Does Jim Irsay want to trade up for a QB? How sure are we a stadium will be built in Arlington Heights? – Boston Herald
Coming soon: the NFL combine and the start of free agency. But first, the Chicago Bears are navigating trade speculation around their No. 1 pick — and all things Arlington Heights. Brad Biggs dives into your questions in his latest mailbag.
What do you think of Jim Irsay wanting to move up for Bryce Young? — @dpeak1313
Irsay didn’t say he wants to trade up, but he did offer up an unprompted opinion on the Alabama quarterback Tuesday when the Indianapolis Colts introduced new coach Shane Steichen.
“The Alabama guy doesn’t look bad, I’ll tell ya,” Irsay said during the news conference, referring to Young.
The Colts are expected to pursue a quarterback in the first round after failing to sustain success with a series of veterans in the role — Philip Rivers, Carson Wentz and Matt Ryan — following the unexpected retirement of Andrew Luck in 2019. They hold the No. 4 pick, and there has been rampant speculation on social media that a deal could be made with the Bears, who own the No. 1 pick. Complicating matters for Irsay and the Colts is the Houston Texans — their AFC South rival — are also likely in the quarterback market and picking No. 2.
“Shane had a lot of that offense magic, which is hard to find in this league,” Irsay said Tuesday. “Offense, in my mind, can be a little more complex and takes a little bit more time to develop, so knowing we’re going to have to find a young quarterback to develop, that’s a key factor.”
Steichen has worked with Jalen Hurts in Philadelphia and before that Justin Herbert and Rivers with the Los Angeles Chargers. Steichen’s background with quarterbacks made him the coaching selection for Irsay and GM Chris Ballard.
Ballard, who previously worked with Bears GM Ryan Poles in Kansas City, can partner with Steichen to begin the process of sorting through quarterback prospects. The Colts have to finish filling out the coaching staff, review the roster and prepare for free agency while also chipping away at draft preparation. It could lead the team to seek a trade up.
“I’d do whatever it takes,” Ballard said at the outset of the offseason about possibly trading up. “If we thought there’s a player that we’re driven to get, that makes the franchise and the team better, that’s what we do.”
Irsay has a way of getting what he wants in Indianapolis, but it’s premature to say the Colts will be driven to draft Young. Like every team — especially those considering a quarterback in Round 1 — they’re going to do exhaustive work on Young, Kentucky’s Will Levis, Ohio State’s C.J. Stroud and Florida’s Anthony Richardson.
It could be the Colts determine they like another option more. Maybe the Colts wind up with very similar grades on two prospects. In that event, would they gamble and nottrade up to No. 1 in order to land their quarterback?
For the Bears, the hope has to be a high-stakes game of poker breaks out as Indianapolis (and other teams) weigh the potential cost of a trade for No. 1. The Colts will be keeping tabs on where the Texans are leaning and how the Arizona Cardinals — who own the third pick — factor in. Right now, Poles holds the chip other teams covet.
Perhaps the Colts wind up doing business with the Bears. As Irsay noted on social media Wednesday morning, he’s had a relationship with the organization nearly his entire life.
I’ve seen many mock drafts predict a Bears-Colts trade. Do all these mocks make it more or less likely that a trade happens? — @gucasliogito
Mock drafts are entertainment or, in some cases, infotainment, and there is a greater focus on them in fan bases where teams are picking at the top of the draft. They have no relevance for what could unfold in the months ahead. Anyone with a social media account can connect the dots between the Bears and a quarterback-needy franchise and propose a trade. No need to limit possibilities to just the Colts or Texans as plenty of other teams could be interested. At some point Poles needs to draw a line for how far down in Round 1 he’s willing to move in a potential deal. Does he have a certain range he wants to be in if a move is made? Is he willing to go into the middle of Round 1 if it means collecting a lot of future draft capital (think 2024 or 2025)? All we have right now is questions and even more speculation. Personally, I think it is prudent to wait until the first wave of free agency is completed to conduct a mock draft. Teams will fill needs with big spending in free agency, and that makes it easier to eliminate some potential draft targets. It’s still entertainment with a more nuanced basis.
I would expect there to be a deal to be made for the Bears with the No. 1 pick. The question is will there be multiple offers — not just chatter between Poles and other teams — and will an offer(s) meet the price tag he has in mind?
After seeing mock draft after mock draft, I think everyone should slow down and see what the Bears do in free agency. That could change the whole dynamic of their draft. Would they only trade back a few spots if they signed Daron Payne or slide further down to take the best offensive tackle? — Neal O., Lake Villa
It’s not a question of whether free agency will change the dynamic of the Bears’ draft. It will more clearly define the team’s needs entering the draft. What if the Bears sign a defensive tackle and a right tackle to big contracts? That is what I proposed will be Poles’ greatest goals entering free agency.
Tons of talk the last several months have been around how badly the Bears need a wide receiver. But don’t they also need players who can catch the ball and do damage at other positions like tight end and running back? I’m thinking a more mobile tight end to pair with Cole Kmet and run a bunch of 12 personnel, somebody like Mike Gesicki or Robert Tonyan. — Mike B.
The Bears will need to add to the tight end room after using Ryan Griffin and Trevon Wesco in secondary roles along with Kmet last season. Kmet is primed to sign to a contract extension this offseason and I don’t know if the team will want to sink big money into two other players at the position. Gesicki will do well for himself in free agency and should get more than $8 million per season, perhaps more. Tonyan won’t get as much money two years removed from an ACL injury. I agree the Bears need to surround quarterback Justin Fields with more talent, but I’d keep the focus on wide receiver. I think they will look for a player in the draft who can create separation.
Are players on injured reserve forced to stick around Halas Hall (more than usual) this offseason? — @gridassassin
It is standard for players rehabilitating injuries to work on their health at the facility after the season ends. So the Bears likely have had a small contingent of players doing rehab work under the supervision of the training staff.
Are any teams switching from a 4-3 defense to a 3-4 defense that the Bears could take advantage of in terms of player trades or cuts? I’d love to see Brian Burns become more expendable because of the formation switch. — @mosconml
The Bears will be keeping a close eye on all players who could come loose because of scheme changes or other decisions. They’re not just going to focus on teams with new coaching staffs. That being said, it is implausible the Panthers will not deem Burns, who had 38 sacks over the last four seasons, to be a big part of their future. Talented edge rushers are required for any coordinator, and Burns transcends scheme. He will fit just fine coming off the edge, and reality is with sub packages being such a big part of the NFL, the Panthers will be in a 40 front the majority of the time even if they’re using a base 3-4 scheme.
Any updates on Kevin Warren and how his “ramp up” is coming along? — @blindmellojelly
Warren is not slated to officially start in his new president/CEO role with the Bears until later this spring, in March or maybe April, after wrapping up work for the Big Ten and helping ensure a smooth transition for the conference.
How sure are we that the Arlington Heights deal gets done with Gov. J.B. Pritzker pushing back? — @neilpezz
The Bears’ long-expected announcement Wednesday that they closed on the $197.2 million property was just the next step in the process to determine if a stadium and entertainment district can be done. It’s going to require a large maze of political maneuvering and — if you are a regular reader of the mailbag — you know I steer clear of almost anything political. The Bears have publicly stated they require property tax certainty and public support for infrastructure costs associated with a project of this magnitude in order to proceed. How will it get done? Will it get done? Those are good questions, and I would imagine it’s going to require some serious horse trading. I do believe the McCaskeys would not have plunked down almost $200 million if they didn’t believe chances of their vision coming to fruition were not very good.
The Bears struggled for the longest time to get traction on reconstruction of Soldier Field, and then when they finally got it done, they had a subpar stadium. I believe they want to do it right this time. It’s going to take time and a lot of lobbying.
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