Why you shouldn't expect the Bears to make a move at the NFL trade deadline


The NFL trade deadline will pass in less than 24 hours, and it’d be a surprise if it came and went with the Bears making a move either as a buyer or seller. 

Ryan Pace has only made one deadline trade in his tenure as Bears general manager, dealing a conditional seventh-round draft pick for Los Angeles Chargers receiver Dontrelle Inman in 2017 in an effort to give Mitch Trubisky a better weapon during his dismal rookie season. While the NFL’s trade deadline has become far more interesting in recent years, the Bears haven’t joined in, and don’t seem likely to this year. 

Coach Matt Nagy said Monday he does not expect Pace to make a move before Tuesday afternoon. 

“I don’t,” Nagy said. “But the second I leave right here I'm getting ready to do one more thing, and then I'm going right to (preparing for) Philadelphia. So I'm not even getting into that. I'll leave that up to Ryan and them. They can tell me what what my ideas or thoughts are and I'll chime in but I'm not dealing with that too much.”

A few reasons for that. First: The Bears don’t have a wealth of draft picks to use to acquire talent. They own two second-round picks in 2020, but don't possess a first-, third- or fourth-round pick. Pace does have two sixth-round picks at his disposal (this assuming Jordan Howard does not meet the conditions to make the pick he was traded for a fifth-rounder). It’s unclear what the conditions are that could send the Bears a fifth-round pick from the Oakland Raiders as part of the Khalil Mack trade.

Either way: The Bears have a dearth of picks, and player-for-player trades are rare. Teams trading away players right now crave draft picks. 

So that’s a starting point. If the Bears were to draw from their meager stockpile of picks to make a trade, it’d be a sign they’re going all-in on 2019. Trading a second-round pick for, say, Tampa Bay Buccaneers tight end O.J. Howard would be an exceedingly bold play for a 3-4 team. 

The Bears, though, do not have the future cap space to take on an expensive player (like Jacksonville Jaguars quarterback Nick Foles) in a trade. Cap space is fluid and guys can always be released, but the Bears have eight players with cap hits of $10 million or more on their books in 2020. That means the Bears, if they were to be active in the trade market, would likely need to go after players still on their rookie contracts. 

Those guys will cost more in terms of picks because their cap hits are lower. And, again, the Bears don’t have a wealth of picks to trade right now. More than anything, they need to hang to the picks they have to add cheap players to this roster in next spring’s draft. 

The truth, too, is the Bears are not one player away from sparking seven or eight wins in their final nine games and reaching the playoffs. It’s why both Nagy and Pace haven’t placed all the Bears’ offensive issues on Trubisky — perhaps they’re trying to defend their quarterback publicly, but a team averaging 18 points per game is not one player short of turning things around. 

Even a quarterback. 

For those hoping the Bears will make a move for Marcus Mariota or Case Keenum or Josh Rosen or Andy Dalton or any of the quarterbacks who theoretically could be “available,” it’s A) unlikely any of those guys actually are and B) even if they were, it’d be incredibly difficult for any of them to be an immediate upgrade over Trubisky this season. 

Nagy would expect a quarterback to know his offense inside and out before trusting him to play on Sundays, which doesn’t account for that quarterback getting to know Allen Robinson, Tarik Cohen, Anthony Miller and the pass catchers he’d be throwing to. Even if someone like Keenum or Mariota were able to get up to speed in a few weeks, we’re talking about their first start being at or around Thanksgiving. That wouldn’t provide much, if any, time to “save” the season. 

“There's a lot of different concepts within (the offense),” Nagy said. “So the concepts and adjustments within the concepts, so whether it's based off of coverages or whether it's based off of personnel and different things. But it does take a little bit of time for these guys.”

The Bears' last-place standing in the NFC North, well behind the 6-2 Minnesota Vikings and 7-1 Green Bay Packers, should also be considered. This is not like the 2018 Dallas Cowboys trading for wide receiver Amari Cooper with a 3-4 record: That team was two games back of Washington and a half game back of the Philadelphia Eagles at the time. The Packers and Vikings are much better in 2019 than either of those teams were in 2018. 

So the expectation is the Bears will ride out 2019 with the team they already have. Pace has proven us wrong in the past, of course, but a 3-4 team without a wealth of 2020 draft picks or cap space that doesn’t feel like it’s one player away from contending does not appear likely to make a move by Tuesday afternoon. 

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