There was major NFL news on Monday night, with the New England Patriots shipping Jimmy Garoppolo to the San Francisco 49ers in exchange for a second-round pick in next year's draft.
Now with both teams playing outside of the NFC North, that's not the most impactful news when it comes to the Bears — though the price the Niners paid might open up a debate about whether or not the Bears traded too much to draft Mitch Trubisky earlier this year — but Garoppolo is a local guy, an Arlington Heights native and a Rolling Meadows High School alum.
Before the Bears drafted Trubisky (and signed Mike Glennon) this offseason, there was plenty of online suggestion that they should've gone after Garoppolo, who was stuck behind Tom Brady on the Patriots' depth chart, to fill their void at the quarterback position. That never materialized, and now it's the Niners who get to take a chance on the former Eastern Illinois Panther as their quarterback of the present and perhaps future.
But there is a Bears connection here as they play the Niners later this season, on Dec. 3, to be exact, in a game at Soldier Field.
After this week's bye, the Bears play three games that figure to be tough ones against the Green Bay Packers, Detroit Lions and Philadelphia Eagles. But if the Bears still have playoff hopes by the time December rolls around, the game against the Niners could wind up being a big deal. So the Bears' playoff hopes, should such hopes still exist by Dec. 3, could be riding on how they fare against the Chicagoland native Garoppolo and the Niners, the team the Bears traded with in order to secure the No. 2 pick and draft Trubisky earlier this year.
And while the Niners still might be little threat, what with their current NFL-worst 0-8 record, who knows what difference the quarterback change from the duo of ex-Bear Brian Hoyer and Iowa product C.J. Beathard to Garoppolo will bring?
In other words, things just got a lot more interesting.
Chicago Bears training camp is right around the corner with the first practice (non-padded) scheduled for July 21.
Bears veterans and rookies will report a few days ahead of that first session to acclimate themselves to their new (for some) surroundings. Rookies report on July 16, with veterans coming three days later on July 19.
All eyes will be on QB Mitch Trubisky and the potentially high-flying offense under coach Matt Nagy. Training camp will take on extra importance because of the plethora of new faces on the roster and coaching staff as well as the installation of a completely new offensive scheme. It's critical that Trubisky builds chemistry with wide receivers Allen Robinson, Taylor Gabriel, Anthony Miller and Kevin White, all of whom he's never thrown a regular-season pass to. Add Trey Burton to that mix and a lot of miscues should be expected in the preseason.
The rookie class is led by linebacker Roquan Smith, who remains unsigned. With less than 30 days until rookies are required to report, a greater sense of urgency -- even if it's not quite a panic -- is certainly creeping in. Assuming he's signed in time, Smith should earn a starting role early in training camp and ascend to one of the defense's top all-around players.
The Bears have higher-than-usual expectations heading into the 2018 season making fans eager for summer practices to get underway.
The Chicago Bears need a big season from outside linebacker Leonard Floyd. He's the team's best pass-rush option and the only legitimate threat to post double-digit sacks this year.
Floyd joined the Bears as a first-round pick (No. 9 overall) in 2016 and has flashed freakish talent at times. The problem has been his health; he's appeared in only 22 games through his first two seasons.
Floyd's rookie year -- especially Weeks 5 through 9 -- showed a glimpse of the kind of disruptive force he's capable of becoming. He registered seven sacks and looked poised to breakout in 2017. Unfortunately, injuries limited him to only 10 games and four sacks.
Despite his disappointing sophomore season, NFL.com's Gil Brandt has high hopes for Floyd in 2018. The long-time NFL personnel executive named Floyd as the Bear with the best chance to earn a first-time trip to the Pro Bowl.
CHICAGO BEARS: Leonard Floyd, OLB, third NFL season. Floyd had seven sacks as a rookie in 2016, but missed six games last season due to a knee injury. He's a talented guy who can drop into coverage or rush with his hand on the ground and should play much better this season. He also has become much stronger since coming into the league.
The Bears will be in a heap of trouble if Floyd doesn't emerge as a Pro Bowl caliber player. There aren't many pass-rushing options on the roster outside of Floyd aside from Aaron Lynch and rookie Kylie Fitts. Neither edge defender has a resume strong enough to rely on as insurance.
It's a critical year for Floyd's future in Chicago, too. General manager Ryan Pace will decide whether to pick up Floyd's fifth-year option in his rookie contract next offseason. If he plays well, it's a no-brainer. If not, Pace could be looking at two straight first-round picks (see: Kevin White) that he's declined the extra year.
We're a long way from that decision. Until then, the Bears' season may sink or swim based on its pass rush. It begins -- and ends -- with Floyd.