The Bears ended their season Sunday with a 29-13 loss to the Minnesota Vikings to finish the season at 3-14 and on a 10-game losing streak.
Despite all of that, the future looks bright in Chicago because of what transpired during the season and in Indianapolis on Sunday.
Quarterback Justin Fields has taken a step forward in Year 2, but the Bears still have countless holes on their roster. Their mid-season offensive explosion appears to be just a blip in a season bookmarked to be Year 0 of a rebuild. Yes, the Bears have suffered several key injuries down the stretch. But it's also a roster desperate for blue-chip talent at premium positions.
Sunday's events should help put the Bears in position to add pieces around Fields and vault up the NFL pyramid. The Houston Texans spent the entire season in pole position to have the No. 1 pick in the 2023 NFL Draft. But a Week 16 win over the Tennessee Titans brought the Bears back into the No. 1 pick equation, and the Texans' come-from-behind win Sunday over the Colts allowed the Bears to leapfrog them for the top pick.
With the No. 1 pick in their pocket, the Bears should have several quarterback-needy teams calling them to trade up for the right to draft Bryce Young or C.J. Stroud. With Fields entrenched as the long-term option behind center in Chicago, the Bears could host a bidding war and maximize the return in a trade for the No.1 pick.
So, what could the Bears expect in a trade for the No. 1 pick? You have to consider how far down the Bears would be sliding in the draft and how many teams are in desperate need of a quarterback. The level of desperation of those needy teams also is a massive factor. Young is good, but his height and slight frame make him far from a sure thing. Still, there's no doubt that the Texans, Carolina Panthers, Indianapolis Colts, and Las Vegas Raiders will be in the market for Young or Stroud.
Since 1997, the No. 1 overall pick has been traded three times before the draft. If we want to count Eli Manning, who was technically drafted by the San Diego Chargers and traded to the New York Giants, the number is four.
1997: St. Louis Rams trade the No. 6 overall pick, a third-round pick, a fourth-round pick, and a seventh-round pick to the Jets to draft Orlando Pace.
2001: Atlanta Falcons trade the No. 5 overall pick, a third-round pick, and a 2002 second-round pick to the San Diego Chargers to draft Michael Vick.
2004: New York Giants trade the rights to the No. 4 overall pick (Philip Rivers), a third-round pick, a 2005 first-round pick, and a 2005 fifth-round pick for the rights to the No. 1 pick (Eli Manning).
2016: St. Louis Rams trade the No. 15 overall pick, two 2016 second-round picks, a 2016 third-round pick, a 2017 first-round pick, and a 2017 third-round pick for the No. 1 pick in 2016 (Jared Goff), and a fourth- and a sixth-round pick in 2016.
There are two other NFL draft trades that did not involve the No. 1 overall pick but are worth mentioning.
In 2012, the Washington [redacted] traded three first-round picks and a second-round pick to the St. Louis Rams to move up from No. 6 to No. 2 to select Robert Griffin III. In 2021, the 49ers traded the No. 12 overall pick, and two future first-round picks to the Miami Dolphins to move up to No. 3 to draft Trey Lance.
The Dolphins used those three first-round picks to draft Jaylen Waddle and trade for Tyreek Hill and Bradley Chubb.
The Bears could be in line to acquire a massive asset haul.
But general manager Ryan Poles also must weigh his roster needs when making a deal. The Bears need massive help on the defensive line. Trading down too far will take Will Anderson and Jalen Carter off the board for the Bears. Depending on the type of trades on the table, Poles might have to decide if an extra asset is worth passing on an elite defensive lineman and taking a chance on a guy like Myles Murphy or Bryan Bresee a little further down the board.
While the losses piled up in 2022, the Bears find themselves holding the most valuable asset of the 2023 offseason. One that will help them jumpstart their rebuild.