Kiper: Deshaun Watson would be a stretch at No. 3 for Bears

Kiper: Deshaun Watson would be a stretch at No. 3 for Bears

If you haven't heard, the Bears are in the market for a quarterback.

It's no surprise that finding a long-term solution at the position will be at the top of GM Ryan Pace's to-do list as it's likely Jay Cutler has played his last game in a Bears uniform.

The Bears have a bevy options this offseason as they're saddled with the No. 3 selection in the 2017 NFL Draft, and have over $54 million of salary cap space — before roster cuts and an added $8 million in roll over money.

Having the 3rd overall pick, the opportunity is going to present itself for the Bears to nab one of the draft's top quarterbacks or add to their young defensive core with a player like Alabama defensive end Jonathan Allen (who ESPN's Mel Kiper Jr. has the Bears selecting in his latest mock draft) or LSU's Jamal Adams (Kiper Jr. also has him as a possibility for the Bears).

If quarterback is the choice, that's where the real debate begins.

The 2017 draft marks one of the rare years where there isn't a consensus No. 1 quarterback. The four signal-callers likely to hear there name called within the first two rounds are UNC's Mitch Trubisky, Clemson's Deshaun Watson, Notre Dame's DeShone Kizer and Texas Tech's Patrick Mahomes.

Who comes off the board first? That may change 100 times between now and Thursday, April 27.

Despite only starting one year at Chapel Hill, Trubisky has the strongest case to be the first quarterback taken. Trubisky threw for 3,748 yards and 30 touchdowns and added 308 yards on the ground and five rushing scores in his first full year as a starter in 2016.

If the Bears have their eyes set on Trubisky, they may have to pull off a trade as Kiper Jr. doesn't see the former Tar Heel lasting to the third pick. In his conference call on Thursday, Kiper Jr. said it's Trubisky's dream to play for his hometown Cleveland Browns, and sees him in play for both the Browns at No. 1 and the San Francisco 49ers at No. 2.

Would the Bears pull the trigger on Watson if Trubisky is off the board? Kiper Jr. believes Watson would be a stretch for the Bears at No. 3 and right now he sees Watson as a fit with the Buffalo Bills at No. 10. Kiper Jr. had a second-round grade on Watson before he shined on the big stage in the College Football Playoff. Watson's stock catapulted back into the first-round mix after he torched Alabama for 463 yards and four touchdowns en route to leading Clemson to a National Championship.

By selecting a defensive player at No. 3, the Bears could still have the opportunity to draft their quarterback of the future in the second round. Kiper Jr. believes both Mahomes and Kizer will be available on Day 2 where the Bears hold the 36th overall selection in the draft.

[SHOP: Gear up Bears fans!]

What happens if the Bears don't come away with one of the draft's top quarterbacks? They could look toward free agency or the trade market.

The downfall of the free agent market is that the best available option is former Tampa Bay Bay Buccaneers quarterback Mike Glennon — he hasn't started a game in almost three years. You can cross Kirk Cousins off the wish list because there's a better chance of Brett Favre coming out of retirement and leading the Browns to a Super Bowl in 2017 than the Washington Redskins letting Cousins walk in free agency. The Bears also could elect to bring back two of their own unrestricted free agents in Brian Hoyer and Matt Barkley, but neither would provide an ample long-term fixture at the position.

One of the most intriguing players available on the trade market is New England Patriots backup quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo. The connection between him and the Bears runs deep as Garoppolo starred at Rolling Meadows High School in the Chicagoland area and played his college football at Eastern Illinois — the same alma mater as Pace — before he was selected by the Patriots in the second-round of the 2014 NFL Draft. In limited snaps backing up future Hall of Famer Tom Brady, Garoppolo has shown potential to be an above-average NFL quarterback, but unless the Patriots step down from their rumored asking price of a 2017 first-round pick and more, trading away the No. 3 pick would be too high of a price for the Bears to pay.

The Bears could explore the possibility of trading for Dallas Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo to serve as a stopgap and help groom a young quarterback, but bringing in the veteran Romo — just four starts since 2014 due to various injuries — would be a lateral move, and the Bears would likely be better off keeping Cutler for another season.

With less than two months until the start of free agency on March 9, we'll finally get our first clue then as to which direction the Bears will go at quarterback this offseason. 

How ex-Bears wide receiver Kevin White lives with being an NFL Draft ‘bust’

How ex-Bears wide receiver Kevin White lives with being an NFL Draft ‘bust’

Kevin White knows the word association that goes on with his name. You might be doing it right now. 

“When they think of Kevin White: Bust, injuries, we don’t know, question mark,” the 2015 seventh overall pick told me during a lengthy Zoom chat. 

Of the 500 top-10 picks from 1970-2019, only seven have played fewer games than White’s 14. Four of those seven players were drafted in 2019. 

And even the late Charles Rogers — the most infamous wide receiver “bust” in league history — had four touchdowns with the Detroit Lions. White reached the end zone once. 

In a preseason game. 

When no Bears starters were playing. 

White was a high pick who didn’t live up to expectations —the definition of a bust. But he’s able to cope with that label by knowing why he was a bust. 

“People can say bust or whatever the case may be, and it is attached to my name by default,” White said. “So I think for me, okay, you can say Kevin White’s a bust because it didn’t work out. Absolutely. 

“But you can’t say Kevin White can’t play this game or Kevin White can’t get open or Kevin White’s dropping passes. You couldn’t say any of that. Not at practice, not in the little bit of games that I did play. 

“You could say injuries, you know, held me back but you can’t say I was out there and just pissed it all (away) — you can’t say that. So that’s how I deal with it.”

White is not on an NFL roster right now. The Bears let him become a free agent after the 2018 season, and he was released by the Arizona Cardinals late last August. A tryout with the Detroit Lions in the fall went nowhere, as White said he wasn’t 100 percent following a Grade 3 hamstring tear suffered in Cardinals camp. 

White felt like he played at a high level in the NFL, even if he only had 285 receiving yards in those 14 games. Most of White’s healthy moments came in practice, though, either during non-padded OTA practices or training camp. But he still can project the kind of confidence teams want out of their wide receivers, even if he’s not currently on a team.

“If I was out there playing, healthy and I couldn’t get open, getting strapped every play or dropping balls — okay, I can take that and yeah, I didn’t do well, I haven’t been playing well and I’m a bust because of my numbers,” White said. “But with injuries and not being out there, I can’t do anything.”

A stress fracture in his leg sidelined White for his entire rookie year. Then, just as he felt he was starting to realize his potential, he suffered a severe ankle sprain and fractured fibula four weeks into the 2016 season. His scapula was fractured on a freak hit against the Atlanta Falcons in the fourth quarter of 2017’s first game. 

Three serious injuries. Three grueling rehabs. In three consecutive years. 

It’s hard to fathom the mental and physical toll that can take on someone. 

“I got dealt bust cards and can’t cry about it, complain about it, but it is kind of a punch in the stomach,” White said. “It’s like, I got all the talent in the world, done it the right way. Like why, God? What am I doing wrong? What do you want me to see out of being hurt year after year after year?”

White still can say he was the seventh overall pick in an NFL Draft. He had a 1,000-yard season at West Virginia. He felt like he went about his career the right way both on and off the field, and just was the victim of horrible, brutal luck. 

MORE: Why Kevin White feels cheated by football

But White is also only 27 years old. He’s got a lot of life ahead of him. And while he’s still hoping to get another shot in the NFL, he’s also working to make sure being a bust doesn’t define his own life. 

Even if that’s what he’ll always be known for by everyone else. 

“You can’t let one thing in your life — okay, let’s say I never play a down of football ever again. I can’t let that consume the rest of my life,” White said. “That’s like a smidge compared to, hopefully, how long I’m gonna live. But it’s also a big part of my life so I do care about it, I do think about it but I’m not going to let it consume my life. 

“I wouldn’t let football consume my life. It’s other things to do, it’s life. You got one life, I want to enjoy it, do the best I can at whatever profession I’m doing. But I just try to be happy. I’m alive. A lot of people aren’t alive right now. 

“Why would I cry about what other people think or how my career has gone? A lot of people can’t say the things I’ve accomplished. 

“But yeah," White added, "just take it on the chin.” 

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Under Center Podcast: Former Bears WR Kevin White opens up about his career


Under Center Podcast: Former Bears WR Kevin White opens up about his career

In 2015, his very first draft as Bears GM, Ryan Pace selected wide receiver Kevin White seventh overall. White was let ago after his rookie deal, leaving fans confused and wondering why his Bears tenure was so short-lived.

NBCS Bears insider JJ Stankevitz got a chance to talk with White about his career with the Bears, where it went wrong and how he's still fighting to get rid of the bust label by his name.

(4:41) - What did it mean for White to be selected 7th overall?

(11:21) - Is it difficult for White having the word "bust" attached to his name?

(17:40) - Things the average fans don't know about constantly rehabbing injuries

(26:07) - White describes what went wrong in 2018 for him

(34:07) - White feels he could have gotten a better shot to play

(42:10) - White wants to prove to Chicago fans that he was worth the pick

Listen here or below.

Under Center Podcast


Click here to download the new MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of the Bears.