Andy Dalton

Jameis Winston signs, Andy Dalton cut, but Bears didn't screw up in QB market

Jameis Winston signs, Andy Dalton cut, but Bears didn't screw up in QB market

A month and a half after the Bears traded a fourth round pick for Nick Foles, the Cincinnati Bengals cut Andy Dalton. That happened Thursday morning. Earlier this week, the New Orleans Saints signed Jameis Winston to a one-year, $1.1 million deal — $750,000 less than the Bears will pay punter Pat O’Donnell in 2020. 

So why didn’t the Bears wait out the quarterback market in March and get someone for cheap in late April? Cam Newton, injury concerns and all, is also still out there. 

The Bears aggressively pursued Foles — after some interest in Teddy Bridgewater — and made sure they got their guy no matter the cost (although, a fourth round pick was probably fair). Foles is guaranteed $21 million in his restructured deal with the Bears, far less than what Winston will make in 2020 and what Dalton can expect to get in free agency.

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And this is a front office that has a bit of a rough history with getting their quarterback no matter the cost. 

“We knew there were going to be a lot of options at quarterback in this free agency period, so we knew we would have an opportunity to increase competition there with those options," Pace said earlier this month. "So we went through each one of those and talked about each one.

“When we got to Nick, it was really a collective effort. ... A talented player and the fact that he’s played in some big games and performed well in those big games, and that carries a lot of weight. Then, you have a lot of people in our building that are comfortable with him as a person and his makeup, which made the decision easier.

"That all kind of came together to make him a target for us and someone we wanted to aggressively go get.”

So: Did the Bears play the quarterback market wrong?

No. Not the 2020 market, anyway. 

Winston is hardly an apples-to-apples comparison to Foles here. He signed to fill the Bridgewater role in New Orleans, a perfect place to rebuild his value in case Drew Brees misses time. The Bears, who have consistently not been one of the NFL's best offenses for more than a decade, would not have been able to sign Winston for $1.1 million. He also would’ve been signed to compete with Mitch Trubisky, which would not have given Matt Nagy anything close to a “safe” option at the most important position in sports. 

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Maybe the Bears could’ve waited out Dalton, who was due $17.7 million in 2020 before being cut. He’ll sign for a fraction of that price, almost certainly less than Foles’ 2020 $5.333 million cap hit. 

But Dalton would’ve been a worse fit in the Bears’ offense than Foles. I’m not even sure Dalton is better than Trubisky (who has a better passer rating over the last three years than the Dalton). 

You can argue that the Bears could’ve waited out Foles and gotten him for less. Maybe that's true. Because if there wasn't a market for Dalton, or Winston or Newton, why would there be one for Foles? Though, if we're speculating on that, we can also wonder: Would the Jaguars have traded him for anything less than a late fourth round pick?

And while Ryan Pace has made some high-profile, aggressive, questionable-at-best quarterback decisions, Nagy deserves more benefit of the doubt here. If Nagy said he needed Foles, the Bears needed Foles. 

He’s the only guy who has at least a baseline knowledge of Nagy’s system, as well as experience with offensive coordinator Bill Lazor and quarterbacks coach John DiFilippo. That counts for a lot in an offseason without any in-person practices until the uncertain start of training camp. None of those other quarterbacks would have as easy a transition into this complex offense. 

"Knowledge of the offense at that point helps," Nagy said earlier this month. "This is a kid who’s been through a lot of different situations. He’s been a Super Bowl MVP, he’s been in pressure moments, and he understands a lot of the things that we’re looking for."

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What if Winston is still an interception machine? Or Dalton’s mid-30s slide continues? Or Newton isn’t healthy? The Bears are stuck with Trubisky, either by force or by choice. 

Also: Waiting until April — after the draft — to sign a quarterback wouldn’t sent the same message to Trubisky that trading for Foles in mid-March did. If the Bears are trying to light a fire under Trubisky, signing Winston, Dalton or Newton at this point wouldn’t provide much kindling. 

So I don’t think the Bears misplayed the quarterback market in 2020. Trading for Foles in March was much less risky, in terms of the player and strategy, than waiting out the Winston, Dalton or Newton market in April and May. The recent developments with that group shouldn’t give the Bears any hesitation. 

The problem, though, is that the Bears misplayed the quarterback market three years ago. It’s why we’re wondering if they should’ve signed a quarterback off the league’s scrap heap or traded for a career backup. What we should be wondering is what a nine-figure contract extension for the first quarterback off the board in 2017 looks like. 

Again: That’s the problem here. Not trading for Foles in March instead of signing someone in April. 

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Why Bears chose Nick Foles over Cam Newton, Teddy Bridgewater and Andy Dalton

Why Bears chose Nick Foles over Cam Newton, Teddy Bridgewater and Andy Dalton

So Nick Foles is the guy who will “push” Mitch Trubisky. At the bare minimum, he’s who the Bears decided is best suited to compete with Trubisky to be QB1; at the most, he’ll walk into training camp as the favorite to win the job.

But why not Andy Dalton? Or Cam Newton? Or Teddy Bridgewater? Or Jameis Winston?

Or Jalen Hurts? Or Jacob Eason? Or Jake Fromm? 

The Bears, as it turned out, had plenty of options when they agreed to a deal for Foles. 

Maybe the perception of the Foles trade has been altered by the Monday rumor that the Bears were discussing a contract with Bridgewater, who eventually agreed to a three-year contract with Carolina worth a reported $63 million. Bridgewater was the best realistic option available to the Bears — with an emphasis on realistic, which removes Tom Brady, Philip Rivers and Derek Carr from this discussion.

I heard the same rumor that Bridgewater was hesitant to come to the Bears because he didn’t think it’d be a fair competition with Trubisky, for what it’s worth. There’s at least a little credence to it, since Ryan Pace did publicly back Trubisky multiple times this offseason, including when directly asked if he expected Trubisky to be his starter at the NFL Combine. Even if you don’t think he meant what he said, those words might've counted for something.

But I mostly don’t buy it, since if the Bears were offering Bridgewater north of $20 million, they wouldn’t be doing it with the thought he could be a backup. That’s starter money — mid-level money, but starter money nonetheless. It's hard to see Bridgewater and his camp seeing that money and being scared off by a few words in a press conference. 

The real reason Bridgewater didn’t come to the Bears, though, is the Panthers were just a better fit. Bridgewater has an existing relationship with hotshot offensive coordinator Joe Brady, which should allow him the best chance to showcase his talents over the course of a short-term contract with an eye on another big payday in two or three years.

The Bears would’ve had to overpay to try to sway Bridgewater away from Carolina, and that would’ve been counter-productive to their ability to address other needs on the roster.

So what about the guy Bridgewater is replacing in Carolina, Cam Newton?

The thought of Newton coming to Chicago healthy and motivated was an enticing one. Don’t discount Newton’s desire to stick it to the Panthers after a less-than-amicable breakup — and the Bears’ trip to Charlotte this fall would’ve been a perfect opportunity for some sweet, sweet revenge.

But Newton never was really on the Bears’ radar. His uncertain health status would’ve been a red flag in normal times; with the NFL’s travel restrictions amid the COVID-19 pandemic, it would’ve been impossible for the Bears’ medical staff to get him checked out in a timely fashion. What if the Bears agreed to trade for Newton, only to discover a problem in a physical a few months from now?

Plus, Newton has an 82.6 passer rating since his 2015 MVP year — about three points lower than Trubisky’s career passer rating. He turns 31 in May, and is a better fit for a team that doesn’t *need* better quarterback play in 2020, as the Bears do.

(Yes, Foles has an injury history, too, and is older than Newton, which needs to be mentioned here as a counter-point.)

As for Dalton, his connection with offensive coordinator Bill Lazor — his OC in Cincinnati for two years — helped his case. But if the Bears were going to go with a quarterback who has connections to their coaching staff, they were going to go with the guy who has a relationship with Nagy (and Foles borrowed Nagy's car for a summer once!). 

After all, Nagy is still the most important figure in this offensive structure, not Lazor. Foles also worked with new quarterbacks coach John DiFilippo in Jacksonville last year, and Lazor was his QB coach in Philadelphia in 2013. Might as well commit to the guy who has connections to the head coach and not just the offensive coordinator.

And since he’s still available, let’s get this out of the way: Winston would’ve been a mistake, even on a discounted contract. 

Also, drafting a quarterback to push Trubisky didn't make much sense a month ago, and without an offseason program and with the possibility of a shortened training camp, there's little chance a rookie could come in and win the Bears' starting job to open the season. 

The biggest question to me isn’t why the Bears chose Foles — that seems clear, even if it’s not particularly exciting. The biggest question is why they offered a fourth-round pick, when seemingly no other team was interested in his services (especially after the Colts signed Rivers).

Maybe the Jaguars signaled they wouldn’t trade Foles for anything less than a fourth, and the Bears decided that price was worth it for the guy they liked most. If Foles turns out to be 2020’s version of Ryan Tannehill, it’ll be worth it.

But this whole thing boils down to trust. Nagy trusts Foles. That’s why he was the choice, and not someone else.  

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Tom Brady signing with Buccaneers could trigger best-case scenario for Bears

Tom Brady signing with Buccaneers could trigger best-case scenario for Bears

The Bears were never going to sign Tom Brady, who per multiple reports is expected to sign with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. But the TB12 to TB move will reverberate within the Bears’ search for a new quarterback. 

Now the real fun begins, beyond laughing at these photoshops of Brady wearing those awful (soon to be retired) Bucs uniforms. 

And if you’re looking for a best-case view of the Bears’ quarterback search, this is it: Brady going to Tampa Bay just might mean the Bears have their pick of the remainder of the available quarterbacks. 

Granted, that group does not include Teddy Bridgewater — who will sign with the Carolina Panthers, per multiple reports — or Derek Carr. But here’s how this possibility shakes out: 

1. The Patriots stick with Jarrett Stidham. 

NBCS-Boston colleague Phil Perry broke down why Stidham, a 2019 fourth-round pick is currently the favorite to replace Brady. Bill Belichick isn’t the type to overpay for anyone; why would he trade a draft pick for Andy Dalton or Cam Newton or Nick Foles only to pay them a good chunk of money, too? 

The Patriots might take a back seat and wait for Dalton or Newton to get cut before snapping them up for cheap, of course. Essentially, they’d circle back in a few days once the market is further squeezed. So don’t discount the possibility they wait this thing out and avoid making a move for a quarterback this week. 

2. The Chargers eye the draft. 

Do the Chargers think they’re better off signing Jameis Winston or trading for Newton when they have the sixth overall pick and could use it on, say, Oregon’s Justin Herbert (or trading up to draft Tua Tagovailoa)?

Maybe they won’t, meaning they’ll “go” with Tyrod Taylor for now and shoot for a long-term replacement in April. Either way, if the Chargers bow out of the quarterback market after the Patriots this week, that’s tremendous news for the Bears. 

3. Someone else signs Jameis Winston. 

The Bears should not sign Jameis Winston. Let’s get that out of the way. He has a history of alleged sexual assault, first and foremost. He also threw 30 interceptions in 2019. 

Winston is the sort of guy who could completely torpedo a season for whatever team signs him in a bet on his upside. The Bears’ defense is too good — especially after agreeing to bring in Robert Quinn — to risk betting on Winston’s potential. The Bears would be better off with Mitch Trubisky as their starter than Winston, and would be better off getting a different quarterback to "push" the 2017 No. 2 overall pick. 

This all being said, Winston’s best-case in free agency probably was going back to Tampa Bay. That option is gone, and he could be had for a relatively cheap price as a result. 

But the Bears should stay away here, and hope that another team that “needs” a quarterback — maybe the Dolphins? — brings him in. 

4. Who else gets a seat at the table?

The rest of the NFL won’t need a new starting quarterback if these first three things happen. The Bears, all of a sudden, become the most attractive destination for a wayward quarterback — not because they’re absolutely ditching Mitch Trubisky, but because they’d at the very least provide a clear path to starting for whoever they acquire. 

In this scenario, Dalton, Foles and Newton are all available with only one real suitor: The Bears. 

The Bengals and Panthers don’t want to cut Dalton or Newton for nothing, and it doesn’t make sense for the Jaguars to cut Foles given his cap number. So maybe the Jaguars are the first team willing to pull back and not trade Foles for peanuts. 

But the Bengals and Panthers? Maybe there’s a scenario in which Pace is able to lowball his way into getting one of those two quarterbacks. That’d be a best-case scenario, even if the quarterback the Bears getting didn’t seem like a best-case option at the start of the week. 

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