Chicago Bears Q&A: Possibilities of trading the No. 9 pick vs. staying put? Who could be on the roster bubble?

The Chicago Bears have entered the stretch run to the 2024 NFL draft. In eight days, we’ll learn whether Caleb Williams indeed is their choice at No. 1 and what general manager Ryan Poles decided to do with the No. 9 pick.

As he does every Wednesday, Brad Biggs reaches into the mailbag to answer readers’ questions.

Biggsy, could you assign your subjective probabilities to the following options at No. 9?

  • a. Bears trade up

  • b. Bears trade down

  • c. Bears stay at 9

— @danno561

That’s the million-dollar question we’ve been wondering about for a couple of months and have another week to kick around. How does Bears general manager Ryan Poles approach a second pick in the top 10 in what could be a transformational draft for the organization?

I took a comprehensive look at the options last week, and the way I see it, chances are greatest the Bears will choose from a pool of players at four positions: wide receiver, offensive tackle, defensive end and defensive tackle. And there’s only one player in the last group, Texas’ Byron Murphy.

Handicapping how this will shake out on draft night is a guessing game. I fully expect Caleb Williams to be the first pick by the Bears, and most signals point to the Washington Commanders choosing Jayden Daniels at No. 2. After that it will be a scramble with potential trades and some terrific prospects at quarterback and the positions listed above.

I’ve maintained for a while that the Bears need to come out of this draft with difference makers, players who can ascend to an elite level. They’re going to take a shot with Williams at quarterback and they need another “blue,” the term personnel folks use to describe the upper crust. In a draft with high-end talent, why not stay put at No. 9 and get a player you believe profiles as a future star?

There’s a certain attraction to trading down and adding draft capital, but the farther down you move, the harder it might be to land a special talent. The tradeoff is you get more ammunition in later rounds; the Bears currently hold only four picks.

If I had to assign a probability to the three scenarios you laid out, my guess would be staying put is the chalk play. Trading up also has a certain appeal and has created a buzz the last couple of weeks, but then the Bears would be playing with a shorter deck in 2025. Trading down is complicated because we don’t know how much interest teams will have in moving up to No. 9, and Poles might not know until the day before the draft or even until the Bears are on the clock.

  • a. Bears trade up: 15%

  • b. Bears trade down: 30%

  • c. Bears stay at 9: 55%

With this being the year of the QB, why are the Bears so enamored with Caleb Williams? I am not sure if he will be Tom Brady or Peter Tom Willis, but I do know that history is rife with “can’t miss” busts in the draft. I cannot understand not trading down at least to No. 2 and garnering some other draft capital. If Williams turns out to be Hall of Fame worthy and the QB the Bears take at No. 2 is only good, but they also are able to get more picks for the draft this year or next, what’s the foul? — Scott B.

In basketball terms, you’re looking at a technical foul. In hockey terms, you’re looking at a match penalty. In baseball, it would be an ejection, the ol’ heave-ho.

I don’t care what kind of draft capital the Bears could acquire from the Washington Commanders for moving down from No. 1 to No. 2 if it’s a difference between “Hall of Fame worthy” and “only good.” A Hall of Fame-caliber quarterback could have the Bears positioned to be a Super Bowl contender for a decade. A good quarterback could help put them in the playoff mix when the rest of the roster is pretty good and healthy.

Elite quarterbacks raise the level of play of everyone around them. I don’t know how Williams will perform as a rookie. I don’t know how developed his game will be in 2026. I do know the Bears have royally screwed up the position time and time again, and this opportunity comes at the intersection of a calculated move by Ryan Poles last year and some serial mismanagement by the Carolina Panthers. That’s good fortune that needs to be put to use.

Early in the offseason, we saw mock drafts with Bears going to No. 2 and then selling even again to No. 3. Imagine the draft capital for not only this year but the following year and possibly after. If the Bears are as good as we are led to believe they will be with a “franchise QB,” those draft picks being early in 2025 or 2026 could be quite good. What am I missing? — Scott B.

What you’re missing is the Bears — and I believe most other teams — see a pretty wide gap between Caleb Williams and the remainder of the quarterbacks in this draft class. What the Bears are missing — and have been for the longest time — is a bona fide elite quarterback.

It’s exciting to talk about the possibilities in a series of trade-down scenarios, and you can get dizzy imagining all of the additional draft capital that could bring. What’s lost by some is the reality that you still have to hit on those extra picks, and in making that move, you’re no longer in control of the quarterback board. Especially if you move down a second time, you’re staring at quite possibly having the third choice of quarterbacks in this class.

Could that third quarterback, likely North Carolina’s Drake Maye or Michigan’s J.J. McCarthy, develop as a franchise QB? Sure, that’s possible. Could one or both of them eventually be better than Williams? Anything is possible. But if the Bears have a superior grade on Williams and believe he is head and shoulders above the other prospects, how can they afford to pass on the best player at a position that has been a glaring weakness?

The surrounding cast is improved, far better than most teams choosing a quarterback at No. 1 have, so it’s a pretty straightforward and simple decision to me. Choose Williams at No. 1 and do everything possible to put him in a situation to succeed from Day 1.

The Bears simply aren’t in a position to play around because there’s no telling where they will be in the draft order in the future or what the QB classes in 2025, 2026 and 2027 will look like. They’ve thoroughly bungled the quarterback position far too many times over the years to pass on a prospect who many believe is elite. When you look at the short list of teams that are perennial contenders, they all have one thing in common: a top-notch quarterback.

Is the reason most people don’t keep Brock Bowers’ name in the talk about the No. 9 pick because of the rookie pay scale for top-10 picks? As a follow-up, could you explain the scale for us heathens? I know it’s complex, just a spitball kind of explanation is good enough. — Tim G.

The issue is positional value. If Bowers is the 10th pick, he would command a fully guaranteed salary of roughly $21.3 million over four years. Compared with what the elite tight ends earn (the top five average about $15 million per year), there isn’t as much surplus value as you’d get if you drafted a wide receiver, an offensive tackle or certainly a quarterback when you look at what the top players at those positions are paid.

It’s an interesting discussion and it comes down to how teams value Bowers. Do they believe he can be as productive as the league’s top players at the position?

If the Panthers had drafted C.J. Stroud like they should have and won roughly seven games and the Bears got the No. 12 pick, what are they doing now? Trading Nos. 9 and 12 to move up for Jayden Daniels, I guess? — @nick_bpss

Hindsight makes all of us shrewd evaluators when it comes to quarterback play. Stroud was fantastic last season with not a ton around him in Houston, and there’s no question the Panthers would have had a better season with him instead of Bryce Young. It’s a mistake that could haunt them for seasons to come.

It’s difficult to assess a hypothetical, but I can’t imagine the Bears would have reached a consensus to keep Justin Fields for a fourth season and they almost certainly would have declined the fifth-year option in his contract. There just wasn’t enough on-field production last season that pointed to necessary improvement.

I think they’d either be eyeing a trade up to position themselves for Michigan quarterback J.J. McCarthy or perhaps crafting a plan to draft Oregon’s Bo Nix at some point. Jumping to No. 2, where I believe the Washington Commanders will choose Daniels, probably would be a stretch. I don’t think the Commanders want to pass up that opportunity.

If one of the top three receivers, Marvin Harrison Jr., Malik Nabers or Rome Odunze, is available after Tennessee picks at No. 7, do you think it’s likely that the Jets or some other team with a lower pick will try to trade up and beat the Bears to such WR? — Jerry L., Chicago

That’s an interesting question and my hunch is one of those receivers will be on the board at No. 8. I would be pretty surprised if three came off in the top seven picks. Bear in mind, three wide receivers never have been selected in the top eight picks in the history of the draft.

Figure three quarterbacks, two receivers and one offensive tackle will go in the top seven picks. That means one more quarterback, one more O-lineman, one defensive player or a wild card such as Georgia tight end Brock Bowers has to come off the board to leave a receiver sitting there at No. 8.

Could someone be motivated to move ahead of the Bears? Sure. Would the Atlanta Falcons be willing to trade out of No. 8 with a team seeking to move up for a receiver? You have to think the Falcons would listen. Could the Bears jump up one spot in that scenario? It depends on who the receiver is and the price of the move. You present a compelling scenario, and it’s possible we’ll see a good bit of wheeling and dealing in the top 10.

Barring injuries, is Larry Borom this season’s Kindle Vildor? What are the odds he is on the roster in September when the Bears have better depth and can save cap space? — @gregfeltes

Borom got enough playing time in his first three seasons to hit the escalator in his rookie contract that boosts his base salary to $3.116 million, and that might be more than the Bears want to pay him, especially when you consider they signed Jake Curhan for $1.055 million on a one-year deal. Curhan will have to win the job as the swing offensive tackle, and who knows what that competition looks like right now. It could become crowded if the Bears draft a tackle.

If Borom doesn’t figure in the team’s plans, the best-case scenario would be finding a trade partner. His salary might make that a little challenging, but if another team likes him, Borom has ample experience with 39 games played and 23 starts. Maybe the Bears could flip him for a late-round pick or involve him in some type of pick swap.

Borom also has the flexibility to play inside at guard. But he’d be a guy to keep an eye on in training camp, and if he performs well, the salary wouldn’t make keeping him prohibitive.

At this point of the offseason, which Bears are on the bubble and vulnerable of making the 53-man squad? In your estimation, who does this apply to? — @mred315

Outside of Larry Borom, whom I mentioned above, I don’t think a lot of players who have gotten significant playing time are potentially in jeopardy of losing a roster spot. That could change based on what the team does in the draft.

At minimum, I expect the Bears to create legitimate competition for punter Trenton Gill, who had an uneven 2023 season. Defensive end Dominique Robinson would be one to keep an eye on and potentially wide receiver Velus Jones. The team seemed adamant about creating opportunities for Jones in 2023. We’ll see how a new offensive coaching staff utilizes him.

Hypothetically speaking, if one of the QBs after Caleb Williams — Drake Maye, Jayden Daniels or J.J. McCarthy — makes it to the ninth pick, would the Bears entertain the in-division Vikings with the pick (and a low-round sweetener) for Minnesota’s 11th and 23rd? — @fgrunder3

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That’s an interesting question. Vikings GM Kwesi Adofo-Mensah has shown no hesitation in cutting deals with other NFC North teams, and I don’t think Ryan Poles has a general aversion to trading with rivals. This is a little different. Do you really want to assist the Vikings in their quest to replace Kirk Cousins?

I seriously doubt the Vikings would need to package the 23rd pick to make that climb. You’re talking about a move of only two spots. The Bears picked up a fourth-round pick from the Philadelphia Eagles last year to drop from No. 9 to No. 10. You’re talking about one more spot. So while the premise is interesting, your compensation is heavily tilted to Halas Hall and not realistic.

I think there’s a good chance all four quarterbacks are off the board in the first six picks. It would really be something if they go 1-2-3-4.

Do you see the Bears releasing WR Velus Jones and RG Nate Davis? I don’t believe they have any value for how the Bears are moving forward. — Rex K., Machesney Park, Ill.

Jones should have to compete for a roster spot. It will be interesting to see how his skill set applies to the new kickoff rules. I’d imagine the Bears will try him again throughout the offseason as a punt returner, but will they develop enough faith and confidence to actually give him a shot in the regular season? He’s not really in the mix at wide receiver, in my estimation, as he’s pretty clearly a gadget guy. Who knows? Maybe new offensive coordinator Shane Waldron has some new ideas.

As far as Davis, he’s not going anywhere. His $8.75 million base salary is fully guaranteed for this season. The hope is with a more consistent offseason and summer that he will get off to a better start in 2024.

Everyone seems to think WR Keenan Allen is only a one-year deal barring an extension. The Bears spent more than a franchise tag would cost for a WR in 2024. So couldn’t they tag him next year if they don’t draft (or have success with) a WR? It would equate to about 2 years and $45 million total. — @duhbearscar

Anything is possible, but if you look at the history of the franchise tag, it’s hard to find many examples of players entering Year 13 getting that treatment, especially wide receivers. The tag for wide receivers could get a decent bump in 2025 if players such as Justin Jefferson, CeeDee Lamb and Brandon Aiyuk, among others, sign new contracts.

If Allen has another super-productive season, and certainly that’s the hope, the Bears could entertain the idea of a one-year deal. They’d be paying for future production — not past performance — and would have to feel strongly that he would be worth north of $20 million in 2025. There would have to be some kind of gap in negotiations for it to lead to a tag situation.

Keep in mind the Bears could desire at least the availability of the tag for left guard Teven Jenkins. Of course, that would be hugely dependent on his performance in Year 4 and the state of negotiations (assuming there is an attempt at them). I’d say chances of Allen being tagged in 2025 are low.