Just as Zach Wilson was beginning to toss the football around at BYU’s pro day, news dropped that the San Francisco 49ers had moved up from No. 12 to No. 3 in the first round of next month’s NFL Draft.
It’s not often that there’s a live camera on a general manager right after a big trade goes down, but 49ers GM John Lynch was at BYU and NFL Network was rolling with live coverage. Lynch was gleefully smiling as he chatted with other NFL personnel on the field, all while Wilson was about to go out and cement his status as the No. 2 overall pick, one pick ahead of where the 49ers had just landed.
Meanwhile, the Dolphins, who traded that No. 3 pick to the 49ers, immediately traded back up to the No. 6 spot with Philadelphia. When the dust settled, it looked like this:
49ers – No. 3 pick
Dolphins – No. 6 pick
Eagles – No. 12 pick
So what does this mean for the Bears, who still sit relatively lonely at No. 20?
Well, it certainly didn’t help them if they have plans to trade up in the draft for a quarterback. Friday’s moves likely mean three quarterbacks will be drafted in the first three picks. The key question is whether the Jets (at No. 2) are sold on Wilson. If for some reason they are not, you better believe there’s a line of teams ready to move up to grab Wilson, and that could include the 49ers at No. 3. Hey, it wouldn’t be the first time a team traded from No. 3 to No. 2 to draft a quarterback.
Once again, the biggest problem the Bears have is that they are so far back at No. 20. Even in an unlikely scenario in which the Jets trade the No. 2 pick, you’d think GM Joe Douglas would still want to draft one of the other quarterbacks and moving all the was back to No. 20 would probably not accomplish that goal.
I’ve been skeptical that we’ll actually see five quarterbacks get drafted before the Bears pick at No. 20, but this is a special class of quarterbacks and today’s trades – with over a month to go before the draft – signal that there’s a bidding war going on.
But if the 49ers are moving up to No. 3 to draft a quarterback, does that mean Jimmy Garoppolo is available?
Right after Friday’s trade, reports flooded in saying the 49ers have no plans to trade Garoppolo. Literally at the exact same time, NFL Network’s Steve Wyche (who was at BYU) reported that he talked to Lynch, who reiterated the same thing, but added that things could change depending on what was offered. In other words, Garoppolo can probably be had at the right price.
Trading Garoppolo would free up $23.6 million in cap space, so there’s plenty of motivation for the 49ers to move him. That said, the team acquiring Garoppolo has to pay him over $24 million in 2021 and create that cap space.
For the Bears, creating that cap space would mean more cuts on defense (like Akiem Hicks) and further mortgaging the future with contract restructures. If you’re making that space for Russell Wilson, it can be justified. For Garoppolo? Probably not.
Signing Andy Dalton does not preclude the Bears from drafting a quarterback, but it probably precludes them from trading for another veteran quarterback not named Russell Wilson or Deshaun Watson. If the 49ers outright released Garoppolo, that might be a different story.
Unfortunately, Friday’s trades only make things tougher on the Bears. First, there's the price. If you thought trading three first round picks for Russell Wilson was a lot, well, the 49ers just traded that AND a 2022 third-round pick just to move up from No. 12 to No. 3. Trading up from No. 20 would cost even more. Plus, if the Bears were hoping a quarterback falls closer to No. 20 (where a trade up would cost less), the chances of that happening just decreased. They could theoretically move up into the top 10 with the hopes of then using that more attractive pick to move up again (like the Eagles did to get to No. 2 in 2016) but with three quarterbacks already in line to go 1-2-3, there’s no guarantee they’ll get their guy with that strategy and it will cost a ton.
With Pace’s reputation for making big moves, you can never rule anything out. If the Bears were willing to give up a ransom for Russell Wilson, maybe they are willing to give up a ransom for Zach Wilson. It’s riskier, but the BYU quarterback sure looked like he was worth it Friday.
Of course, the same question applies: Why would the Jets make that trade?
In the meantime, Andy Dalton remains “QB1.”