QB Caleb Williams will visit Halas Hall next week as his likely draft union with the Chicago Bears nears

ORLANDO, Fla. — Breaking news: USC quarterback Caleb Williams is coming to Halas Hall. Next week in fact. And there’s an increasing likelihood Williams will soon have his own key card to the building plus a locker stall and the distinction as the Chicago Bears’ new QB1.

Exactly one month out from the NFL draft — and nine days after trading Justin Fields to Pittsburgh — Bears general manager Ryan Poles confirmed Monday morning that Williams is expected to be part of the team’s big wave of “Top 30.” It will provide another opportunity for the Bears to further their evaluation of Williams with momentum building toward the team selecting the promising quarterback with the No. 1 overall pick.

“Just another touchpoint,” Poles said from the NFL’s league meetings in Orlando.

Next week’s visit comes on the heels of the Bears trip out west where Poles, assistant GM Ian Cunningham, coach Matt Eberflus, offensive coordinator Shane Waldron and passing game coordinator Thomas Brown were among team representatives who spent significant time with Williams in Los Angeles over a three-day span.

That included observing the quarterback’s March 20 pro day at USC. But the Bears also visited with Williams in multiple settings prior to that, including a night out at the The Bird Streets Club in West Hollywood as well as additional time on campus, just talking ball and getting to know Williams better.

As the kids might say, “It’s happening.” Or at least it seems to be, with all signs currently pointing toward an official union between Williams and the Bears on April 25 in the first few minutes of the NFL draft.

Poles and his staff still have more than four weeks to solidify their conviction — or pivot in a new direction if something unforeseen pops up. But when asked Monday if he had a target date for wanting to know for certain who he will be selecting at No. 1, Poles just grinned.

“I don’t right now,” he said. “Hopefully it just hits me.”

The reality is the prospect of selecting Williams has been hitting Poles for weeks now, with the Bears fatefully aligned to land a quarterback who won the 2022 Heisman Trophy and is also considered to be one of the top draft prospects at the position in the 21st century.

The Bears have had plenty of time already to fall in love with Williams’ skillset and playing style. On the topic of whether Williams is more of an artist or a surgeon as a quarterback, Poles sees more of the former and believes Williams’ best artwork is something to behold.

In the pre-draft process of getting to know the quarterback as a person, Poles has also grown increasingly smitten.

“When you talk to his teammates, they don’t like him, they love him,” Poles said of Williams. “It’s his leadership, how he brings people together. … Same goes with the staff. I’m having a hard time finding a person who doesn’t like him or even love him and (doesn’t) think he can reach the highest limits. The feedback has been good.”

Part of next week’s visit in Lake Forest will be about relationship building with Williams getting to better know the Bears coaching staff and, ideally, a few of the current players who may be around.

The Bears also want to test Williams’ football recall, something Poles has developed a process to test over the years.

“You can really do some installations, take a break, and then have (the player) reinstall back to you just in terms of recall,” Poles said.

At this point, the Bears have reached the part of their vetting process where they are zeroing in on what Poles identifies as the “compatibility” piece of the assessment. The night out at the The Bird Streets Club pushed the Bears in a positive direction in that regard with one member of the team’s traveling party commenting to Poles that Williams never took his phone out during the visit.

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Poles described Williams as “really mature” and “really intentional with his conversations.” That was just part of why the Bears left California with such a positive impression.

Now it’s on to the final phase of the process.

Yes, Poles confirmed Monday, he will continue to do his homework on the other top quarterback prospects. He and Eberflus flew to Orlando for the league meetings immediately after attending JJ McCarthy’s pro day at Michigan on Friday and will head to LSU on Wednesday for Jayden Daniels’ pro day.

Poles also plans to host a few quarterback prospects other than Williams at Halas Hall in the coming weeks.

Still, at present, the Bears’ GPS seems set on one destination. And Poles continues to remind himself that he has work to do to continue setting up an effective launching pad for the development of whichever quarterback the Bears select.

That means investing in the visions and the plans of Eberflus, Waldron and Brown. Poles also emphasized his responsibility in fortifying a supporting cast.

“I know for sure that the roster is going to do that,” he said. “It’s important to me to make sure that there’s enough around where he can get off to a fast start and build confidence.”

That confidence-building process can never start too soon. And the Bears hope they will continue taking steps forward with Williams during next week’s reunion in Lake Forest.