/Chicago Bears Need to Add Competition for Mitchell Trubisky This Offseason

Chicago Bears Need to Add Competition for Mitchell Trubisky This Offseason

CHICAGO, ILLINOIS - DECEMBER 22: Quarterback Mitchell Trubisky #10 of the Chicago Bears looks to pass during warm ups before taking on the Kansas City Chiefs in the game at Soldier Field on December 22, 2019 in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo by Dylan Buell/Getty Images)

Dylan Buell/Getty Images

It’s easy to understand why the Chicago Bears are giving Mitchell Trubisky one last shot, but it’s just as easy to figure out why they might be interested in another starting-caliber quarterback like Derek Carr

“Mitch is our starter,” general manager Ryan Pace said of Trubisky two days after the 25-year-old’s disappointing third NFL season concluded, per Larry Mayer of the team’s official website. “We believe in Mitch, and we believe in the progress that he’s going to continue to make.”

In order to make Trubisky his quarterback in 2017, Pace sacrificed the No. 3 overall pick in that year’s draft as well two third-round picks and a fourth-round selection. That’s what he traded to the San Francisco 49ers so that Chicago could take Trubisky second overall—eight spots ahead of Patrick Mahomes and 10 ahead of Deshaun Watson. 

CHICAGO, ILLINOIS - AUGUST 29: General manager Ryan Pace of the Chicago Bears walks on the sidelines prior to the preseason game against the Tennessee Titans at Soldier Field on August 29, 2019 in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo by Nuccio DiNuzzo/Getty Images)

Nuccio DiNuzzo/Getty Images

The Bears will have to decide on Trubisky’s fifth-year option for 2021 by May 5, but keeping him at a fully guaranteed cost of $9.2 million for 2020 makes sense when you consider Pace’s aforementioned sacrifice. Giving up on the North Carolina product this quickly would invite humiliation. 

But after Trubisky averaged a league-low 6.1 yards per attempt while running the NFL’s fourth-lowest-scoring offense in what was supposed to be a breakout season, the Bears would be committing football malpractice if they were to stubbornly disregard a quarterback carousel that is expected to spin violently next month. 

It appears they’re aware. 

KOA Colorado’s Benjamin Allbright tweeted Thursday that the Bears “are quietly looking at quarterback options” and that they’d be interested in Carr if he were available. According to Spotrac, the Las Vegas Raiders would save more than $13 million by trading or releasing Carr, who was drafted and groomed by the previous regime. 

DENVER, COLORADO - DECEMBER 29: Quarterback Derek Carr #4 of the Oakland Raiders throws against the Denver Broncos in the second quarter at Empower Field at Mile High on December 29, 2019 in Denver, Colorado. (Photo by Matthew Stockman/Getty Images)

Matthew Stockman/Getty Images

Via trade, Carr would cost the Bears less than $20 million annually for the next three seasons. In the current QB contract climate, that’s a superb price for a soon-to-be 29-year-old with three Pro Bowls on his resume.

Carr isn’t a consistent game-changer, but he’s often efficient, he’s missed just two starts in six years, and in 2019, he completed more than 70 percent of his passes while posting a career-high passer rating.

In a perfect world, the Bears would make a deal for Carr, exercise Trubisky’s fifth-year option (which is guaranteed only for injury) and force those two to compete in 2020 at a total cost of $25.7 million. Then they could release either next offseason without significant salary-cap implications.

Now, maybe Carr would be too expensive on the open market with Trubisky already on board. And with Carr’s track record and price, it’d be hard for the Bears to give Trubisky a fair shot. 

But that’s the beauty of this year’s quarterback market. For once, there are more intriguing quarterbacks than there are teams that need them. 

If this is a game of musical chairs, there are no more than a dozen seats: Chicago, Las Vegas, Carolina, Cincinnati, Denver, Jacksonville, the Los Angeles Chargers, Indianapolis, Miami, New England, Tampa Bay, maybe Tennessee.

But consider how many dudes are waiting for the music to stop: Tom Brady, Philip Rivers, Teddy Bridgewater, Taysom Hill, Ryan Tannehill, Marcus Mariota, Jameis Winston, Case Keenum, Joe Burrow, Tua Tagovailoa, Justin Herbert, Jordan Love. Maybe Carr, Cam Newton, Jacoby Brissett, Andy Dalton, Joe Flacco. Perhaps even Dak Prescott. 

Charles Rex Arbogast/Associated Press

Even if the four prospects above wind up in backup roles early, most—if not all—of the teams that draft them will remove themselves from the open-market quarterback sweepstakes.

And even if Brady returns to the Patriots; Hill re-signs with the Saints as a restricted free agent; Tannehill returns to the Titans; Winston returns to the Buccaneers; and Carr, Newton and Brissett stay put, there’ll be practically no chairs left for Rivers, Bridgewater, Mariota, Keenum and Dalton, all of whom would be upgrades over current Bears No. 2 quarterback Chase Daniel. 

The 33-year-old signal-caller has won two games as a starter in his decadelong NFL career. Bears head coach Matt Nagy might have a soft spot for him based on their history together in Chicago and Kansas City, but he’s a strong backup on a good day. He can’t and shouldn’t compete for a starting job, and the Bears probably realize that. 

D. Ross Cameron/Associated Press

A Trubisky-Bridgewater pairing would be intriguing. It would also be more balanced than Trubisky-Carr. Trubisky-Mariota would almost certainly be cheaper than most other options, and both quarterbacks would be motivated considering Mariota was benched last year in Tennessee. Trubisky-Winston are frequently social-media punchlines, but both still have upside entering their age-26 campaigns. 

Two quarterbacks of that ilk might seem luxurious, but the Bears have no choice. They can’t afford to gamble that Trubisky will suddenly put it together in 2020 without a strong backup plan in place. Their roster is built to compete now. 

Per Spotrac, they’re paying key defensive players Khalil Mack, Eddie Jackson, Kyle Fuller, Akiem Hicks and Eddie Goldman a combined $74.1 million a year. No. 1 receiver Allen Robinson has an average annual salary of $14 million. And top offensive linemen Cody Whitehair and Charles Leno make a combined $19.5 million a year.

They invested more than half of their payroll on eight players in their primes. 

They’re projected to be low on salary-cap space ($26.3 million), but they have few notable impending free agents. And they have no massive non-quarterback-related holes to fill on the open market. 

This is the right time. Pace might have erred in 2017, but he can begin to make up for that mistake now. That doesn’t mean ditching his quarterback just yet, but he must bring in high-priced insurance this offseason. 

                                                            

Brad Gagnon has covered the NFL for Bleacher Report since 2012. Follow him on Twitter. Or don’t. It’s entirely your choice.