The Last Chance: What's In Mitchell Trubisky's Future?

75756A5E-120A-4932-810C-2FD980DB785E
(670 The Score) Mitchell Trubisky smiled ear to ear through a clean shave, holding a navy blue Bears jersey with the No. 1 and his last name.

It was three years ago Tuesday at Halas Hall when the Bears introduced Trubisky, the No. 2 overall pick in that 2017 NFL Draft and for whom they traded a haul to select. The Bears believed they had a franchise quarterback, and so too did Trubisky.

"I couldn’t imagine myself in a better spot," Trubisky said then. "I’m excited for this opportunity."

Three years later, Trubisky's place with the Bears is uncertain, and what's ahead isn't so clear.

The Bears acquired 31-year-old veteran quarterback Nick Foles in March, setting up what they've termed an "open competition" between him and Trubisky. While Bears coach Matt Nagy has maintained there will be no biases in the competition, Foles' history of playing under Nagy was a significant factor in Chicago's trade. 

That leaves Trubisky's future uncertain entering the final season of his rookie contract. Bears general manager Ryan Pace has repeatedly declined to reveal his intention on whether to exercise Trubisky's hefty fifth-year option, a decision that must be made by a deadline Monday. Indications are that the Bears will decline that fifth-year option, which would put Trubisky on a path to become an unrestricted free agent in 2021.

But the Bears' decision on Trubisky's fifth-year option isn't necessarily a breaking point. Should they decline it, the Bears would be sending yet another message. Trubisky must rise to the steep challenges that he's facing.

How will Trubisky respond this season? Will he earn a future in Chicago or be on his way out? Let's break down the possible main scenarios.

Best case: Trubisky rises to the occasion and earns a future with the Bears

A year ago, it was worth wondering whether Trubisky might receive a lucrative contract extension down the line like some of his peers.

In June, the Eagles signed quarterback Carson Wentz, the No. 2 overall pick in 2016, to a four-year extension that could pay him up to $128 million and with $107.9 million guaranteed. In September, the Rams topped Wentz's deal for quarterback Jared Goff, paying him $134 million and an NFL-record $110 million guaranteed. 

Trubisky was selected in the same draft slot as Wentz and is represented by the same agents as Goff. A lucrative contract is what his agency, Athletes First, would've demanded for Trubisky had he lived up expectations in 2019. Instead, he underperformed, which led to the Bears acquiring Foles.

Still, it's not too late for Trubisky to earn a long-term future in Chicago.

The Bears notably didn't add a quarterback last weekend -- not in the second round, not on the third day of the draft and not as an undrafted free agent -- meaning the 25-year-old Trubisky is the team's lone developmental quarterback. The Bears' hope is that Trubisky will respond well upon having competition for the first time in his NFL career.

If he did rise to the occasion in training camp and win the job over Foles, Trubisky would then have the opportunity to prove that 2019 was a blip on his track record.

It's worth reminding that a quarterback's outlook can change fast in the NFL, for better or worse. Titans quarterback Ryan Tannehill, 31, turned a hot 10-start stretch in 2019 into a contract extension worth up to $118 million with Tennessee after he had a disappointing tenure in Miami.

Middle ground: Trubisky gets another chance

In three inconsistent seasons, Trubisky has drawn comparisons to quarterback Blake Bortles, whom the Jaguars drafted No. 3 overall in 2014.

Bortles flashed potential in Jacksonville that led the Jaguars to believe he could be their franchise quarterback. After four up-and-down seasons, Bortles helped lead the team to the AFC Championship game in January 2018 and earned a team-friendly contract extension a month later -- a three-year, $54-million deal that included $26.5 million guaranteed.

Bortles' deal with the Jaguars could offer a framework for the Bears keeping Trubisky beyond 2020 without exercising his fifth-year option. 

If Trubisky proves in 2020 that he can direct an offense capably and give the Bears' defense a better chance to win games -- in other words, if he could be a good game manager -- he could return on a team-friendly deal like Bortles signed. 

That type of potential contract would offer Trubisky an average of around $18 million over three seasons -- a fair price for an average NFL starting quarterback -- while offering the Bears opportunities to cut him loose after each season.

In that case, the Bears would be extending their investment in Trubisky and seeing through the four previous seasons of his development in Chicago. 

Pace, Nagy and the Bears would all prefer to see Trubisky remain with the team -- instead of the potential worst-case scenario.

Worst case: Trubisky folds to Foles and the Bears part ways

Pace has shown he isn't afraid to admit failure with his first-round picks. 

The Bears didn't offer a contract to 2015 first-round pick Kevin White when he was a free agent last year, and 2016 first-round choice Leonard Floyd was released this offseason. Such exits of high draft picks are certainly an alarming trend in Pace's troubling draft history, and now Trubisky enters the spotlight.

The Bears' acquisition of Foles serves two purposes. It puts the pressure on Trubisky to step up and earn his future in Chicago. It also prepares the Bears for the possibility that Trubisky falters again under pressure and 2020 marks the end of his tenure with the team.

Trubisky was a broken player during the course of the Bears' disappointing 2019 season. The burden of expectations that Trubisky carried on his shoulders -- for the team's Super Bowl aspirations and his third NFL season -- wore on him.

Trubisky could respond as the Bears hope, but it's perhaps more likely that he loses this competition with Foles and is the team's backup for a final season in Chicago.

Either way, the Bears are giving Trubisky one last opportunity.

Chris Emma covers the Bears, Chicago’s sports scene and more for 670TheScore.com. Follow him on Twitter @CEmma670.