Bears Will Have to Get Creative With Quarterback Solution After Carson Wentz Trade

Matt Nagy
Matt Nagy / Quinn Harris/Getty Images

Carson Wentz is now a member of the Indianapolis Colts. The AFC South has a new quarterback to deal with, Indy has a massive reclamation project on their hands, and the Eagles have to lick their wounds after getting only a third-round pick and a conditional second-rounder in exchange for their former franchise quarterback and eating a $33 million dead cap hit thanks to his obscene contract. Those are merely a few of the ripple effects that will come from a transaction of this magnitude.

One of the other ripples involves the Chicago Bears. Da Bears were the only other team officially linked to Wentz in trade talks before it all went down. On the surface, he was the easiest solution to Chicago's quarterback problem. Mitchell Trubisky is a free agent and the measure to which he has disappointed on the field is well-documented. Nick Foles is a fine backup but will never again be a starter for a contending team. Wentz was both a quarterback who showed flashes of elite play and available to acquire for a lower price than, say, Matthew Stafford or Deshaun Watson.

A future in which the Bears gave up at least one first-round pick to go for the quick fix was very feasible as recently as earlier this week. Bart Scott called them Super Bowl contenders if they did, while Colin Cowherd believed there was no downside to kicking the tires. That choice has now been taken away from them with Wentz off the market.

Which is good, to me. Unless Wentz woke up in Chicago and remembered how to play quarterback at an MVP level, the Bears were not going to become overnight contenders with a Wentz trade. The price required would have hampered the immediate and long-term potential of the team as currently assembled, and Wentz simply is not going to wake up a better quarterback. The Bears don't have the time to wait for him to figure it out. He might have had the highest ceiling of any non-Watson quarterback left, but he also has a lower floor (and is far more expensive) than any non-Watson quarterback available.

Chicago now has to get creative with the obvious option off the table. Watson is still a possibility, but a rather slim one at that; if the Texans open the floodgates and begin a bidding war for his services, Chicago can't hold a candle to what the Dolphins or the Jets or even the Panthers could offer.

Where does that leave them? There are a few paths down which Bears fans could find happiness. They have the No. 20 pick in this year's draft, too low for any of the top prospects but definitely high enough to pick a project QB like Mac Jones or Kyle Trask. In that vein, there are also a handful of replacement-level quarterbacks available in free agency to hold them over while a draft pick develops; Ryan Fitzpatrick, Andy Dalton, Tyrod Taylor, and Jacoby Brissett are all average-at-best, slightly-below-average-at-worst free agent quarterbacks for that purpose.

Chicago could also get funky and trade for a backup that has shown starting potential. Marcus Mariota and Gardner Minshew both come to mind. The Raiders are listening to offers for Mariota and the Jaguars will almost certainly do the same for Minshew with inevitable first overall pick Trevor Lawrence en route. The bust potential for both is fairly high, but neither can be worse than what Trubisky/Foles was for most of the 2020 season and their boom potential could mean a postseason appearance and a decent team.

From the outside looking in, the Bears' most realistic option might be Cam Newton. The fact that they were involved in the Wentz talks means they're looking to bring in a big name signal-caller who has the capability to be above-average right away, even if said signal-caller didn't show it in 2020. Newton is a free agent and fits that bill. Matt Nagy fancies himself a creative schemer and could help Newton improve from an abysmal 2020, although going from New England's receiving corps to Chicago's is not exactly a big upgrade. He's a known quantity as far as what he brings to the table and would be safer than giving up picks for a Mariota or Minshew type.

The Bears have options. Wentz was just the quick fix solution that looked tempting but likely wouldn't have worked out. Now they can begin exploring other paths in earnest.