2024 NFL Draft

Bears To Acquire N’Keal Harry From Patriots

After spending nearly 18 months in trade rumors, N’Keal Harry has a new home. The Patriots are sending the former first-round pick to the Bears, Mike Garafolo and Ian Rapoport of NFL.com report (on Twitter).

The Bears have added a few new wideouts this offseason, one in which they said goodbye to Allen Robinson after four years. They will take a shot with Harry, who is going into a contract year.

The Bears will send a 2024 seventh-round pick to the Pats, Rapoport tweets. Harry is due a $1.87MM base salary in 2022. The Patriots will save around $1.2MM by dealing him. This will provide a bit of breathing room for the Patriots, who entered Tuesday with the least amount of cap room — under $2MM.

Considering Harry’s status as the highest-drafted wideout in Bill Belichick‘s 23-offseason Patriots tenure, his New England career and this trade return represent a massive disappointment. The Pats had traded for DeVante Parker and traded up for wideout Tyquan Thornton in this year’s second round. Harry had been moved off the radar and, after a recent report that indicated the Pats could excuse the injury-prone receiver from training camp or drop him ahead of that point, the Bears moved in to see if a rebound of some sort can commence.

Acquired ahead of Tom Brady‘s final Patriots season, Harry missed most of that turbulent year for the Pats’ receiving corps. The Pats had Josh Gordon, Antonio Brown and Mohamed Sanu on their roster at points that season, but the year unfolded with scant Harry involvement. A preseason ankle injury limited Harry to seven games in 2019. He missed five last season, with shoulder and knee maladies sidelining him. A healthier 2020 (33 receptions, 309 yards, two touchdowns) did not stop Harry’s freefall, and the Patriots acquired Nelson Agholor and Kendrick Bourne last year. That preceded a 12-catch Harry 2021 season and persistent trade/cut rumors.

While this wraps another Belichick-era draft miss at the receiver position, the Bears feature a less settled pass-catching corps. Behind Darnell Mooney, uncertainty resides ahead of Luke Getsy‘s first OC season.. Chicago signed Byron Pringle, Equanimeous St. Brown, Dante Pettis, David Moore and Tajae Sharpe this offseason and used a third-round pick on Velus Jones. At 25, Jones is several months older than Harry, who will turn 25 in December.

Beyond Mooney and Jones, the Bears are taking a number of fliers. They will get one of the NFL’s biggest receivers in this trade. Harry goes 6-foot-4, 225 pounds. He ended his Arizona State career with back-to-back 1,000-yard seasons and became the 32nd overall pick in 2019. Harry was that year’s second wide receiver selected, after only Marquise Brown. His going ahead of Deebo Samuel, A.J. Brown, D.K. Metcalf, Terry McLaurin and Diontae Johnson both reflected poorly on the Patriots and reveals the receiver talent that can be had beyond Round 1. But the fourth-year pass catcher will have a stretch to impress a new Bears regime.

Baker Mayfield Fallout: Panthers, Browns, Garoppolo, Darnold, Draft, Salary, Seahawks

Wednesday’s Baker Mayfield trade came after months of negotiating. It appears the mid-June ramp-up in Browns-Panthers talks led to an agreement fairly soon after, but the ball fell into the quarterback’s court. Mayfield agreeing to trim $3.5MM from his salary satisfied the Panthers.

The teams had this deal in place for nearly a month, according to CBS Sports’ Jonathan Jones and former Browns GM Michael Lombardi (Twitter links). In pitching the slight pay cut to Mayfield, the Panthers pointed to the potential for the former No. 1 overall pick making up the difference by boosting his value for the 2023 free agent market, Jones adds. Mayfield, who was attached to an $18.9MM salary, can also earn back the money through 2022 incentives. Mayfield follows Odell Beckham Jr. in sacrificing some money to facilitate a Browns exit.

The interest in this interconference trade notwithstanding, David Newton of ESPN.com adds the deal will still precede a Mayfield-Darnold competition. Mayfield will be favored to win a training camp contest against incumbent Sam Darnold, who was chosen two picks after him in the 2018 draft. As for the conditional draft choice the Browns will receive, Mayfield’s former team will need to root for him to beat out Darnold. The pick will upgrade to a 2024 fourth-rounder if Mayfield plays at least 70% of the Panthers’ snaps, Joe Person of The Athletic tweets. Otherwise, it will become a fifth.

This battle’s winner will take the reins of a Panthers team that could feature a much better offensive line — one that added left tackle Ikem Ekwonu, center Bradley Bozeman and guard Austin Corbett, whom the Browns chose one round after Mayfield in 2018 — compared to its 2021 version and a receiving corps of D.J. Moore, Robbie Anderson and 2021 second-round pick Terrace Marshall Jr. The prospect of a healthy Christian McCaffrey has taunted the Panthers and their fanbase for two years now, but the former All-Pro running back is returning to his spot as well. Mayfield appears to be planning to gather Panthers skill players for a pre-camp workout, Newton tweets.

At the draft, the Browns were not prepared to pay much more than $3MM of Mayfield’s salary. They ended up moving to $10.5MM. The Panthers did not want to cough up more than $5MM for Mayfield, SI.com’s Albert Breer tweets, leading to the pay-cut request. But the Panthers managed to add a former No. 1 pick, resisting the temptation to reach for one of this year’s QB prospects with the No. 6 choice — which became Ekwonu.

While Mayfield’s pay cut and the Panthers agreeing to cover part of the cost saves the Browns upwards of $8MM in cap space, this still could mark a massive descent for Cleveland’s quarterback position — for 2022 at least. The Browns have gone from a 2022 reality of deploying a healthier Mayfield to trotting out Deshaun Watson — after a short suspension — to facing the prospect of Jacoby Brissett being needed for a full season of QB1 work. The Browns did not foresee a season-long Watson suspension — which has become the NFL’s preferred ban — when they traded for him, and neither they nor Mayfield appeared to make inroads toward repairing the relationship.

As previously noted, a Jimmy Garoppolo trade was not in play for the Panthers. They had expressed reservations about the 49ers QB’s injuries and, based on the extensive haggling over Mayfield’s contract, were not taking on Garoppolo’s $24.2MM salary. Carolina viewed Mayfield as a higher-floor option than Garoppolo, per Charles Robinson of Yahoo.com (on Twitter). Wednesday’s transaction cost Garoppolo, who has dealt with more injuries than Mayfield over the past four seasons, a prime landing spot. The 49ers may now need to wait on a training camp injury to unload Garoppolo in a trade. Certain NFL evaluators have expected San Francisco to simply release Garoppolo, whose base salary becomes guaranteed in Week 1.

Seattle would make sense as a Garoppolo destination, but chatter out of the Pacific Northwest continues to center around the ongoing Drew LockGeno Smith competition. The Seahawks had “lukewarm interest” in acquiring Mayfield, Bob Condotta of the Seattle Times notes. Although the Browns going from Mayfield to Brissett represents a downgrade, the Seahawks moving from Russell Wilson to either Lock or Smith would surpass that. The Broncos giving up their 2023 first- and second-round picks gives the Seahawks options next year — what is expected to be a better quarterback draft — but the team appears on the doorstep of giving Wilson’s old job to a highly scrutinized passer.