Bears mailbag: Plan at WR? Draft and develop QB behind Fields?


The 2023 NFL offseason officially kicks off Tuesday with the start of the NFL Scouting Combine.

Despite a 3-14 season, the Bears figure to be the talk of Indianapolis this week. Chicago enters the offseason with almost $100 million in salary cap space and the No. 1 pick in the 2023 NFL Draft. The Bears have the cap space and draft assets to make almost any move they choose.

While the Justin Fields trade chatter has ramped up over the past few weeks, the Bears are expected to keep the third-year signal-caller and trade the No. 1 pick to help build out the roster around him.

RELATED: Eight moves for Bears to ace transformational offseason

General manager Ryan Poles will be busy this week. The Bears are expected to meet with the top quarterbacks in Indianapolis, and this is when Poles can lay the groundwork for a trade involving the No. 1 pick.

With the fun set to begin, let's open up the mailbag as the NFL Scouting Combine gets ready to kick off in Indianapolis:

@lilpep23 What are their plans at running back and wide receiver?

Sources have indicated that the Bears' priority in free agency will be fixing the offensive line. That's not really a surprise.

I expect left tackle Orlando Brown Jr. to receive the franchise tag from the Kansas City Chiefs, but right tackles Mike McGlinchey, Jawaan Taylor, and Kaleb McGary should hit the market, as well as left guard Ben Powers.

The free-agent wide receiver class is relatively thin. It's why the Bears felt the need to trade a second-round pick to acquire Chase Claypool at the deadline and opted to re-sign Equanimeous St. Brown. Jakobi Meyers is the top free-agent wide receiver, and he's expected to get $15-21 million annually. He's a nice player, but I don't expect the Bears to be interested.

I think the Bears will look to add to their wide receiver corps in the middle of the draft and perhaps add a value guy in free agency like Parris Campbell. I also think they'd be a good landing place for Michael Thomas once the Saints release him with a post-June 1 designation.

As for running back, the Bears and David Montgomery have a mutual interest in a new contract. The numbers will dictate whether that comes to fruition. Poles is on record saying how much he loves Montgomery, but they must find common ground for a reunion to occur.

If Montgomery doesn't come back, the Bears will probably turn to Khalil Herbert as their lead back in 2023 and add a quality backup on Day 3 of the draft.

@tulaneCubs What draft haul starts to get disappointing for the No. 1 pick? Is there a better chance of the Bears moving straight down to No. 4 or trading with any other team?

I think the Bears will get more good offers than people expect. There are enough quarterback-needy teams to warrant at least some level of a bidding war. However, that can change quickly.

Many teams view USC's Caleb Williams and North Carolina's Drake Maye as the two best college quarterbacks, and both have to return to school in 2023. There's also belief in some league circles that the Houston Texans, who sit at No. 2, could opt not to draft a quarterback and instead add to a defense that was horrific in 2023.

Ultimately, I think the Bears have to get an extra first-round pick for the No. 1 selection. If the return they get doesn't include a first-rounder in 2024, I think it's a loss. That's a low bar, so they should be able to clear it.

NFL Media's Daniel Jeremiah laid out three realistic trade offers for the No. 1 pick based on the draft value chart. He suggested the Colts would send the Bears the No. 4 pick, No. 35 pick, and a first- and second-round pick in 2024. That's a pretty great haul. If the Bears go down to No. 9, he thinks the Panthers will have to give up a first-round pick in 2025 instead of a second in 2024.

Even if it doesn't include the 2024 second-round pick, that deal with the Colts feels like the most likely option. The Bears must walk the line between draft haul and getting an impact player atop this draft. Is a 2025 first-round pick from the Panthers worth passing on Jalen Carter or Will Anderson? That's the calculus for Ryan Poles.

In the end, I think the Colts are the odds-on favorite to be the Bears' trade partner. But don't count out a second trade down from the No. 4 spot.

@tommysgahan O/U 2.5 first-rounders for the No. 1 pick?

I'm going to go under. I think the Bears will get a 2024 first-round pick in addition to the pick swapped for the No. 1 selection.

To go over this number, I think they'll have to trade down twice or go straight to No. 9.

@noflyzone_1 Draft Jake Haener to develop behind Fields?
@richg780 Is there a QB you like to draft as Fields' backup?

The Eagles set an interesting precedent by drafting Jalen Hurts in the second round because they weren't sold that Carson Wentz was the right guy long-term. I'm interested to see how many teams opt for this approach going forward since it worked out so well for Philly.

But I'm not sure the Bears will follow that path in the 2023 draft.

If they do opt to trade the No. 1 pick and stick with Fields -- all signs point to that being the direction Poles will go -- they need to use all the assets they have to improve the roster around him. Even the Day 3 picks have to have some use in 2023.

I really like Haener as a prospect. If there's a Day 3 quarterback for the Bears to select, he'd be my pick. If not Haener, maybe a guy like UCLA's Dorian Thompson-Robinson. He's super raw, but has excellent athleticism and natural arm talent. Can I interest you in Stetson Bennett? (I kid.)

Haener is my pick, but I'm guessing Poles will want to use his Day 3 picks to add depth pieces on the lines and the secondary.

@FatDudeRunning Will Poles be disciplined in free agency? Or will he be like Pace and try to buy it all now?

Poles' first message in his state-of-the-franchise address was that he would be disciplined with the $100 million in salary-cap space the Bears have this offseason. He understands this is a multi-year rebuild and that teams who spend big in free agency rarely come out as winners.

I think the Bears will nab a few big fish on multi-year contracts, sprinkle in some more one-year veteran deals, and use some of the money for extensions of Darnell Mooney, Cole Kmet, and Jaylon Johnson.

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