While still unlikely, the possibility of the Bears drafting a quarterback with the 11th pick in the first round is no longer as crazy as it once seemed.
Daniel Jeremiah’s most recent mock draft created a stir amongst Bears fans because he had them taking Carson Wentz in the first round. Ryan Pace has made it clear he wants to build around Jay Cutler, but he has also said he would take the best player available in the draft. The moves he made in free agency should give him the option of doing just that and if it’s a quarterback, so be it.
The Bears needs just aren’t as glaring as they once were. Two weeks ago they needed two inside linebackers, two defensive linemen, a safety, possibly a corner, running back and an offensive lineman. They crossed both the linebacker needs off the list, as well as the need for an offensive tackle in free agency. Unless DeForest Buckner drops, I don’t see good value at defensive line with the 11th pick. The same may be true with running back, cornerback and safety. So, where do they go at 11? Best player available. Which might be a quarterback.
Pace deserves credit for what he accomplished in free agency and he might not be done. While the Bears are far from perfect, they should be able to contend for the playoffs. Unless, of course, Jay Cutler gets hurt. That’s the one guy they simply can’t lose with the way their roster is currently constructed, which makes getting a backup quarterback a priority. A quarterback drafted with the 11th pick should be able to fill in for Cutler if he were to suffer an injury. I’m not sure they can get that in the later rounds.
Many view the projection of a quarterback to the Bears as an anti-Cutler sentiment, but Jeremiah made it pretty clear that it wasn’t about Cutler at all. The fact of the matter is Cutler will be 33 shortly after the draft and he has never played all 16 games for the Bears, missing at least a quarter of the season twice. His salary cap hit reaches $20 million in 2019 and $21.7 million in 2020, when he’ll be 35 and 36, assuming he plays that long. These are legitimate problems.
The Bears are building the rest of their roster around Cutler, but they’re still two years away from seriously contending for the Super Bowl. Even if they do win a Super Bowl with Cutler, the question about what to do next has to be answered. Developmental quarterbacks are usually just bad and the Bears might not have a better chance to get a capable quarterback than they do this year.
I don’t think it’s a safe assumption that Cutler will play the rest of his contract out. He’s a smart dude, a family man with three young children and a pretty extensive concussion history. Cutler loves football, but surely not as much as he loves his kids. He doesn’t like the fame and doesn’t need the money.
Wentz was his highest-rated player on Jeremiah’s board when he picked for the Bears. If the Bears’ board is similar and the draft falls like Jeremiah had it, it’ll be hard for them to pass. The Bears have done their homework on Wentz, even speaking to his high school coach. They also have two other picks in the top 75, which should yield starters and Fox and Fangio have shown the ability to find good defensive starters late in the draft.
I’m not saying it’s going to happen. I still think it’s unlikely that one of the top quarterbacks would even reach the Bears. I also think he’d get some push-back from his 61-year-old head coach, who loves his current quarterback and probably won’t be around for the next one.
But Pace’s activity over the last week has given him the option and its an option many teams would love to have. If a quarterback is the best player on his board and he thinks the team can still contend without a contribution from their first round pick, they just might take a quarterback.
Unlikely, but not crazy.