Keenan Allen

How massive Keenan Allen trade impacts Bears' 2024 NFL Draft plans

The Keenan Allen trade opens up a number of draft avenues for the Bears

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Ever since the season ended, the prevailing thought has been that the Bears will select USC quarterback Caleb Williams with the No. 1 overall pick in the 2024 NFL Draft and try to get him an elite wide receiver with the No. 9 pick.

Thursday's stunning trade for six-time Pro-Bowl receiver Keenan Allen likely changes that equation.

Late Thursday night, the Bears sent a 2024 fourth-round pick to the Los Angeles Chargers for Allen, who is 31 years old and in the final year of his contract. Allen is still an elite receiver and will perfectly complement DJ Moore, giving Williams or Justin Fields two top-tier receivers to rely on.

The Bears will inherit $23 million of cap charges for Allen and likely will look to extend him past the 2024 season.

On paper, drafting a top-tier receiver like Washington's Rome Odunze or LSU's Malik Nabers at No. 9 is a much more efficient way to fill the second wide receiver hole opposite DJ Moore. But the belief in league circles is that the three top receivers -- Odunze, Nabers, and Marvin Harrison Jr. -- will all be off the board by the time the Bears go on the clock at No. 9. A lot of the conversation at the 2024 NFL Scouting Combine revolved around the possibility that the Bears would move up from nine to secure one of the top pass-catchers.

The Bears undoubtedly have an idea of how the top of the draft will shake out, and the move for Allen gives them the flexibility to do a number of things at No. 9.

The Bears struck out on edge rushers and tackles in the first wave of free agency. They need to find a pass rusher to put opposite Montez Sweat and add another three-technique after Justin Jones's departure. They could also be looking to upgrade at left tackle. Braxton Jones improved in Year 2, but it's unclear how the Bears feel about his long-term prospects to be a franchise blindside protector.

In trading for Allen, the Bears filled one of their biggest needs and opened up a world of possibilities at No. 9.

Depending on how the first eight picks shake out, the Bears could add an elite edge rusher at No. 9 in Florida State's Jared Verse, UCLA's Laiatu Latu, or Alabama's Dallas Turner. They could look to polish off their offensive rebuild by selecting a left tackle in Notre Dame's Joe Alt (unlikely to be available), Penn State's Olu Fashanu, or Oregon State's Taliese Fuaga.

After trading one of their two fourth-round picks for Allen, the Bears only have four selections in the 2024 draft. The move for Allen allows general manager Ryan Poles the freedom to trade down, add capital, and target one of the previously-named prospects or a defensive tackle like Texas' Byron Murphy.

But there's another door that's open for the Bears.

What if the pre-draft expectations that all three receivers will go before nine fall flat? What if a team leaps into the top five for J.J. McCarthy, the Atlanta Falcons take an edge rusher at No. 8, and the Tennessee Titans go offensive tackle at No. 7?

That would theoretically mean that the top eight picks included four quarterbacks and only two receivers, leaving the third one to fall into the Bears' lap at No. 9. If that scenario comes to pass, the Bears could double (or triple) down at wide receiver, allowing Williams to start his career with a loaded arsenal of weapons that would rival the best in the NFL.

If Odunze is available at No. 9, the Bears should run to the podium and select the Washington star. Odunze reminds scouts of Davante Adams and would give the Bears a young, ascending receiver to fill Allen's role once the veteran phases out.

Allen's arrival gets the Bears a myriad of options with the No. 9 overall pick. Prevailing logic suggests the Bears will go with an edge rusher either at No. 9 or in a trade-down.

But there's a world of possibilities that await the Bears on April 25, and the decision at No. 1 is just the tip of the iceberg.

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