3 ways Bears can upgrade at QB this offseason
With Bears quarterback Jay Cutler likely sidelined for the remainder of the 2016 season due to injury, many are speculating that we’ve seen the last of Cutler in Chicago. It’s one thing to cut ties with the struggling QB—it’s another to actually upgrade at the position this offseason.
Below are the three best options the Bears likely have in terms of improving their QB depth chart for the 2017 season.
1. Trade for Patriots QB Jimmy Garoppolo.
Jimmy Garoppolo will likely be the most-pursued QB in the offseason by teams looking to build around a young quarterback. Although we have fairly small sample size to draw from, Garoppolo has shown all the traits necessary to have sustainable success. In his regular-season game action this year (two-plus games), he played extremely well in most areas, but most notably under pressure, where he was first among QBs in passer rating, at 106.0, and third in adjusted completion, at 73.3 percent, through the first three weeks. His ability to play within the structure of the offense—as well as create—make the former Eastern Illinois product Chicago’s best option.
Garoppolo is under contract with New England through the 2017 season, so this would obviously have to happen via trade. The Patriots will have a decision to make for the future, and it might not be all that easy. Tom Brady is showing no signs of slowing down—his arm and movement skills at 39 years old are perhaps better than ever. It’s also tough to let a guy like Garoppolo go; although he will likely never be Tom Brady, he appears to be everything you would hope to have in a QB when Brady finally does retire. The 14-year age gap is substantial, but it’s still hard to see Brady going anywhere soon.
The Bears could get in a bidding war for Garoppolo with a team like the Browns, who have plenty of ammo with draft picks heading into the offseason. The price could be steep—likely a first rounder and another early-round pick—but worth it for a Chicago team searching for a long-term answer. Pursuing Jimmy Garoppolo makes the most sense, not to mention a perfect fit for what Dowell Loggains has shown he likes to do in his first year as offensive coordinator.
2. Trade for Cowboys QB Tony Romo.
If John Fox and GM Ryan Pace are retained after the season, the pressure to win immediately will be there, and Tony Romo would be a guy to step in and perform at a high level. At age 36, the current Dallas backup QB is a good short-term solution, as a healthy Romo is still as good a team will find out of the options available. There is obvious risk involved, with Romo’s last full healthy season coming in 2014, but everything you’ve seen on the field when he’s been healthy the past couple years leads you to believe that he still has potentially a few good years left in the tank. In his last full season played (2014), Romo earned the second-highest overall grade of his career (86.8), while being first in passer rating 113.2, and finishing amng the top-five in deep-ball accuracy (50.8 percent), and passer rating under pressure (80.0).
Romo’s contract with the Cowboys runs through 2019, meaning Dallas will take a big cap hit regardless of whether they trade or release him. Romo will be picky when deciding where to finish out his career, and the Cowboys likely will give him the luxury to pick the spot he sees as the best fit. If Romo believes there is enough there with the Bears as a whole, the partnership could work out well. Romo would have success in any type of system, but the fit scheme-wise with Dowell Loggains’ spread-type passing attack could be the best offensive match among the potential landing spots that have been rumored.
3. Draft a quarterback.
While the already-declared DeShaun Watson (Clemson) gets the most hype, if the Bears choose to go the draft route, a case can be made that Mitch Trubisky (North Carolina), DeShone Kizer (Notre Dame), and Mason Rudolph (Oklahoma State) arguably possess the most sustainable traits to be a franchise quarterback in Chicago. All three are underclassmen, needing refinement, and would benefit from another year in school, but the lack of senior prospects will leave them with decisions to make. There is still a lot of work to do evaluating this year’s potential quarterback class, but at the moment, there isn’t much separating these three.
Trubisky, a fourth-year junior and the oldest of the group, is still developing in his first year as a college starter, but could have a slight edge at the moment. He is a fast decision-maker, displaying a quick, accurate, and powerful arm with every throw in the book, and could be the best fit for the Bears scheme-wise. He shows the poise and feel for the rush needed to have consistent success, but is still a relatively inexperienced player at this point.
DeShone Kizer—a third-year sophomore—and the Irish have had a poor year record-wise, but the QB is still having a good season overall. Kizer is not getting much help around him, attributing to some of the struggles the offense has seen. He’s often missed too many easy throws, and his ball security in the pocket is a concern, but Kizer still possesses a lot of things to like—most notably the ability to scan and see the field in a way that is compatible to Cowboys QB Dak Prescott.
Mason Rudolph continues to rise and gets better every time he takes the field. The third-year junior possesses a lot of the necessary traits, with an ability to instinctively feel the rush and work through progressions, and is also the best decision-maker of the group. His deep-ball touch is uncanny, as he leads the NCAA in passing yards on throws traveling 20-plus yards in the air, with 1,435.
While this class may lack a sure-fire No. 1 pick at quarterback, with where these underclassmen are in their development, there is enough intrigue to warrant first- or second-round selections for the Bears.