Caleb Williams to the Chicago Bears, or any team, isn't necessarily confirmed.
The USC quarterback told the LA Times it's a "game-time decision" on whether or not he will declare for the 2024 NFL draft. He has until Jan. 15 to decide if he wants to enter the draft.
His hesitancy for the NFL has been widely known since his father, Carl, told GQ in September that Williams had “two shots at the apple” and might return to school “if there’s not a good situation” waiting for him in the NFL.
Stay in the game with the latest updates on your beloved Chicago sports teams! Sign up here for our All Access Daily newsletter.
There's existing speculation that Williams could exceed the annual amount of a high-drafted rookie with NIL opportunities at USC. Last season, Bryce Young --- the draft's top pick --- inked a four-year deal worth around $37 million ($9.4 million per season) with the Carolina Panthers.
That wouldn't add up, however. Williams' estimated NIL valuation in September was $2.5 million, according to USA Today. That made him the fifth-highest-paid college athlete. Bronny James, son of LeBron and USC basketball player, is projected the highest-paid college athlete, valued at $6.1 million.
Clearly, a top rookie contract in the NFL would exceed any NIL money Williams could make with one more year at school. The main reason, as his father mentioned, appears to be a fear of landing in a suboptimal spot in the NFL.
Still, seeing as the Bears have the highest odds of landing the No. 1 pick, does that mean Williams isn't confident in the Bears' situation? Or, is it the murkiness of whether or not the Bears would be willing to draft him and the following suitors of the Cardinals, Patriots, Commanders, or Giants that scares him?
The Bears face a similar situation as they did last season. To keep Justin Fields, or draft a quarterback? That's the question. Last season, Poles opted for the former, keeping Fields and building around him. But, at 4-8, that same thinking may not apply during the offseason.
If Williams doesn't declare, that would certainly skew the Bears' draft plans immensely.
If Ryan Poles and the Bears intended on drafting him, he obviously wouldn't be available. But if they intend to trade the pick down, the value of that pick likely decreases, too, in Williams' absence.
Williams' declaration, or hold out, is something to monitor. He could drastically shift the draft strategies of several teams if he decides against declaring for the NFL.