At 3-5, the Chicago Bears need to take a realistic look at the 2021 campaign and their long-term future ahead of Tuesday’s trade deadline. With that in mind, here are this week’s 10 Bears Things, with analysis on every trade possibility:
1. Reality check
By most predictive metrics, the Bears have less than a three percent chance of making the playoffs. They do, however, appear to have a promising piece of the puzzle at quarterback in Justin Fields — who remains the most important figure in the entire organization.
Everything the Bears do from this point on should happen with Fields’ best long-term interests in mind. And right now, making a long shot run at the playoffs because jobs might be on the line seems foolish and, frankly, dangerous.
If the Bears are doing things right, then Monday should have been a day of important conversations at Halas Hall. Chairman George McCaskey and president Ted Phillips should have met with general manager Ryan Pace about his vision of the future and how possible moves in the next 24 hours align with what’s best for Fields and the Bears beyond 2021.
“Obviously with the trade deadline coming up we’ll go through different scenarios and situations,” Bears head coach Matt Nagy said Monday. “I’ll be in discussions with Ryan in there, as those guys go through where we stand and everything.”
Before Sunday, I would have told you there would be almost zero scenarios in which the Bears could pull off a significant trade before Tuesday’s deadline. I still (mostly) feel that way, but two big injury developments in the last 24 hours should at least spur a phone call or two.
2. QB Andy Dalton
With the on-field development of Justin Fields in full swing, there’s absolutely no justification for keeping both Andy Dalton and Nick Foles on the roster. If the Bears can get something for either of them, a move should be made before Tuesday.
Dalton was playing pretty well before he suffered a bone bruise in his left knee and lost his starting spot to Fields. If I’m Sean Payton in New Orleans, I’m at least intrigued by Dalton after Jameis Winston suffered a season-ending knee injury Sunday. The Saints still have Taysom Hill and Trevor Siemien, but they’re now 5-2 and looking like a playoff team after beating the Buccaneers on Sunday. Dalton has playoff experience and would appear to be a good fit. He has made it clear he still wants to be a starting quarterback and an opportunity on a potential playoff team would have to be intriguing to him.
Contract situation: The Bears are going to have $5 million in dead cap on the books next year regardless. There’s about $1.324 million left on Dalton’s base salary this year, which makes him an affordable option for the Saints, who have almost zero cap space. The Bears could just pay that remaining salary in the form of a signing bonus to secure a decent draft pick in return.
3. RB David Montgomery
The 2019 third round draft pick was emerging as one of the better running backs in the NFL before suffering a knee injury in Week 4. Montgomery is now eligible to come off injured reserve, but it’s unclear how close he is to playing again.
Trading one of the Bears’ best offensive weapons would certainly signal a rebuilding effort, but it’s a tough decision the front office at least needs to discuss. Montgomery’s rookie contract runs out after 2022 and it seems hard to believe the Bears are going to be in a position where giving a running back a big contract makes sense. They’ve been very good at drafting/developing running backs and rookie sixth round pick Khalil Herbert is the latest example.
This is where the Tennessee Titans come in. At 6-2, they currently hold the No. 1 seed in the AFC, but just lost their most important player — Derrick Henry — for a reported 6-10 weeks, with no guarantee that he’ll be 100 percent for the playoffs. That offense ran through Henry and even though Montgomery isn’t the same physical beast that Henry is, he’s damn hard to bring down.
For now, it looks like the Titans are going to roll with 36-year-old Adrian Peterson, who signed to Tennessee’s practice squad Monday. That’s an indication they expect Henry back for the playoffs and don’t feel the need to trade a first-round pick for a running back. The Titans already traded their 2022 second round pick for Julio Jones.
If the Titans were really desperate, I could see the Bears considering this trade, but it seems unlikely now. Trading Montgomery would be really hard for Pace and Nagy, who love his leadership and presence in the locker room. But then again, given the current state of the Bears and the need to make a decision on Montgomery in the near future, this is something that should be discussed.
Contract situation: Montgomery is extremely affordable because he’s a third round pick still on his rookie contract, but any team trading for him would have to consider extending him as early as this coming offseason.
4. EDGE Robert Quinn
A few months ago I never would have envisioned writing the words “Robert Quinn” and “trade” in the same sentence, but here we are. Quinn, 31, has been playing very good football for the Bears this season and has no guaranteed money left on his contract after 2021. That means he could have value for a pass-rush needy team. A 4-3 defense like the Cowboys might make the most sense, but even a similar scheme to the Bears’ (perhaps the Chargers?) could make sense too. The Rams traded a second and third round pick for Von Miller Monday.
Contract situation: Quinn has about $3.679 million left on his 2021 base salary, but the Bears could cover some of that to increase the compensation. By trading Quinn, the dead money from Quinn’s contract would increase from about $4.2 million to $12.7 million in 2022, but it would clear him from the books in 2023, freeing up more space in the future. If the Bears cut Quinn in the offseason, he’ll still count for over $8 million on the salary cap in 2023. It might be time to sell high if there’s a team interested.
5. WR Allen Robinson
Everybody wants to trade Robinson these days, but it’s not as easy as it sounds. Robinson hasn’t had more than four catches in a game since Week 1 and seems very unlikely to re-sign with the Bears in the offseason. You’d think a few receiver-needy teams will be calling about Robinson, but a trade likely hinges on how much money the Bears are willing to eat in a deal.
Contract situation: Robinson still has $9.5 million left on his nearly $18 million franchise tag he signed in the offseason. It’s important to note that the Bears can eat some of that money by converting it to a signing bonus and that would likely need to be done given the few amount of teams with that much salary cap space available right now. The Baltimore Ravens and New England Patriots are two teams to keep an eye on.
6. DT Akiem Hicks
Despite dealing with a groin injury, Hicks continues to show his value at 32 years old. He plays every snap like it’s last and he’s still one of the Bears’ better defenders.
Contract situation: A team trading for Hicks would owe him about $5.5 million for the rest of this season unless the Bears eat some of that money.
7. EDGE Khalil Mack
Mack is dealing with a significant enough foot injury that injured reserve was at least discussed last week. That might be a big enough red flag that no one would want to take a chance on the talented pass rusher. Then again, the contract situation is interesting.
Contract situation: Mack’s base salaries through 2024 are relatively affordable/attractive for his production and they are non-guaranteed, which matters since he is on the other side of 30 now. The problem is, the Bears would carry $24 million in dead cap space in 2022 if they trade him. On the other hand, he’s currently due to count $30.1 million against the cap in 2022 if he stays on the Bears. Thus, if you can get a significantly high draft pick for Mack, don’t you at least have to consider it?
8. LT Jason Peters
Anyone want a dirt cheap future Hall of Fame left tackle? If Peters has a no trade clause, I’m not aware of it. And if Teven Jenkins is going to return in a few weeks, shouldn’t Jenkins and Larry Borom get the experience at the two tackle positions? Peters is playing very well right now and should have value. On the other hand, the positive impact he could continue to have on Jenkins and Borom might be worth more than the Bears can get in return for him.
I don’t think Eddie Jackson was ever a realistic trade possibility, but he has a hamstring injury now. Tight end Jimmy Graham has a no-trade clause, but maybe he’d be willing to waive it for one more title run. Maybe someone has interest in either Alec Ogletree or Danny Trevathan, but that might not even net a 2022 draft pick in return.
10. Final word
Fire sales rarely happen in the NFL and I don’t expect one to happen in the next 24 hours. The Bears also have to be very careful not to put Fields in any more harm than they already have. Can he live without Robinson? Sure. But the idea of starting two rookie tackles, a rookie running back and a rookie quarterback sounds borderline insane — even if it’s within the realm of possibilities.
Regardless, what happens — or doesn’t happen — between now and 3 p.m. CT Tuesday will very likely be something we constantly revisit in the next few months as crucial decisions on the franchise loom.