After a 3-13 finish, the Bears need help at many positions. But one position has dominated the curiosity of Bears fans ever since they concluded Jay Cutler wasn't the answer.
And that's the position we focus on today.
Jeff Dickerson: First off, I’ve said on multiple occasions that I believe that swinging a deal with New England for Jimmy Garoppolo is the best possible outcome for the Bears. Yes, Garoppolo’s NFL experience is limited. And yes, acquiring him is expected to be costly, and would require the Bears to sign him to a new long-term deal -- on top of the compensation sent to the Patriots. I don’t think the Bears (or Garoppolo) would be content to engineer a trade and have the quarterback play out the final year of his original rookie contract. If the Bears think highly enough of Garoppolo -- in theory -- to package high picks to get him, then it only makes sense for Chicago to have him under control beyond 2017. Using the franchise tag is an option after next season, but do the Bears really want to carry a quarterback franchise tag number -- especially when cap numbers can be better massaged under multiyear agreements? Plus, Garoppolo will want security -- and rightfully so -- if Chicago anoints him its quarterback of the future. Do you really want to offend the guy earmarked to be your franchise quarterback? I think a trade for Garoppolo and a new deal go hand in hand.
However, Garoppolo is 25 years old. New England -- the NFL’s greatest franchise -- thought enough of Garoppolo to make him its starter when Tom Brady served a four-game suspension -- until Garoppolo got hurt. He’s been in that building every day, in the same room as Brady, under the watchful eye of Bill Belichick. He’s worked with Josh McDaniels -- one of the game’s brightest offensive minds. There have never been any sort of character red flags attributed to Garoppolo. My ESPN colleague Mike Reiss, who knows more about the Patriots than anyone else, says that Belichick really likes Garoppolo. The Patriots will absolutely not trade Garoppolo unless the compensation is substantial. Yes, Belichick is the master of getting rid of players before they flame out. But I don’t get that sense here. I think there’s enough evidence to suggest that Garoppolo could be the real deal. Now, I’m not a professional talent evaluator. And I certainly cannot offer any sort of guarantee that Garoppolo -- if dealt to the Bears -- will live up to expectations. There is always a degree of risk in these moves. But I think the Bears (like many other teams) are intrigued and will explore the Garoppolo angle.
So, for me, I first try to trade for Garoppolo. Then I still draft a developmental quarterback at some point in 2017. Finally, I bring back Matt Barkley (unrestricted) and Connor Shaw (restricted) to compete for the No. 2 job. Obviously, in a perfect world, Brian Hoyer (unrestricted) would be an ideal backup to Garoppolo, but I can’t say for sure that Hoyer wants to re-sign with Chicago under that scenario.
Now, let’s say the Garoppolo deal does not materialize. I'd still draft a quarterback in the spring -- preferably in the second or third round -- or maybe late first round if I can trade out of No. 3 or make some other moves. To me, the idea of rolling the dice on North Carolina’s Mitch Trubisky or Clemson’s Deshaun Watson with the third pick is too dangerous. If I’m keeping the third pick, I’m taking the best available player -- maybe Alabama’s Jonathan Allen or a defensive back. That’s my opinion. I like Watson. I think he’d be a breath of fresh air in Chicago. But I can’t pull the trigger on a quarterback that high unless I’m completely sold. The Bears cannot afford another first-round miss.
Regardless, I’m adding a young quarterback to the mix. Then, I attempt to bring back Hoyer to start the year as the No. 1, followed by Barkley/Shaw to be my No. 2 until the rookie is ready to rise up the depth chart. I think Hoyer would be more agreeable to return if he knows there is a good chance he can start all year -- or half the year. Hoyer is also a great teammate who has experience mentoring a young player.
Under no circumstances is Jay Cutler part of my plan in 2017. That ship has long sailed.
Finally, I try to add Josh McCown to the coaching staff in some capacity. I think the world of McCown, and the Bears’ quarterbacks room is a better place with him in it. Maybe McCown can be another offensive assistant -- the same title held last year by Kevin Mawae and Ben McDaniels.