It's abundantly clear: the Bears top priority this offseason is finding a franchise quarterback.
Expected to cut ties with Jay Cutler at some point over the next few months, the Bears have already zeroed in one option to fill their need at quarterback.
According to a report from CBS's Jason La Canfora, the Bears plan to make acquiring New England Patriots backup quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo their top offseason priority.
"The Chicago Bears will make a strong, concerted effort to acquire quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo from the Patriots, according to sources with knowledge of the situation. The Illinois native is far and away their top offseason priority."
The 25-year-old Garoppolo, who is entering the final year of his rookie contract next season, is widely considered one of the top available trade options on the market this offseason as the Patriots are expected to deal the former second-round pick.
[SHOP: Gear up Bears fans!]
The connection between Garoppolo and the Bears runs deep as the Chicagoland native starred at Rolling Meadows High School and played his college football at Eastern Illinois — the same alma mater as Bears GM Ryan Pace.
Garoppolo has played sparingly in his three seasons with the Patriots. In limited snaps backing up future Hall of Famer Tom Brady, Garoppolo has thrown for 690 yards and five touchdowns in 17 appearances.
As Brad Biggs of the Chicago Tribune reported earlier this week, Pace and Garoppolo spent time together last August when the Bears and Patriots held joint practices in Foxborough.
"We got to talk one-on-one and it was just a couple of Eastern guys hanging out," said Garoppolo, who is playing the role of Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan in practice this week as the Patriots prepare for Super Bowl LI. "There are not many Eastern Illinois guys (in the NFL), so it's a small group and we like to stick together."
The Bears likely won't be the only suitor for Garoppolo's services this offseason. The San Francisco 49ers and Cleveland Browns both have a need at the position and are rumored to explore the possibility of acquiring Garoppolo.
Any interested team could begin exploratory talks with the Patriots, but a trade can't come to fruition until the new league starts following the NFL Scouting Combine in March.