibilities. And with expectations being that the Bears will pick in the top-15, we’ll need to be cognizant of draft options. Perhaps the upcoming NFL Draft might be a place where Poles takes the plunge and adds an impact pass-rusher. But we can cross that bridge when we get there. For now, the Bears have one great option in front of them to choose from and one not-so-savory option.
Ideally, the Bears use the vacancy left by Quinn to max out playing time for Trevis Gipson and Dominique Robinson. Let the kids play, amiright!?
Get to Know Trevis Gipson and Dominique Robinson
Gipson, 25, is a third-year player who is in his first season as a hand-in-the-ground defensive end after spending his first two years as a pass-rushing outside linebacker. The Tulsa product is under contract in Chicago for the remainder of this season and the 2023 campaign. It is too early to consider extension talks for Gipson, but getting him an increased workload to see what he could bring to the table as a possible long-term piece on this defense should be a priority for Eberflus, Poles, and the defensive coaches. After playing on 49 percent of the defensive snaps last year (and was well north of that after taking over for an injured Khalil Mack midseason), Pro-Football-Reference has Gipson down to a 44% snap share. Let’s kick that up to somewhere north of 60 percent. Preferably in the 70-80 percent range.
Robinson, 24, was a Bears fifth-round selection who has played on 38 percent of the team’s defensive snaps. I don’t think Robinson is ready for lion’s share of the snaps, but he should see a significant up-tick in playing time with Quinn out of the picture. In an ideal football world, Robinson fills out the rotational pass-rusher role that Gipson was working in prior to the trade. And if things go well, then perhaps his play will justify pushing Al-Quadin Muhammad out of the starting lineup.
What the Bears *SHOULDN’T* do is rely too heavily on Muhammad moving forward. I realize Muhammad is an experienced starter in this system, is under contract for 2023, and is the team’s highest-graded edge defender by PFF’s standards. But Muhammad has just 1 QB sack, 2 QB Hits, and has yet to record a tackle-for-loss this season. Muhammad is more likely to be a bridge to finding a long-term solution than he is to be the solution.