Ryan Poles

Bears Eyeing Major Staff Changes?

While the Matt NagyRyan Pace regime showed early issues, the Bears did not produce a losing season until the fourth and final year of that partnership. Although circumstances are a bit different for Matt Eberflus and Ryan Poles, the team is in a worse spot than it was during the previous duo’s run.

The Bears have now lost 13 straight games, and their defense has cratered under Eberflus, a defensive-oriented head coach. Alan Williams, the defensive coordinator who followed Eberflus from Indianapolis, lasted only 18 games with the team. Inappropriate conduct on Williams’ part is believed to have occurred, and the Bears’ defense has taken significant steps back since Eberflus arrived. While the Bears have gutted the nucleus that helped Mitch Trubisky pilot the team to two playoff berths, it finished last in points allowed in 2022 and ranks 31st this season.

Following Williams’ exit and Justin Fields making comments about the coaching staff’s role in his struggles — a point the third-year QB attempted to walk back — Poles addressed the state of the team. The Bears are early in the Poles-run rebuild, but a new president — ex-Big Ten commissioner Kevin Warren — is in place. A growing suspicion exists in league circles Warren is already considering rebooting the operation, Jason La Canfora of the Washington Post notes.

Fields ranks last in QBR, sitting nearly six points behind Zach Wilson, through three games. The Poles regime did not draft Fields, who threatened to break Lamar Jackson‘s single-season QB rushing record last season, but has a clear stake in his future. The Bears traded away the No. 1 overall pick, showing a belief in Fields over an investment in the likes of Bryce Young or C.J. Stroud. Chicago should be well-positioned for the 2024 draft, holding their own pick and Carolina’s. Another QB investment may be necessary, but it will be worth wondering if this regime will be in place to make the picks by then.

One GM told La Canfora that Warren has seen enough to know change needs to take place. The Bears do not fire coaches in-season, and it would represent a quick trigger to dump Poles so early in his rebuild effort. But two-and-done coaches are standard practice in the NFL. Quick GM hooks are less common, though these moves have taken place in the recent past. The Jets dropped John Idzik after his second season, while the Texans canned Brian Gaine midway through his second offseason.

Warren arrived in January, succeeding longtime team president Ted Phillips. The latter was in his final months on the job when Poles and Eberflus were hired, and La Canfora notes Bill Polian played a lead role in the hires. The Bears have kept their organizational workflow in place from the Phillips era, with Warren stationed as the buffer between ownership and the football ops department. Warren would have the power to fire the second-year GM-HC duo and lead the next search. Not directly in charge of the Bears’ football ops, Warren is believed to have a role on that side.

The Bears have not had a two-and-done HC since Marc Trestman, who was fired after the 2014 season. Trestman also stands as the Bears’ only two-and-done period since the 1970 merger. Trestman went 13-19. Poles should be considered on safer ground, but Eberflus — now in place as the Bears’ defensive play-caller — should certainly be viewed as a hot-seat occupant given recent developments.

The NFL’s Longest-Tenured GMs

The latest NFL general manager hiring cycle only produced two changes, but each took over for an executive who appeared in good standing at this point last year.

Steve Keim had held his Cardinals GM post since January 2013, and the Cardinals gave both he and Kliff Kingsbury extensions — deals that ran through 2027 — in March of last year. Arizona has since rebooted, moving on from both Keim and Kingsbury. Keim took a leave of absence late last season, and the Cardinals replaced him with ex-Titans exec Monti Ossenfort.

[RELATED: The NFL’s Longest-Tenured Head Coaches]

As the Cardinals poached one of the Titans’ top front office lieutenants, Tennessee went with an NFC West staffer to replace Jon Robinson. The move to add 49ers FO bastion Ran Carthon also came less than a year after the Titans reached extension agreements with both Robinson and HC Mike Vrabel. But controlling owner Amy Adams Strunk canned Robinson — in place as GM since January 2016 — before last season ended. Adams Strunk cited player unavailability and roster quality among the reasons she chose to move on despite having extended Robinson through the 2027 draft months earlier. The Titans are now pairing Vrabel and Carthon.

The Bills reached an extension agreement with GM Brandon Beane two weeks ago. Hired shortly after the team gave Sean McDermott the HC keys, Beane has helped the Bills to five playoff berths in six seasons. Beane’s deal keeps him signed through 2027. Chargers GM Tom Telesco has hit the 10-year mark leading that front office, while this year also marks the 10th offseason of Buccaneers honcho Jason Licht‘s tenure running the NFC South team. Although Jim Irsay fired Frank Reich and later admitted he reluctantly extended his former HC in 2021, the increasingly active Colts owner has expressed confidence in Chris Ballard.

Here is how the NFL’s GM landscape looks going into the 2023 season:

  1. Jerry Jones (Dallas Cowboys): April 18, 1989[1]
  2. Mike Brown (Cincinnati Bengals): August 5, 1991[2]
  3. Bill Belichick (New England Patriots): January 27, 2000[3]
  4. Mickey Loomis (New Orleans Saints): May 14, 2002
  5. John Schneider (Seattle Seahawks): January 19, 2010; signed extension in 2021
  6. Howie Roseman (Philadelphia Eagles): January 29, 2010; signed extension in 2022
  7. Les Snead (Los Angeles Rams): February 10, 2012; signed extension in 2022
  8. Tom Telesco (Los Angeles Chargers): January 9, 2013; signed extension in 2018
  9. Jason Licht (Tampa Bay Buccaneers): January 21, 2014; signed extension in 2021
  10. Chris Grier (Miami Dolphins): January 4, 2016[4]
  11. John Lynch (San Francisco 49ers): January 29, 2017; signed extension in 2020
  12. Chris Ballard (Indianapolis Colts): January 30, 2017; signed extension in 2021
  13. Brandon Beane (Buffalo Bills): May 9, 2017; signed extension in 2023
  14. Brett Veach (Kansas City Chiefs): July 11, 2017; signed extension in 2020
  15. Brian Gutekunst (Green Bay Packers): January 7, 2018; agreed to extension in 2022
  16. Eric DeCosta (Baltimore Ravens): January 7, 2019
  17. Joe Douglas (New York Jets): June 7, 2019
  18. Andrew Berry (Cleveland Browns): January 27, 2020
  19. Nick Caserio (Houston Texans): January 5, 2021
  20. George Paton (Denver Broncos): January 13, 2021
  21. Scott Fitterer (Carolina Panthers): January 14, 2021
  22. Brad Holmes (Detroit Lions): January 14, 2021
  23. Terry Fontenot (Atlanta Falcons): January 19, 2021
  24. Trent Baalke (Jacksonville Jaguars): January 21, 2021
  25. Martin Mayhew (Washington Commanders): January 22, 2021
  26. Joe Schoen (New York Giants): January 21, 2022
  27. Ryan Poles (Chicago Bears): January 25, 2022
  28. Kwesi Adofo-Mensah (Minnesota Vikings): January 26, 2022
  29. Dave Ziegler (Las Vegas Raiders): January 30, 2022
  30. Omar Khan (Pittsburgh Steelers): May 24, 2022
  31. Monti Ossenfort (Arizona Cardinals): January 16, 2023
  32. Ran Carthon (Tennessee Titans): January 17, 2023


  1. Jones has been the Cowboys’ de facto general manager since former GM Tex Schramm resigned in April 1989.
  2. Brown has been the Bengals’ de facto GM since taking over as the team’s owner in August 1991.
  3. Belichick has been the Patriots’ de facto GM since shortly after being hired as the team’s head coach in January 2000.
  4. Although Grier was hired in 2016, he became the Dolphins’ top football exec on Dec. 31, 2018

Texans Nearly Completed Trade For No. 1 Pick; Team Looking To Move Up From No. 12

As yet another indicator of the Texans’ Bryce Young interest, Fox Sports’ Jay Glazer reports the trade talks between they and the Bears nearly produced a deal in March (Twitter link). Chicago’s previously reported two-trade effort falling through led to Carolina having Young access at No. 1.

Ryan Poles has discussed the Bears’ plan to trade with the Texans and then swap with the Panthers, moving from No. 1 to No. 2 to No. 9. The Texans backed out at the final stage, and Glazer’s report indicates the team was near the goal line on this trade. As it stands, Houston will go into tonight’s first round holding their No. 2 pick. The Texans had held the top slot for weeks, but a Davis Mills-led game-winning drive in Week 18 — one that included a fourth-and-20 Mills-to-Jordan Akins touchdown connection — gave the Bears the pick.

To move from No. 2 to No. 1, Houston was set to send Chicago a trade package that included at least one starting offensive player, Darin Gantt of Panthers.com adds. The Panthers were simultaneously negotiating with the Cardinals for the No. 3 pick, with Gantt adding the team’s proposal for 3 was similar to its offer for 2. It is worth wondering if the offensive player in Houston’s was Brandin Cooks, whom the team traded to Dallas last month.

Wednesday afternoon, we were there,” Panthers GM Scott Fitterer said regarding a trade from No. 9 to No. 2 with the Bears. “That evening, we kept waiting for, basically for Houston to make a decision. [Owner David Tepper] is calling me because we’re waiting for that to happen. And all day Thursday, nothing. And Thursday night, I call Ryan. He’s like pacing at his house. He goes, ‘I can’t sleep. Now I’m sick to my stomach,’ because ultimately, he’s going to really rack up picks and stuff.

And then Friday comes, nothing in the morning. I talk to him at noon. He’s frustrated. Talk to him again about 2:30 p.m. He’s frustrated. And it’s kind of like, OK, what’s it take then? Take 2 out. What if we just want to come to 1?

The Raiders and Colts also discussed the pick with the Bears, but the Panthers including D.J. Moore represented a turning point. As the Panthers shifted their focus from moving to No. 1, Poles prioritized the veteran wideout. The Panthers gave up Moore, a 2024 first-rounder and two seconds to move up eight spots. The other teams involved led the Panthers to include Moore, per Gantt. The Bears also inquired on Brian Burns and Derrick Brown. While the Panthers had previously turned down a first-rounder for Moore, they included him in their revised offer. The team has since signed Adam Thielen and DJ Chark.

We’re trying to protect ourselves by talking about 3, and it was a pretty good deal to go to Arizona, but then there’s two quarterbacks in between that are possibly going right?” Fitterer said. “And that’s why we said, let’s just go get the 1. Yeah. And let’s control this. … But then the other team comes in, and they’re offering what is actually more than we gave up, pick-wise. So that’s where the D.J. factor came in. That’s what put us over the top. We didn’t have to do as much pick-wise because we knew D.J.’s worth more than a 1.”

Houston’s hesitancy about the trade creates intrigue regarding its plans for tonight. The Texans now appear set to pick an edge rusher — either Alabama’s Will Anderson Jr. or Texas Tech’s Tyree Wilson, who look to be part of a floor-vs.-ceiling debate — over a quarterback. That said, owner Cal McNair is more involved with this year’s first-round pick compared to 2022. As recently as this week, SI.com’s Albert Breer notes the organization was “pretty torn” on going quarterback or edge rusher at No. 2. While the latter route may have prevailed, the Texans will still need to find a path to landing a bona fide starter option.

On that front, Caserio has explored moving up from No. 12 overall as a way to land a passer, Breer notes. The team has looked into trading back into the top 10 for a QB, ProFootballNetwork.com’s Tony Pauline adds. The Texans have a second-round pick and two thirds in this year’s draft; they have two firsts in 2024.

The Titans have been steadily tied to negotiating with the Cardinals, who are weighing offers from multiple teams. With the Colts set to pick at No. 4, it is possible C.J. Stroud and Will Levis — frequently connected to Indianapolis — will be off the board in the first four picks. That would leave the Texans with the options of Anthony Richardson, whom they did not host on a pre-draft visit, and Hendon Hooker. The Texans are believed to be intrigued by the ex-Tennessee Volunteer, but he is coming off an ACL tear and already 25. Hooker climbing into the top 10 would make for quite the pre-draft rise, and it is also possible Houston could nab the rehabbing QB by trading down.

NFC Draft Notes: Lions, Bears, Falcons

As many as four quarterbacks could hear their names called within the top 10 picks in the 2023 draft, leaving many questions to be answered for teams in position to land a top signal-caller. The Lions hold the sixth selection, which could allow them to make an addition at the position.

That seems unlikely, given the presence of incumbent Jared Goff and the team’s needs at other areas, though. When speaking about the matter of quarterback evaluations, head coach Dan Campbell confirmed his approval of Goff, while leaving the door open to a rookie passer being added at some point.

“What we were hopeful and thought we were going to get [in Goff] is a guy who, man, he’s our guy,” Campbell said (video link via CBS Sports’ Jonathan Jones). “He’s bought us time here. We believe we can win with Jared Goff. In the meantime, we also know he’s not going to be here for the next 10 years… It’s not like Jared Goff’s a rookie, so certainly our eyes are on, potentially a quarterback. And the question is, where do you acquire that at? And that’s something that [GM] Brad [Holmes] and I kick around all the time… We don’t feel like we’re pressed. But that doesn’t mean our eyes aren’t on a quarterback.”

Goff is under contract for two more years, but the Lions could move on from him after the 2023 season given the nature of his contract. The team has the 18th and 48th selections this year; the latter could be used on Tennessee product Hendon Hooker, who has a visit lined up with Detroit. How that process goes could determine the team’s willingness to use a high pick on a potential Goff successor.

Here are some other draft-related items from the NFC:

  • The Bears have, as expected, been active so far in free agency. Their spending to date has not, however, yielded an addition at offensive tackle. General manager Ryan Poles said (via The Athletic’s Kevin Fishbain) Chicago will “keep an eye” on the remaining veteran options, a group which was thinned out considerably during the opening days of the new league year. Poles confirmed that the next move will likely come at the draft, where they hold pick No. 9. That spot could land them Northwestern’s Peter Skoronski or Ohio State alum Paris Johnson Jr., as they also look to find the best long-term position for 2022 fifth-rounder Braxton Jones. The latter played full-time on the blindside as a rookie, but could move to right tackle depending on how the first round plays out.
  • The offensive front is considered a strength for the Falcons, especially with right guard Chris Lindstrom in place on the largest contract in league history signed by an interior lineman. That has led many to expect Atlanta to look at other positions with the eighth overall pick, but NFL Network’s James Palmer notes the team is looking into o-line options with their top selection (video link). In particular, the Falcons could be eyeing Skoronski or Johnson on the inside to start their career, with the potential to take over from Jake Matthews at left tackle. The latter, 31, is on the books through 2026 but only has guaranteed money on his deal for two more seasons. A defensive addition would come as no surprise on Atlanta’s part, but they will have at least done their homework on the top lineman prospects.

Bears Also Targeted Brian Burns, Derrick Brown; Panthers Discussed Trades With Cardinals, Seahawks

The Rams’ 2016 trade-up for Jared Goff involved only picks being exchanged with the Titans, whereas the Falcons’ 2001 move for Michael Vick featured a player and draft choices going to the Chargers. Standout return man Tim Dwight went to San Diego in that deal. Ryan Poles preferred the latter structure, leading to the pre-free agency swap that featured D.J. Moore and picks going to the Bears.

Chicago’s second-year GM zeroed in on a picks-and-players package when he began dangling the No. 1 overall pick, Joe Person, Adam Jahns and Kevin Fishbain of The Athletic report (subscription required). The Bears had other targets beyond Moore. Unsurprisingly, they were the two other top trade chips that came up at last year’s trade deadline. Chicago also targeted Brian Burns and Derrick Brown.

[RELATED: Panthers Leaning Toward Bryce Young At No. 1?]

Poles sought advice from Chicago Blackhawks GM Kyle Davidson, per The Athletic, citing the NHL as relevant reference material regarding trades involving picks and players. The Bears first heard from the Panthers on a trade, after Carolina — even though team brass met with Derek Carr at the Combine — determined a rookie passer would be the plan after three seasons of veteran retreads post-Cam Newton. Chicago also discussed the pick with Houston and Las Vegas, but Poles’ relationship with Carolina GM Scott Fitterer helped move the intra-NFC trade past the goal line.

The Panthers’ first offer included only picks, per The Athletic, but Poles informed Fitterer picks alone would not be enough to allow the Panthers to move from No. 9 to No. 1. Carolina pulled that proposal, and Burns, Brown and Moore came up. All three players emerged as targets at last year’s deadline — none more so than Burns, who drew a two-first-rounder offer from the Rams. The picks included in that proposal were in 2024 and 2025, however, leading the Panthers to pass.

There were certain players that we never really wanted to trade,” Fitterer said, via The Athletic. “It’s so hard to replace a Derrick Brown or Brian Burns, a pass rusher [and] an interior, dominant young player on a [first] contract. D.J., we didn’t want to move either. But it’s a little bit easier to replace a receiver than it is a pass rusher or a three-tech.”

Burns is entering his fifth-year option season, while Brown is going into Year 4. Both players arrived before Fitterer did, but the team has long planned to hammer out an extension with Burns. Fitterer’s comments on Burns’ value stand to strengthen the defensive end’s negotiating position. The Panthers are aiming to do a Burns extension after the draft. They will likely target receivers in the draft, though signings of Adam Thielen and DJ Chark lessen that need a bit.

Prior to pulling off the trade with the Bears, the Panthers discussed prospective deals with the Cardinals for the No. 3 pick and the Seahawks for the fifth choice. Neither negotiation gained much steam, per Person, even given Fitterer’s lengthy past in Seattle. The Colts also checked in with the Bears, according to Jahns and Fishbain. That certainly adds up, given Indianapolis’ post-Andrew Luck history and both Poles and Colts GM Chris Ballard having worked together in Kansas City.

The second-round picks exchanged here provided another interesting component in this seminal swap. The Bears wanted the Panthers’ No. 39 overall pick, according to The Athletic. Reluctant to part with it due to the gap that would exist between Carolina’s Nos. 1 and 61 overall picks, Fitterer counteroffered the 61st selection (obtained in the Christian McCaffrey trade) and a 2025 second. Instead of collecting one second-round pick, the Bears ended up with two in this trade — one that also will send Carolina’s 2024 first to Chicago. After David Tepper pushed for Deshaun Watson in 2021 and ’22, the Panthers determined this was the time to strike.

I think when you’re at No. 9 — hopefully we’re not at No. 9 moving forward — this was an opportunity that we felt like, ‘Hey, this is the highest, hopefully, that we’re going to be in the future, so let’s take advantage of this, let’s be aggressive,” Panthers assistant GM Dan Morgan said, via the Charlotte Observer’s Mike Kaye. “Let’s trade up and let’s try to go get our quarterback.”

Considering the Panthers have held top-10 picks from 2020-22, it is not as though holding the No. 9 choice was rare draft real estate for the struggling team. Matt Rhule led the charge for the Panthers to stay at No. 7 and pass on a QB in 2020, rather than leapfrog both the Dolphins and Chargers for Justin Herbert, and the Panthers — after a failed Matthew Stafford pursuit — traded for Sam Darnold in 2021. The 2022 draft featured a poorly regarded QB crop, leading to Carolina taking Ikem Ekwonu at No. 6.

As the Panthers determined they wanted a first-round QB, the Bears viewed this year’s crop as impressive but not to the point it would bail on Justin Fields and make him their avenue toward stockpiling future picks. Instead, the Bears will be targeting non-quarterback options at 9. Pass rusher will be a consideration.

Play the percentage game, it’s probably a chance one [quarterback] slides in, but … there’s different tiers in the first round,” Poles said (via Jahns and Fishbain) of the prospect of more QBs going from Nos. 2-8 will help keep high-end position players on the board at 9. “There’s always that cut-off of ‘elite’ and then it’s ‘very good starters.’ I know we’ll be in range for the players that are going to be in that first round that kind of hit that value bucket and for our team are going to make us better.”

Draft Rumors: Commanders, Texans, Bears, Titans, Panthers, Raiders, Falcons

Reported as a team not interested in Lamar Jackson, the Commanders are indeed going in another direction at quarterback. Ron Rivera confirmed Tuesday his team will not pursue the dual-threat superstar and, via the Washington Post’s Nicki Jhabvala, never considered doing so (Twitter link).

It was something we feel didn’t suit what we want to do,” Rivera said. “We know he’s a tremendous player. I just didn’t think that was the direction we wanted to go.

Washington, however, will likely be hosting other quarterbacks during the pre-draft process. The team will not rule out taking a QB in Round 1, Rivera said Tuesday (Twitter link). The Commanders hold the No. 16 overall pick; they will almost definitely need to complete a vault up the draft board to land one of the top four QBs. The Panthers will take a quarterback first overall, while the Texans, Colts, Seahawks, Raiders, Falcons and Titans — each a QB suitor or a team that would make sense as such — sit ahead of them. The Commanders passed on trading up for Justin Fields or Mac Jones two years ago and had Carson Wentz in place in 2022, tabling draft matters at the position.

Here is the latest from the draft circuit:

  • The Texans have already brought in Will Levis and Anthony Richardson for pre-draft visits, Tom Pelissero of NFL.com tweets. Houston will also host Bryce Young and C.J. Stroud on “30” visits soon. On track to draft a first-round quarterback for the first time since Deshaun Watson in 2017, the Texans should be expected to consider the top four options. Their Week 18 win in Indianapolis, however, allowed the Bears to leapfrog them for the draft’s top slot. The Panthers now hold that pick and will have first dibs on this year’s QB crop.
  • Before making their trade with the Panthers, the Bears discussed trading back with the Texans — as part of a multi-trade effort to accumulate picks — Ryan Poles said recently (via NBC Sports’ Peter King). That scenario would have had the Bears trading from No. 1 to 2 to 9, putting the Texans at first overall and the Panthers at No. 2, but SI.com’s Albert Breer notes negotiations with the Texans dragged while Panthers talks accelerated. Poles said his relationship with Panthers GM Scott Fitterer, dating back to duo’s days as scouts, helped the process. Giving Fields a chance to grow with a new regime, the Bears now hold the No. 9 overall pick this year.
  • At least five teams will meet with Richardson before the draft. The Panthers, Colts, Raiders, Falcons and Titans will get together with the Florida-developed passer, Cameron Wolfe of NFL.com tweets. Each team holds a top-11 pick, and it can be considered a lock reps from each will be on-hand at Richardson’s pro day Thursday in Gainesville.
  • Titans GM Ran Carthon, HC Mike Vrabel and assistant GM Chad Brinker were among the seven Tennessee staffers at Stroud’s pro day last week, The Athletic’s John Rexrode notes (subscription required). The Panthers topped that, sending a whopping 14 staffers to Columbus for Stroud’s throwing event. Stroud met with the Panthers, Raiders, Seahawks and Titans, Breer adds. Carthon and Vrabel, however, were also at Levis’ pro day last week, Breer tweets. Pete Carroll and John Schneider went to Kentucky to represent the Seahawks for that event, too. Carthon also attended Young’s pro day. While the new Tennessee GM gave some support for four-year Titans starter Ryan Tannehill, it was far from a full-fledged endorsement.
  • Josh McDaniels said the Raiders are open to taking a QB at No. 7 overall, despite signing Jimmy Garoppolo, and The Athletic’s Vic Tafur notes he and GM Dave Ziegler observed Stroud and Young’s pro days. In addition to the Raiders meeting with Levis before his pro day, Tafur adds the Kentucky QB will visit Las Vegas soon. McDaniels did not rule out the Raiders adding a veteran backup as well; Jarrett Stidham left for a two-year, $10MM Broncos deal. The team’s presence at pro days also could serve as a way to drive up trade interest in the No. 7 pick.

Bears-Panthers Trade Fallout: Timeline, QB Plans, Moore

The Bears made history Friday by becoming the first NFL team to trade the No. 1 pick in the draft prior to April – since the draft was moved to April in 1976. Their return from the Panthers – four draft picks spread across three years and receiver D.J. Moore – will go a long way in determining both team’s futures for years to come.

Further details have emerged regarding the blockbuster deal, including the negotiating process which led up to the deal being finalized. Talks started at the Combine, with the Panthers being one of a number of teams reaching out to the Bears, per ESPN’s Courtney Cronin and David Newton. That comes as little surprise, considering how willing Bears GM Ryan Poles was to move down the board, given his and the team’s support of quarterback Justin FieldsThe ESPN duo add that talks intensified over the past few days, and Friday’s negotiations were sufficient to consummate the trade before the start of free agency this coming week.

By moving up to the No. 1 slot, the Panthers now have a free choice of the 2023 class’ top quarterbacks. Newton reports, to no surprise, that QB is indeed the position which Carolina will use their top pick on (Twitter link). That will invite plenty of debate and speculation in the coming weeks, as this year boasts a number of intriguing options, but not necessarily a can’t-miss passer. Newton notes that the Panthers were high on Kentucky’s Will Levis at the end of the 2021 campaign, and the performances of Alabama’s Bryce Young and Ohio State’s C.J. Stroud also drew positive reviews from GM Scott Fitterer and Co.

Many have Young, the 2021 Heisman winner, rated as the top signal-caller in the class (which is headlined by the aforementioned three QBs, along with the raw but uber-athletic Anthony Richardson). However, Joe Person of The Athletic reports (subscription required) that Stroud is believed to be in pole position at the moment, one which obviously represents something well short of a final evaluation of any draft prospect on the Panthers’ part. The Buckeyes star put up huge production in his college career, and has long been discussed alongside Young as a blue-chip in the running to become the top passer out of this year’s class.

Interestingly, Newton adds that Carolina could become sufficiently content with more than one QB at the top of the board that they elect to trade down slightly; Person corroborates this (on Twitter). With the Texans (who hold the second overall pick) and Colts (No. 4) each in need of a new signal-caller, moving down any amount would carry a high degree of risk. If the Panthers were assured that at least one of their preferences would be available at their new slot, though, they could use a second trade to recoup some of the capital they spent to acquire the top pick.

Draft maneuvering and the success the Bears have in restocking their roster with the additional picks will be a key determining factor in the legacy of this trade, but the inclusion of Moore has immediate ramifications. Carolina was reluctant at first to include the 25-year-old in the trade package, but Person notes that the Bears viewed him as a “must-have” to finalize the deal (Twitter link). While losing Moore marks a substantial blow to the Panthers’ passing attack, Newton and Person add that his inclusion saved Carolina from having to add another first-round pick to their offer.

The way Carolina approaches their newfound leverage and which passer(s) emerge as their top targets will be an interesting storyline to watch in the coming weeks. The willingness Poles had to move out of the top slot so quickly, meanwhile, will be a key takeaway from the Bears’ perspective as attention will turn to how Chicago uses their added draft capital for the next few years.

Bears Receiving Calls On No. 1 Pick; Team “Leaning Toward” Trade

The NFL Scouting Combine takes place this week, and its first significant development has already reportedly taken place. Multiple teams have inquired about the availability of the first overall pick in this year’s draft, and the Bears are certainly open to the possibility of moving it.

ESPN’s Adam Schefter reports (via Twitter) that Chicago is “leaning toward” trading the top selection. The results of Chicago’s and Houston’s final regular season games clinched the top spot for the Bears, and immediately invited debate and speculation on what they would do in a position of considerable leverage. General manager Ryan Poles made it clear that all options are on the table as they weigh draft evaluations against trade offers.

When speaking publicly about the opportunity afforded with the No. 1 pick to draft a quarterback, Poles endorsed incumbent starter Justin Fields and said he would need to be “blown away” by the class of signal-callers. Alabama’s Bryce Young is expected to be the first QB off the board, but others like Ohio State’s C.J. Stroud and Kentucky’s Will Levis are expected to go in the top 10. With the QB-needy Texans set to pick second overall, a bidding war could ensue as teams look to move ahead of them on the board.

Coming off a 3-14 season, the Bears have a number of roster holes to fill, and would be well-served to collect extra draft assets by moving down. Doing so would be in line with the majority view of PFR’s readers, and could still allow them to secure one of the top defenders – defensive tackle Jalen Carter or edge rusher Will Anderson Jr. – depending on how far down the board they fall. Much of their roster needs will be determined by free agency, of course, which will be a busy period for Poles and Co., seeing as the Bears lead the league with nearly $100MM in cap space.

The veteran quarterback market has yet to take shape, with Derek Carr and Jimmy Garoppolo the top names certain to find themselves in a new home next season. Whichever teams are unable to land those two (or any other passer who could be moved, such as Lamar Jackson or Aaron Rodgers) will no doubt look towards the draft to find a long-term solution. A clearer picture will be in place by April with respect to which teams are still on the market for a signal-caller, and thus of interest to the Bears as a potential trade partner.

It has been seven years since the last time a No. 1 pick was traded, but the past two offseasons have seen significant pick swaps in the first round. The Eagles and Saints finalized a notable deal affecting their 2022 and ’23 draft capital last April, while the 49ers made a major push up the board the year before to move to No. 3 and select Trey Lance. Another blockbuster could be in the cards, if the Bears remain willing to entertain offers for the top selection.

NFC North Rumors: Bears, Bradbury, Lions

The Bears made waves recently when they announced the addition of Big Ten Commissioner Kevin Warren as the new president and CEO in Chicago. The addition resulted in a number of questions about Warren’s responsibilities and how they will compare to those of general manager Ryan Poles. While Poles will report to Warren in the grand scheme of things, the Bears will leave the football aspect of the team to Poles, allowing Warren to focus on business, according to Adam Jahns of The Athletic.

This is similar to Warren’s past roles in the NFL, specifically his time in Minnesota as chief operating officer. Warren worked hand-in-hand with former Vikings general manager Rick Spielman for several years before Warren moved on to the Big Ten. Spielman told Jahns that he operated with Warren in a similar manner to how the Bears plan to operate, with Spielman focused on football and Warren on business. The only difference in Chicago is that, while Spielman and Warren both reported to Vikings’ ownership, Poles is now reporting directly to Warren.

Here are a few other rumors from around the NFC North concerning some likely offseason transactions:

  • Vikings center Garrett Bradbury struggled as a first-round selection up until this season. In his first three years of NFL football, Bradbury’s best season in 2020 saw him rank 25th out of 36 graded centers, according to Pro Football Focus (subscription required). The other two years saw Bradbury rank 28th in 2019 and 29th in 2021, leading to Minnesota declining his fifth-year option heading into this season. After a hot start to the season that considerably raised his stock as a pending free agent, Bradbury iterated that he loved his team and preferred to stay in Minnesota. Three and a half months later and Bradbury finished off his hot season for a career year that saw him rank 11th out of 38 graded centers. With free agency on the horizon, Bradbury was asked again and, according to Chris Tomasson of the St. Paul Pioneer Press, he reiterated his desires to re-sign with the team that drafted him.
  • Unlike Bradbury, Lions guard Jonah Jackson is fully locked into his starting position at left guard heading into his contract year. If he has his way, though, the 25-year-old won’t even sniff free agency. Jackson told Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press that he is fully open to remaining with the Lions long-term. “I would retire in Detroit,” Jackson said. “I would love to be a Lion forever. I love the city.” Jackson isn’t expected to earn a top guard contract but still may fetch a significant deal worth $13-15MM. He made sure to clarify that if it doesn’t happen, he doesn’t intend to hold out. “If it doesn’t (happen), I’m the same guy, the same 73 who showed up for work every day from COVID Year 1 to now…If it happens, it happens. If it doesn’t, it doesn’t.”
  • Another player who is getting ahead of free agency, Bears wide receiver Darnell Mooney signed with a new agency in advance of potential contract extension negotiations, according to the official Twitter account of Athletes First sports agency. Mooney came back down to reality this year after a stellar 2021 season, partially due to injuries that kept him out of the final five games of the season. Mooney still has the ability to be a 1,000-yard receiver like he was a year ago and should benefit from another year of experience and improvement for quarterback Justin Fields. Taking action with his representation could indicate that Mooney is ready to start working towards a long-term extension before a contract year next season.

Poll: What Will Bears Do With No. 1 Pick?

The Bears enter the offseason with a plethora of needs to fill out their roster, but an intriguing array of means with respect to augmenting it in the months ahead. One of those, of course, is the first overall pick in this spring’s draft.

For much of the campaign, it appeared the top slot would ultimately go to the Texans. However, a last-minute, come-from-behind victory during Lovie Smith’s final game with Houston helped his former team secure the No. 1 selection. Chicago only remained in the running to ‘win’ the race to the bottom of the standings, though, due to a franchise-worst 10-game losing streak to close out the season.

The Bears’ 3-14 record came as little surprise, given the team’s clear intentions of pursuing a multi-year rebuild under new general manager Ryan Poles. That included several veteran defenders heading elsewhere via trades or releases before and/or during the season as a means of clearing up cap space. That strategy has left the team with by far the most spending power in the league ahead of free agency.

After a number of high-end additions are presumably made in March, Poles and his staff will be tasked with determining their course of action with the No. 1 pick. Retaining the selection would enable them to bolster their defense with, for instance, Alabama edge rusher Will Anderson Jr. Long considered a candidate for the top spot in this class’ rankings, he could provide a considerable boost to a pass rush which finished last in the NFL in sacks with only 20.

Alternatively, the Bears could turn to Georgia defensive tackle Jalen Carter at the top of the board. Chicago surrendered an average of 157 rushing yards per game in 2022, the second-worst mark in the league. Carter would help improve the team’s front seven both in that department, and as an interior pass-rusher as they look to rebuild their front seven. Opinion is split on which out of Anderson or Carter grades out as the best prospect, but either one would be considered a foundational piece for the Bears for years to come.

The situation is complicated, however, by the presence of Bryce Young. The 2021 Heisman winner had another productive season with the Crimson Tide this year, putting him squarely in contention to hear his name called first on draft night – particularly if the QB-needy Texans had finished the year with the No. 1 pick. Chicago having that luxury adds to their possible moves to build for the future.

Drafting Young could give the franchise a long-term answer at the position, though Justin Fields showed signs of being able to do just that in his second NFL season. The 2021 first-rounder – whom Chicago’s previous regime traded up to draft – produced the second-most single-season rushing yards by a signal-caller in league history. At age 23 and with at least two more years of team control on his rookie contract (with the potential of another, via the fifth-year option), the Ohio State product would represent a logical candidate to be retained for the foreseeable future.

On the other hand, Fields took a league-leading 55 sacks despite not playing a full campaign. He also led the NFL’s lowest-ranked passing attack, though the Bears’ weaknesses along the offensive line and distinct lack of proven pass-catchers certainly contributed to that as well. Questions regarding Fields’ upside as a passer could be made irrelevant from Chicago’s perspective if they become convinced Young (or another QB prospect) is worth taking first overall, an outcome which Poles recently downplayed the likelihood of.

“We’re going to do the same as we’ve always done – we’re going to evaluate the draft class,” he said last week“and I would say this: I would have to be absolutely blown away to make that type of decision.”

The other option the Bears have, of course, is trading out of the top slot to add more draft capital now and (potentially) next year as well. Such a move has not been seen since 2016, but if it were to happen, it would once again take place to pave the way for a team to guarantee they landed their desired quarterback. The Texans, armed with a second first-round pick, could be a candidate to move up one spot, but the Colts could be another after they made clear their willingness to be aggressive in adding at the position.

A move down the board would extend the Bears’ streak to 77 years without making the draft’s first selection, but it would allow them to increase their draft capital considerably. Chicago currently only owns three picks in the top 100 – a smaller figure than one may expect given their rebuilding status, but also one owing in part to the team’s trade deadline acquisition of wideout Chase Claypool. A trade keeping them in the top 10 of the first round order would take them out of contention for Anderson or Carter, but place them in good position to add another high-end talent, particularly one of the class’ top offensive tackles.

Which path do you see the Bears taking with the No. 1 pick? Have your say by voting in the poll below and weighing in via the comments section: