Bears

No sign Bears locked into drafting a QB in 2017 as Ryan Pace underscores 'best available' tack

No sign Bears locked into drafting a QB in 2017 as Ryan Pace underscores 'best available' tack

PHOENIX – NFL owners meetings, like the Scouting Combine, invariably involve hallway conversations regarding quarterbacks. Why doesn’t Colin Kaepernick have a job? Why does Mark Sanchez have one? Will Jay Cutler take one? This year, despite a 3-13 record last season and a continuing slide toward irrelevance, the Bears are in intriguing part of those conversations, or maybe, whispers.

The reason, beyond the obvious fact that the Bears stand at No. 3 in a QB-lite draft, is because the Bears not only have done significant things at the position – cutting Cutler, signing Sanchez and Mike Glennon, not signing Brian Hoyer – but one NFL source said to keep an eye on the Bears as potentially being involved in at least one future blockbuster after this season.

More on that in a moment.

First of all, every indication is that GM Ryan Pace is absolutely NOT locked into or about to allow himself to be pressured into drafting a quarterback in 2017. Certainly not at No. 3, maybe not at all. Maybe this is pre-draft posturing, misinformation or misdirection, and Pace has said in the past that he wants to draft quarterbacks but hasn’t in his first two Bears drafts. But still:

“We’re going to draft the best players available, wherever that may be,” Pace said on Tuesday. “And if it’s a quarterback, it’s a quarterback. But we’re going to take the best players available. I think now some of those things are unforeseen. You can’t predict some of those things. But right now I like the way Sanchez blends with Glennon and with Connor Shaw.”

Whether the public likes Pace’s moves at quarterback, or whether they’re good, bad or anywhere in between is just offseason speculation for now. The NFL will start giving him meaningful feedback sometime this September. What Pace has in fact done, regardless of analyses at this point, like it or not, is create options for himself and his coaches. And those extend beyond 2017.

Some context here: Even with some measure of job security in the short term, Pace is tasked with winning in the future as well as the present. He has addressed the 2017 quarterback situation, if not spectacularly, with Glennon and Sanchez specifically. But think beyond ’17; because Pace is.

More context: GM’s and head coaches like and need options. Doubts about Glennon, Sanchez, Connor Shaw or some rookie notwithstanding, Pace has the Bears positioned with options, not necessarily good options, but arguably best-available for the most part.

A little more context: Dowell Loggains may not have quelled all doubts about his play calling, but Cutler, Hoyer and Matt Barkley all had their best NFL stretches, albeit short, under his stewardship. 

Pace has effectively positioned the Bears for not one or two, but as many as a half-dozen spins of the quarterback wheel looking for a winner. It is a place the Bears were not in for most of Cutler’s tenure outside of brief Hoyer and Josh McCown bursts.

Within this context, consider the Pace’s chances for a strike at THE priority position for the franchise:

Spin 1: Mike Glennon

Pace announced the former Bucs quarterback as the Bears’ starter. Probably is. But Matt Flynn was the Seahawks’ starter when they free-agent signed him away from Green Bay in 2012. He lost his starting job by the end of training camp to a rookie third-round draft choice, Russell Wilson.

The Bears chose Glennon over Cutler and Hoyer because of upside; if Glennon plays to his perceived ceiling, the Bears have him under contract for two more years.

Spin 2: Mark Sanchez

When all the cynical subsides, consider him a low-risk spin who has been good enough to stand a career 37-35 as a starter. McCown amounted to something and still is after age 30, even with bad teams. Hoyer played some of his best football the past two seasons, after age 30. If Loggains resuscitates Sanchez’s career at age 30… .

Spin 3: The rookie

How, where and even if – make that a big IF – the Bears make their first Ryan Pace draft pick of a quarterback doesn’t come around for another month. But whomever the Bears select, if they select a quarterback this draft, gives Pace another spin of the QB wheel.

Spin 4: Kirk Cousins

CSNChicago.com confirmed that the Bears called on Cousins’ availability, even with the specter of Washington’s franchise tag hanging over him. But as one NFL source noted, Cousins is on a one-year deal ($23.94 million tag guarantee), it is his second and presumably last tag, and he has spurned long-term Washington offers to this point.

Glennon’s contract commits the Bears to $16 million this year. After that, minimal guarantee. Sanchez, one-year deal. Cousins, one-year deal.

Next offseason… . 

Spin 5: Jimmy Garoppolo

The Eastern Illinois quarterback wasn’t deemed worth a No. 3 pick in 2014, in either round one or two. He hasn’t put enough on film to make him worth that pick now.

But if the Cleveland Browns don’t trade for him, or New England hasn’t turned to him and locked him up contractually, he would be an unrestricted free agent next offseason. It will take a long-term market deal but at least he wouldn’t cost a high No. 1.

Spin 6: Connor Shaw

He is already clearly getting a preseason look, as he did last year, and is ahead of evaluations that accompanied David Fales and some other Bears hopefuls. He’s found money if he develops into something, but Warren Moon, Tony Romo and Kurt Warner were all undrafted free agents, too.

Is Kyle Fuller the Bears' best 1st-round pick since 2010?

Is Kyle Fuller the Bears' best 1st-round pick since 2010?

The 2020 NFL draft is quickly approaching, and unfortunately for Bears fans, it'll mark the second year in a row that Chicago will be without a first-round pick. Then again, that's the price a team must pay to land a generational talent like Khalil Mack.

Still, the draft is more fun when the Bears have a first-rounder. 

But that fun has more often than not quickly turned into disappointment. Chicago's first-round success rate hasn't been very good, especially over the last 10 years.

Here's Chicago's first-round breakdown over the last decade:

2010: NONE
2011: Gabe Carimi (OL, Wisconsin)
2012: Shea McClellin (Edge, Boise State)
2013: Kyle Long (OL, Oregon)
2014: Kyle Fuller (CB, Virginia Tech)
2015: Kevin White (WR, Va Tech)
2016: Leonard Floyd (Edge, Georgia)
2017: Mitch Trubisky (QB, UNC)
2018: Roquan Smith (LB, Georgia)
2019: NONE

First, let's look at the obvious problem: Two of the last 10 drafts resulted in zero first-round picks. Not great. 

Of the remaining eight picks, five are no longer with the team (Carimi, McClellin, Long, White, and Floyd). While Long was a solid starter during his tenure in Chicago, Carimi, McClellin, White, and Floyd were downright busts.

Then there's Trubisky, who might be the most important first-round selection in franchise history. His career is on life support after the Bears traded for Nick Foles this offseason. He's trending in the wrong direction.

Smith, who's flashed elite playmaking upside during his first two seasons in the league, had some bizarre off-field issues in 2019 that impacted his growth as a starter last year. His arrow is still pointing up, but he has to prove he can be relied on for 16 games.

That leaves Fuller, who was recently dubbed the Bears' best first-round pick of the last decade.

Since being drafted 14th overall in 2014, Fuller has been a starter at corner from nearly day one. With the exception of a 2016 season wiped out by a knee injury, Fuller has started all but two games over five years.

The 28-year-old has 18 career interceptions, including seven in 2018 (which tied for the NFL lead). In each of the past two seasons, the former Virginia Tech standout has been named to the Pro Bowl

It's a fair assessment of Fuller's impact, especially when compared to the rest of his first-round brethren. Chicago's failure to hit on first-round picks has been a big reason why they've struggled to sustain success in recent years and will continue to be why they won't be taken seriously as a Super Bowl contender.

The Bears' first selection in the 2020 NFL draft won't come until the second round, No. 43 overall, but with two picks in the top 50, Pace has a chance to add two impact players to a roster that isn't far away from competing for an NFC North title.

    Kyle Long anxious for 'true' QB competition with Nick Foles, Mitch Trubisky

    Kyle Long anxious for 'true' QB competition with Nick Foles, Mitch Trubisky

    Former Bears offensive lineman Kyle Long knows Mitchell Trubisky very well. They were teammates for the last three years in Chicago. 

    But even Long is anxious to see how the Bears quarterback will respond after general manger Ryan Pace traded for Nick Foles last month.

    “I've never seen Mitch Trubisky in at true, true, true quarterback competition,” Long told NBC Sports Chicago this week. "And if that's what they're going to brand this thing as, then I hope to see that really happen."

    Foles has the trust of the coaching staff, having played for head coach Matt Nagy, offensive coordinator Bill Lazor and quarterbacks coach John DeFilippo in the past. And for that reason, many people are doubting Trubisky’s chances of actually winning the QB competition.

    “If they're bringing in a guy to take his position from Day 1, so be it, but let's not up and say it, so we're clear,” Long said. “It's like being in a relationship with somebody. You set boundaries, you communicate, and that's how you understand. But if you've got two guys competing, and that's a true competition, I'm anxious to see what Mitch is going to respond like.”

    That seems to be the big question. As Long said, Trubisky has never really been threatened for his job ever since he took it from Mike Glennon in 2017. And no one is really doubting how Foles (who played with Long’s brother, Chris, in Philadelphia) will handle the situation.

    “We all know how Nick will be. He's going to be Nick Foles,” Long said. “(Chris) says he's a great competitor. A winner. Obviously a Super Bowl champion. A really good guy. He likes Nick a lot.”

    And like many fans, Long was happy to see a move at quarterback, even if it meant a competition for his friend and former teammate.

    “Kudos to the Bears for making a move and shutting some people up in Chicago,” he said. 

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