Barring a miraculous turnaround by Mitch Trubisky over the final eight games of the regular season, the Bears will be one of the first teams connected to every free-agent quarterback this offseason. They'll be tied to likely second-round NFL draft prospects, too. And while no one expected this to be the reality facing GM Ryan Pace three seasons removed from selecting Trubisky with the second overall pick, here we are.
One of the high-profile quarterbacks likely to be on the open market this March is Cam Newton, whose season came to an end after being placed on injured reserve (foot) this week.
Newton, who's suffered back-to-back injury-riddled seasons (bum shoulder in 2018), is a risky proposition in 2020. Is his body at the point where it's irreparable? Are you getting the cheat-code playmaker that he used to be or simply an older, less effective pocket-passer?
According to NBC Sports analyst Chris Simms, the risk is worth it. He thinks Newton would be a perfect fit and exactly what this roster needs.
"We’re in the early stages here," Simms told NBC Sports Chicago. "I just look at, first off, Cam Newton’s skill set would fit what Matt Nagy wants to do on the offensive side of the ball, so it makes sense from that standpoint. Of course, Cam Newton’s an MVP player, he’s a superstar, he’s special. We haven’t really seen a lot of people (like him) in the history of the NFL, we haven’t seen anybody like him at the quarterback position.
"I think he’d give the city, the locker room, everybody, confidence, and just that this guy’s been there, he’s done that, he’s tough, he’s gritty, just like the people of Chicago, and I think that would fit in a lot of ways."
It's important to note one key factor here: The Panthers have to release Newton (or trade him) for the Bears to have a shot. He has another year left on his contract; if he remains a Panther, they'll pay him $21 million in 2020. But they can cut him and save $19 million against the cap, and with how Kyle Allen is playing this season, most analysts believe that's the most likely scenario.
"Now, a lot of what happens here the last 7 or 8 weeks of the season is gonna dictate how that goes," Simms said. "He might still stay in Carolina if Kyle Allen just totally falls apart here down the stretch, Carolina might say 'OK, we need Cam Newton.'
"If Kyle Allen continues to play well and Carolina gets in the playoffs, then maybe they will look to trade a Cam Newton, and then maybe if I’m Chicago, with the team you have and some of the players and pieces I like… the defense is set, there’s certainly some things on offense that I like, Cam Newton could be that guy that could come in and steady the ship, to a degree."
A silver lining for such a troubling regular season is that the offseason will be full of potentially franchise-changing storylines. It makes the non-football months a bit more exciting for the fans, especially if players like Newton are legitimate targets.
All that said, it comes down to which quarterback will give the Bears the best chance at sustained success year over year. Trubisky doesn't appear to be that guy, and Newton's medicals could take him off that list, too.
But someone will emerge from the heap of castaways, and when they do, they'll bear the burden of one of the most important seasons in franchise history in 2020. The championship window will eventually close, and the next quarterback will be this team's last hope to finish the job.
On the latest Under Center Podcast, JJ Stankevitz, John "Moon" Mullin, and Cam Ellis discussed the Bears' quarterback situation and Newton as a possible option for the team in 2020:Click here to download the new MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of the Bears.