The Carolina Panthers might now be on the draft clock, but it seems general manager Ryan Poles just put the Chicago Bears ahead of schedule.
On Friday afternoon, Poles traded the No. 1 overall pick in the 2023 NFL Draft to Carolina for an absolute haul.
The Bears not only received Carolina’s No. 9 pick in this year’s draft but also the No. 61 pick, the Panthers’ 2024 first-round selection and their 2025 second-round pick. Oh, and Carolina threw in its top receiver, DJ Moore, who instantly becomes quarterback Justin Fields‘ top target in Chicago.
The Bears now hold nine picks in the 2023 NFL Draft — four of which are in the top 65. They’ve also already addressed a major need at wide receiver and could still reinforce the position through the draft. Jaxon Smith-Njigba, Jordan Addison and Quentin Johnston are rated as first-round receivers.
Or, the Bears could opt to get an offensive tackle, someone such as Northwestern’s own Peter Skoronski or Ohio State’s Paris Johnson Jr. It’s a fantastic cornerback class — they could address that position early. Or they could wait until the second round where they pick No. 55 as well as No. 61.
Related: Bears deal No. 1 pick to Carolina for four picks, DJ Moore
Consider this as well: With the way quarterbacks rise and the very real possibility that four QBs are picked in the top eight, the Bears could be looking at only missing out on four non-QB prospects before it’s their turn to pick. That’s nothing. With all the holes they have to fill, they are going to be able to get an immediate-impact player who will change whichever side of the ball he’s on.
And those are just some of the draft possibilities.
Not only do they have a hefty amount of draft capital, they also have around $100 million in cap space to work with.
Bears trade No. 1 overall pick in NFL Draft to Panthers
Emmanuel Acho, LeSean McCoy, Joy Taylor and Ric Bucher react to news of the Bears trading the first overall pick in the NFL Draft to the Panthers.
Yet, even with all those immediate resources at Poles’ fingertips, the thing that’s most important is that it doesn’t just help the Bears now. It also helps them in 2024 and 2025. There is a lasting impact from trading down just eight spots and remaining in the top 10. That tells me Poles’ approach is a patient one — and one that’s focusing on setting up sustained success, not just trying to capture lightning in a bottle.
Though this does provide the opportunity to upgrade the Bears’ roster immediately.
Chicago’s wide receiver room now boasts Moore, Darnell Mooney and Chase Claypool as its top three. They also have tight end Cole Kmet, who Fields has already enjoyed chemistry with, and a solid run game should they hold onto David Montgomery or draft a suitable replacement.
However the Bears acquire more offensive line help will also upgrade that side of the ball in a way that will help lead to a true evaluation of Fields as the potential quarterback of the future.
And guess what? If Fields doesn’t show the Bears he can be the guy going forward, they’re now armed with multiple 2024 first-round picks in a draft that has Caleb Williams and Drake Maye headlining its quarterback class.
If Fields does end up being a cornerstone, as it seems they expect him to be, now they have even more capital in the first round and still don’t need a quarterback.
There was no downside to holding onto Fields for another year to be certain of his standing either way. Thanks to trading out of the first overall pick, which will likely be used on a quarterback anyway, there is now no downside to what the Bears can do this offseason. This is an absolute slam dunk for Poles and his staff in just their second year in Chicago.
I do have to wonder if the news of Georgia defensive tackle Jalen Carter’s arrest influenced the Bears’ decision to trade all the way down to No. 9. Prior to the Carter news, most were in agreement that a trade down to No. 4 with the Indianapolis Colts made the most sense. It was a good balance of likely being able to get a future first-round pick while snagging one of the two best defensive prospects in the draft.
The Bears need a three-tech to make that defense work. They also need edge-rushing help. Carter and Alabama’s Will Anderson fit the bill there. With the Cardinals as the only team that would have been ahead of them not taking a quarterback, the Bears were guaranteed one of the two aforementioned defenders.
However, Poles and the Bears organization have spent the last year preaching the importance of character and integrity. Following Carter’s arrest, they would have a lot to atone for had they ended up selecting the former Georgia standout. Carter doesn’t fit the mold or the standard in those intangible ways. Without the desire to draft Carter and knowing Anderson would likely be gone by the fourth spot, perhaps the Bears figured a trade down further to net the biggest haul was now their best course of action.
Either way, the Bears are still picking in the top 10. They added to their overall draft capital with nine picks in the 2023 NFL draft and premium selections in both upcoming drafts. And! They still have all that money.
Daylight savings isn’t until this weekend, but it seems Poles and his staff have already turned the clock forward on Chicago’s rebuild.
Carmen Vitali covers the NFC North for FOX Sports. Carmen had previous stops with The Draft Network and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. She spent six seasons with the Bucs, including 2020, which added the title of Super Bowl Champion (and boat-parade participant) to her résumé. You can follow Carmen on Twitter at @CarmieV.
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