First QB domino falls in Bears' favor as Carr signs with Saints


Carolina Panthers general manager Scott Fitterer has made it clear his "ideal" scenario is to "draft and develop" a quarterback in the first round.

But it was evident during Fitterer and head coach Frank Reich's availability at the 2023 NFL Scouting Combine that the Panthers were very interested in Derek Carr.

The Panthers had a phone call with Carr and then met with the free agent early at the combine. With the NFC South wide open, signing Carr, a top-12 quarterback still in his prime, undoubtedly looked appealing to Fitterer and Reich.

Carolina signing Carr would have removed one possible trade partner from the Bears' radar. As Bears general manager Ryan Poles looks to extract maximum value for the No. 1 pick from a quarterback-needy team, it's essential to have as many teams bidding on the pick as possible. The more bidders, the higher the price. Demand high. Supply low—simple economics.

That makes Monday's news that Carr intends to sign with the New Orleans Saints music to Poles' ears.

The Saints had a gaping hole at quarterback but were not in the picture for the No. 1 pick.

With Carr off to New Orleans, that leaves the Panthers with two options. They can either scramble to land Aaron Rodgers in a hail-mary effort or make a trade-up with the Bears at No. 1 or the Arizona Cardinals at No. 3.

Should the Panthers view the price to move as too high, they could alter their plan and look to a bridge quarterback like Jimmy Garoppolo.

Poles and the Bears undoubtedly leave the combine feeling good about their leverage in the trade market.

The constant buzz around the combine is that the Bears are looking for a first- and second-round pick in this year's draft as well as future firsts in 2024 and 2025, to move outside of the top five. Perhaps it's only a future first in 2024 if the move is within the top five. Either way, it's a hefty price to pay for the Panthers should they be enamored with one of the draft's top signal-callers.

The Panthers, Houston Texans, Indianapolis Colts, Las Vegas Raiders, and Atlanta Falcons have either shown or are expected to show some interest in the No. 1 pick.

As the quarterback carousel ramps up, a couple of scenarios floating around Indianapolis last week raised my eyebrows.

As it pertains to the Texans, there is a thought in some league circles that Houston will stick at No. 2 and potentially not draft a quarterback. Houston, along with Chicago and Atlanta, has the most talent-deficient roster in the NFL. New head coach DeMeco Ryan could add a veteran quarterback in free agency (Garoppolo, Jacoby Brissett) and then take the best player available.

The other note picked up in Indy is that the Raiders, long thought to be the favorite to land Rodgers should his time in Green Bay end, might not be interested in giving away draft assets for an aging quarterback when the roster has so many holes to fill.

There's always time for that to change, but I left Indy feeling like the Raiders will draft a quarterback, with a Round 1 trade-up feeling more likely than when I arrived.

Poles created his own leverage with the expected "trade Justin Fields" smokescreen. Now that his phone has started burning up with calls from those desperate to change their quarterback fortunes, that leverage is no longer needed.

The Bears' general manager reaffirmed his plan to enter the 2023 season with Fields as his starter. Poles maintained he'd have to be "blown away" to draft a quarterback and gave a laundry list of things he'd need to see from a prospect for that to happen.

Seven weeks after he gave himself two yards of wiggle room to trade Fields, Poles appeared to make it clear that the Bears plan to move forward with Fields as their quarterback and believe he'll make a big leap as a passer in Year 3.

RELATED: NFL combine notebook: Intel on Bears' price, trade partners, and QB class

Poles won't rush the trade. He said it could behoove the Bears to move it before free agency, but he's comfortable waiting until he gets his desired return. The potential for the Bears to trade down twice is very real, but Poles also said he wouldn't trade down if it meant missing out on a player who could drastically impact the Bears on the field and in the locker room.

Spend 10 minutes with Alabama's Will Anderson, and he feels like that type of player.

Perhaps a love of Anderson limits the moves the Bears can make. But with Carr off the market, Poles will have no shortage of suitors for the most valuable asset in the NFL.

The offseason runs through Chicago, and that highway just got a little more crowded.

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