Ranking the Bears' potential trade partners for No. 1 pick
By Alyssa Barbieri,
The Chicago Bears are sitting atop the 2023 NFL draft with the No. 1 pick, which gives general manager Ryan Poles plenty of leverage.
The expectation is the Bears will look to trade out of the top spot, as they don’t need a quarterback with Justin Fields on the roster. And there should be no shortage of suitors for the No. 1 pick, which would give them choice of draft pick. Or, most likely, quarterback.
Chicago stands to gain substantial draft compensation from teams in desperate need of a young quarterback, with top prospects like Alabama’s Bryce Young, Ohio State’s C.J. Stroud and Kentucky’s Will Levis on the board.
Poles could even look to trade back twice and still land a top prospect to go along with the addition draft compensation.
With that in mind, we’re ranking the most likely suitors for the Bears’ No. 1 pick, explaining why it makes sense and why it could ultimately not work out.
New York Jets
2023 draft order: No. 13
Why it makes sense: The Jets are a quarterback away from being a playoff team, as evidenced by last season. Zach Wilson was benched (twice), and despite what the team says about not giving up on him, it’s clear Wilson isn’t the new answer in New York. The Jets aren’t going to find a quarterback at No. 13, which means their best bet is to explore what it would take to move up for one.
Why it might not happen: The Jets are outside the top 10, and they’re the team with the lowest first-round selection on this list. While the Bears could still conceivably entertain the idea of a trade, it would cost quite a bit to move up 12 spots to No. 1. Also, it depends on how far Poles is willing to trade back, especially if he doesn’t want to miss out on a top prospect. If there’s an intriguing offer on the table and Chicago wouldn’t have to move outside the top 10, it’s an offer Poles takes.
2023 draft order: No. 6
Why it makes sense: The Lions have two first-round picks (Nos. 6, 18) in 2023, which gives them the ammo to pull off a trade for the top spot and a franchise quarterback. While Jared Goff had an impressive season, he’s not the long-term answer at quarterback. With that extra first-round pick, Detroit could reasonably pull off a trade with their division rivals and land their choice of quarterback.
Why it might not happen: Goff certainly isn’t the Lions’ quarterback of the future, but he’s coming off a Pro Bowl season under offensive coordinator Ben Johnson. There’s an argument that Detroit’s offense was just finding a groove before their postseason bid was cut short. Not to mention, Goff still has two years left on his deal, where he’s slated to have cap hits of $30.98 million (2023) and $31.98 million (2024). If the Lions decided to part ways, it would account for $10 million in dead cap.
2023 draft order: No. 5
Why it makes sense: The Seahawks are in a prime position to draft their franchise quarterback sitting at No. 5. With Geno Smith set to hit free agency — and Seattle’s top-five draft position — it suggests the Seahawks could look to bring in a new face at QB. But there are no shortage of teams looking to select a quarterback, including some that could trade up and jump them. If Seattle falls in love with a prospect, it wouldn’t be a surprise to see them make an offer to Chicago. And they’re sitting at that sweet spot where the Bears could trade back and still land a top prospect.
Why it might not happen: Smith was a pleasant surprise for the Seahawks last season, and he showed that he’s a starting quarterback in the NFL. But Seattle could certainly look to bring Smith back — in a starting role. The Seahawks might play the field and wait to see if a quarterback falls to them rather than trade additional draft picks for one.
2023 draft order: No. 8
Why it makes sense: The Falcons are looking for their next franchise quarterback, and that may or may not be Desmond Ridder. According to The Athletic, it’s unclear whether Atlanta intends to move forward with Ridder as their starter as “no one outside the building knows because no one inside the building is talking.” The Falcons will do their due diligence on this class of quarterbacks, and they’re in a prime position to trade up with the Bears — for the right price. It’s an offer Poles would entertain as it keeps Chicago inside the top 10 and in a position to reap additional picks and a top prospect.
Why it might not happen: Ridder, a former third-round pick, had flashes in his rookie season, which might be enough for him to get another season to prove he’s the guy in Atlanta. It’s simply a matter of how the organization views Ridder and their evaluation of guys like Bryce Young, C.J. Stroud and Will Levis in this draft. Then again, it could also be a matter of the Bears getting an offer of equal value from a team with higher position in the draft.
2023 draft order: No. 11
Why it makes sense: The Titans were a quarterback away from a postseason appearance, so you figure Mike Vrabel and co. will be exploring avenues to move up and land one in the draft. Ryan Tannehill’s future is in doubt, and Malik Willis was benched in his rookie season in favor of Joshua Dobbs. All signs point to Tennessee going all-in on landing a quarterback. According to Da Bears Blog, Chicago has already fielded a couple of calls for the top selection. And it sounds like the Titans are one of those teams. Granted, Tennessee is going to have to pay handsomely to move up 10 spots for the top selection. But it’s not out of the question.
Why it might not happen: While Tannehill’s future is in question, there’s still a chance the Titans elect to move forward with him for his last season. Tannehill has a cap hit of $36.6 million, and it would cost $18.8 million in dead money to part ways with him. Or Tennessee could simply choose to explore another avenue for acquiring a quarterback, where Aaron Rodgers and Derek Carr look to be on the move.
2023 draft order: No. 9
Why it makes sense: Frank Reich was hired as the Panthers’ new head coach, and he’ll likely be looking to start anew with a young quarterback. According to GM Scott Fitterer, Carolina would prefer to “draft and develop” a quarterback, even if that means trading up to land him. Bryce Young, C.J. Stroud or Will Levis would certainly fit the bill. The Panthers are in a position to move up with the Bears, as Carolina is right on the border of a top-10 pick.
Why it might not happen: Fitterer noted that the Panthers aren’t committed strictly to addressing quarterback in the NFL draft, and there could be some options on the trade market in Aaron Rodgers, Derek Carr and Trey Lance. Then there’s the matter of Chicago perhaps not wanting to move that far back in the draft, which would limit their ability to land a top prospect in Georgia’s Jalen Carter or Alabama’s Will Anderson Jr. If the Panthers wanted to force the Bears’ hand, it would take a whole lot of convincing when it comes to compensation.
Las Vegas Raiders
2023 draft order: No. 7
Why it makes sense: The Raiders have made it clear that they’re moving on from Derek Carr, who’s expected to be traded this offseason. Which leaves Las Vegas without a quarterback. But they could address that hole in this year’s draft, where there are three notable quarterbacks expected to go inside the top-10. While there are two teams that figure to be favorites ahead of the Raiders, Las Vegas is sitting in a good position at No. 7 for a potential trade with the Bears. It all depends on just how desperate Las Vegas is for a quarterback — and what they’d be willing to give up tp move up six spots.
Why it might not happen: The Raiders could choose to explore an alternate route to acquiring a quarterback this offseason. Aaron Rodgers and Trey Lance are some names expected to be on the trade block and Jimmy Garoppolo is set to hit free agency. Then there’s the matter of whether the Bears would want to move outside the top-five if they can avoid it, as top guys like Jalen Carter and Will Anderson Jr. would be off the board by then.
2023 draft order: No. 2
Why it makes sense: The Texans need a quarterback, and they’ll have no shortage of options sitting at second overall. But if they have their sights set on one prospect in particular, Houston will have to move up on spot with the Bears. Todd McShay believes the Texans will “do everything they can” to trade up with Chicago. The reason? Their division foes, the Colts, who are in a prime spot to leap frog them for the top selection. Sure, Houston could be content with any of the three top prospects. But the thought of their divisional rival moving ahead of them and getting their pick of quarterback might be enough for the Texans to pull the trigger on a deal with the Bears.
Why it might not happen: The Texans are still in a position to land a top quarterback in the draft. If there isn’t a consensus QB1 among the group of Bryce Young, C.J. Stroud and Will Levis, Houston could be content with simply letting one fall to them at No. 2. Then again, they also could’ve let the No. 1 pick come to them in the final week. Or, if the Bears can’t find a trade partner or simply elect to stay put and draft a top defensive prospect at No. 1, the Texans could still get their first choice of quarterback without giving up draft capital.
2023 draft order: No. 4
Why it makes sense: The Colts have been stuck in quarterback purgatory since Andrew Luck retired, which has included names such as Philip Rivers, Carson Wentz, Matt Ryan and Sam Ehlinger in the last three years. Indianapolis is the favorite suitor to land a deal with the Bears, and for good reason. The Colts are just desperate enough and have the draft capital to make it worth Chicago’s while, where the Bears would remain in a position to draft Jalen Carter or Will Anderson Jr. Colts GM Chris Ballard said he’d do “whatever it takes” to move up and get the quarterback he desired, and Chicago is counting on that.
Why it might not happen: Sure, Indianapolis could explore free agency or the trade market. But it sounds like they’re done with bringing in veterans and hoping it fixes things, which means the draft is their top priority. Like the Texans, the Colts could be content with letting the board fall to them. If there isn’t a consensus top quarterback prospect between Bryce Young, C.J. Stroud or Will Levis, Indianapolis is in a good position to land one of them and retain draft picks. That is, assuming the Bears don’t trade the No. 1 pick and let another QB-needy team sneak its way inside the top-four and risk losing out on all three. Would the Colts be willing to risk it?
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