INDIANAPOLIS – The For Sale sign is up.
The Chicago Bears hold the No. 1 overall pick in the April 27 NFL Draft and are more than willing to part with it. The only real question: When?
“Should we do this before free agency? Or should we wait?’’ Bears general manager Ryan Poles told Peter King. “That’s what I’ve communicated to teams. I could carry this all the way until we’re on the clock the night of the draft. To me, they’ve got to go so much more above to do it now.’’
Obviously, it’s all about maximizing the commodity.
“I’m not greedy with it,’’ Poles said. “But they’re gonna have to go above and beyond to close the door now.’’
Poles and the Bears sit in an enviable position. They have their long-time answer at quarterback. That would be Justin Fields, selected 11th overall in 2021.
But so many others across the NFL landscape are scrambling and are expected to at least consider the cost of trading for the No. 1 pick: the Houston Texans, Indianapolis Colts, Las Vegas Raiders, Atlanta Falcons and Carolina Panthers come to mind.
It takes a rare convergence of available No. 1 pick and quarterback-needy teams to create the scenario that was so prevalent at the NFL Scouting Combine and will dominate discussion leading up to the draft.
Since 1967, the No. 1 pick has been dealt 12 times. It’s been acquired to select a quarterback on just four occasions:
- 2016: Jared Goff by the Rams after a trade with Tennessee.
- 2001: Michael Vick by Atlanta after a trade with San Diego.
- 1990: Jeff George by the Colts after a trade with Atlanta.
- 1975: Steve Bartkowski by Atlanta after a trade with Baltimore.
The Colts would be willing to move from No. 4 to No. 1, if general manager Chris Ballard, owner Jim Irsay and their personnel staff are convinced a player merits such costly upward mobility.
“(If) we were just convicted that this is no freakin’ doubt the guy,’’ Ballard said last week.
In January, he noted “there’s the elite of the elite. When you walk out of game day when you got one of the elite of the elite . . . all of a sudden it just feels different.’’
That’s why the Bears almost assuredly will find a buyer for what they’re peddling.
That guy gives you a chance every game. With everyone else, it’s a struggle.
The NFL Scouting Combine offered everyone a closer look at the possible answers to the prevailing question confronting several teams. Alabama’s Bryce Young, Ohio State’s C.J. Stroud, Kentucky’s Will Levis and Florida’s Anthony Richardson were among the 300-plus players in town, and commanded the spotlight.
Is one – or more – the answer?
With less than two months before the draft, here’s a look at the teams most likely to dial up Poles and try to pry the No. 1 pick out of his hands. The various quarterback rooms will invariably change before the start of the new league year March 15 with cuts and/or pending free agents not being retained.
Quarterback room: Matt Ryan, Nick Foles, Sam Ehlinger.
Virtually everyone expects Ryan and Foles to be gone before the start of the new league year. Parting with Ryan leaves $18 million in dead money, but clears up roughly $17 million in cap space.
Draft capital: 8 total picks, including No. 4 overall.
What they’re saying: Ballard wouldn’t comment on Ryan’s future with the team or allow himself to be pushed into a corner regarding moving up to No. 1 to get the QB the team covets.
“To move up,’’ he said, “there’s gotta be a guy worth of it, OK?’’ he said. “If when we meet as a staff and we say, ‘OK, this is what we need to do. This (is) the guy for the next 10 to 15 years,’ and we think he’s the right guy, sure, we’ll do it.
“But who’s to say we won’t get one at 4?’’
Quarterback room: Davis Mills, Jeff Driskel, Kyle Allen.
Draft capital: 11 total picks, including Nos. 2 and 12 in round 1.
What they’re saying: General manager Nick Caserio stuck with the be-as-noncommittal-as-possible script at the Combine.
The Texans’ plans?
“I would say it’s probably going to be a combination of the draft (and) free agency,’’ Caserio said. “We’re going to look at whatever resources we have available to us, try to make the right decision.’’
And the possibility of dealing with the Bears?
“I think we’re focused on the Texans,’’ he said. “We’re not necessarily worried about what other teams around us are doing. You’re cognizant of that, but ultimately you have to be prepared to pick wherever you’re going to pick.’’
Quarterback room: Sam Darnold, PJ Walker, Matt Corral.
Draft capital: 7 total picks, including No. 9 overall.
What they’re saying: Frank Reich dealt with uncertainty at the position during his five years in Indy, and it’s more of the same with the Panthers. Moving up clearly is an option, if the Bears would be willing to fall all the way back to No. 9, that is. Carolina met with Derek Carr at the Combine, but he signed with New Orleans Monday.
“Every option is on the table at this point,’’ Reich said. “You know, moving up, moving back to signing a free agent. I mean, you have to know . . . this is a huge decision. And it would be malpractice not to really vet through every one of those decisions. What’s the impact? What are the unintended consequences?
“And that’s where we’re at right now, really evaluation.’’
LAS VEGAS RAIDERS
Quarterback room: Jarrett Stidham, Chase Garbers.
Draft capital: 9 total picks, including No. 7 overall.
What they’re saying: At least coach Josh McDaniels was honest.
“There’s always urgency at that position,’’ he said at the Combine. “Look, the goal for us eventually is to have somebody that’s going to be here for a long time. You see that teams that are having success right now – in our league, I would say in our conference and specifically in our division – they’re young players that were drafted by their clubs, and they’re being developed there under the same continuity.
“Do I think you have to do that if you’re not sure or not sold on the player and now you’re just making a mistake just to try to say that you’re solving a problem? I don’t think that’s really a smart decision. We’re gonna do everything we can do to evaluate every player at that position, both in the draft and free agency, and try to do what we can to improve the room.’’
Quarterback room: Desmond Ridder, Logan Woodside.
Draft capital: 9 total picks, including No. 8 overall.
What they’re saying: General manager Terry Fontenot, like everyone else, is keeping every option open. The Falcons selected Ridder in round 3 last year with the 77th overall pick.
“We are always going to leave every door open – draft, free agency – whether it’s the 8th pick or some other point in the draft. We could definitely bring in a quarterback,’’ he said. “We don’t want to box ourselves in and say something we’re not going to do.
“It can be both. We want to bring in good players.’’
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