From Davante to Daron: Finding Bears' ideal offseason plan originally appeared on NBC Sports Chicago
We spent almost the entire 2022 season discussing the critical offseason ahead for general manager Ryan Poles and the Bears.
After a 3-14 campaign, it's finally here.
The Bears own the No. 1 overall pick and have over $100 million in salary cap to spend. There should be no question that the roster around quarterback Justin Fields will have more talent in 2023.
If it doesn't, something went horribly wrong.
With a little lull in the action before the offseason truly gets underway, I asked fans for their ideal offseason in three moves.
It seems everyone is ready for Daron Payne to be a Bear. The rest? That's where things diverge.
Let's dive into seven different ideal offseason paths for the Bears, graded based on quality of moves and whether or not they are realistic.
You're going to see Payne pop up a lot in this mailbag. I've been pounding the table for the Bears to acquire Payne since before the season started.
Those around the league believe Washington now would like to find a way to keep him in D.C. That's not a huge surprise after the career year Payne just authored in the nation's capital. But if he hits the market, the Bears should move heaven and earth to bring him to Chicago. Not only would he give head coach Matt Eberflus the defensive "engine" he needs, but it would also give the Bears a lot more flexibility in the draft. With a three-technique in the bag, the Bears can draft Anderson or move down past four, get more draft capital, and still get a good edge rusher like Tyree Wilson or Myles Murphy.
As for the wide receiver issue, the Bears already traded the No. 32 overall pick for Chase Claypool. That pick would be handy this offseason if a guy like Higgins becomes available. The Panthers love Moore, and I have a hard time seeing them deal him after hiring Frank Reich.
If the Bears can get Anderson and find a way to add a late first or early second-round pick and nab a sliding Jaxon Smith-Njigba, the draft will already be a win.
I like all these moves. The grade gets dinged a little since I find part two and three to be a bit "pie in the sky." But not impossible.
I love Anderson. If the Bears want him, they probably can't move past No. 3 unless Arizona trades that pick. Can they get No. 2 and a 2024 first from Houston to move up one spot? Maybe but I still feel like the Colts are the best trade target.
It will be interesting to see how the Bears handle Montgomery and the running back position. Poles and Eberflus love Montgomery, as does the rest of the locker room. Trading away Robert Quinn and Roquan Smith significantly impacted the team. It's hard to keep losing beloved veterans, especially Montgomery, who epitomizes how Poles and Eberflus want the Bears to play.
I think Montgomery and the Bears will be able to find common ground on a reasonable new contract. If they can't, I'd expect Poles to draft a running back on Day 3 to pair with Khalil Herbert. Perhaps he takes a swing at Miles Sanders. I think the Cowboys will end up tagging Pollard since he was far more effective than Ezekiel Elliott this season.
Poles vowed to be disciplined with spending this offseason. He understands this rebuild will take longer than one offseason.
Signing Payne and Davenport wouldn't scream discipline, but that would automatically take the Bears' defensive line from a smoldering pile of rubble to an above-average unit. It would be the free-agent version of how Poles reshaped the Bears' secondary last offseason by drafting Kyler Gordon and Jaquan Brisker.
As stated, I'm all in on Payne. I like Davenport, but the injury history does worry me a bit. The price has to be right for a guy who has never played 500 snaps in a season.
Look, I get the fascination with Adams. I don't think the Raiders are interested in trading him, and I don't think he wants to be dealt. Scratch it off.
This is probably the best and most realistic set of moves the Bears can hope for this offseason.
It relies on the Commanders and the Chiefs letting marquee free agents hit the market, which isn't a great bet. But if Brown and Payne make it to free agency, they are two players that would automatically upgrade the Bears' roster in critical areas.
Brown has had great success in different systems in Baltimore and Kansas City. He would give the Bears a long-term answer at left tackle and allow them to move Braxton Jones to right tackle or make him a swing option.
We've established that the Bears' first move should be signing Payne if he hits the market.
I do think the Colts are the most likely trade partner. It's a desperate franchise in search of a long-term answer at quarterback. A trade down to four could net the Bears a 2024 first and a 2023 second-round pick to make up for the one lost in the Claypool deal.
The issue is that I don't think Anderson will be there at four unless the first three selections are quarterbacks. If the Cardinals stick at No. 3, I have difficulty seeing them pass on Anderson. They have a big need at edge rusher, and Anderson seems poised to be a star.
As for Aiyuk, he is someone I circled as a potential trade candidate. He'd have to want out. The 49ers love Aiyuk, and his skill set blends well with Deebo Samuel and George Kittle.
All are great moves, but outside of Payne, I think these are bordering on unrealistic.
I still don't think Hopkins is the receiver the Bears should target, given his age and need for a new contract relatively soon.
But if the Cardinals are entering a complete rebuild and Hopkins can be had for a second-round pick, I think the Bears should go for it, especially if they can replenish that pick in a trade down past No. 4.
RELATED: Saquon's contract ask could determine Bears' interest
The 49ers moved up nine spots. The Carolina Panthers currently sit at No. 9 and have no franchise quarterback. Could the Bears get No. 9, a 2023 second, 2024 first, and 2025 first to move down eight spots? Might be asking too much. But the farther down the Bears drop, the larger the haul becomes.
Moving down to the seven-to-12 range would cost the Bears a chance at an elite talent. That's a risk Poles will have to gauge when weighing offers from teams desperate to find a signal-caller.
I just ...
It works in Madden, but if the Bears are building for sustained winning, they have to get more out of the No. 1 pick than a 30-year-old receiver and a 29-year-old defensive lineman. Both are elite at the moment, but there's no telling how long they can play at that level.
Building through the draft is essential. If the Bears had the rest of their roster sorted out, adding Adams and Buckner would be a home run. But the smart move is to add young, cost-controlled players with elite talent with an eye on 2024-2025 for realistic contention.
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