As Bears seek a deal for No. 1 pick, potential trade partners play coy


INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. (670 The Score) -- At the NFL Combine this week, league executives have begun forming plans in earnest for the offseason to come. But they aren’t particularly eager to be transparent.

That's certainly the case for the teams that could be the best trade partners for the Bears, who are seeking a deal for the No. 1 overall pick in the NFL Draft. In holding the top pick, Chicago presents the opportunity for teams in dire need of a quarterback prospect to jump the line.

“Everybody has just automatically stamped that you got to move up to No. 1 to get it right,” Colts general manager Chris Ballard said of his pursuit of a quarterback. “I don’t know if I agree with that. I don’t.

"Who’s to say we won’t get one at four?”

The Colts own the No. 4 overall pick, and they're in a particularly desperate situation at quarterback after starting seven different players – including Jacoby Brissett (2019), Philip Rivers (2020), Carson Wentz (2021) and Matt Ryan (2022) – since Andrew Luck’s sudden and stunning retirement decision during the 2019 preseason.

Colts owner Jim Irsay fired head coach Frank Reich in early November while opting to keep Ballard in his position, and Indianapolis finished 4-12-1 while Ryan was benched on two separate occasions. Irsay wants Ballard to draft the team’s next young quarterback, the Athletic has reported.

The Texans own the No. 2 overall pick after a wild 32-31 win against the Colts in their season finale on Jan. 8, a victory that cost Houston the No. 1 overall selection. Ending the season on a 10-game losing streak, the Bears (3-14) jumped ahead of the Texans (3-13-1) in the draft order after Houston won that game.

While the Bears are expected to build around third-year quarterback Justin Fields in 2023, the Texans haven't solidified that position since Deshaun Watson last played for the team in 2020.

Alabama’s Bryce Young is considered by most talent evaluators to be the top quarterback prospect in this draft class, and he's projected by many to be selected at No. 1 overall – but by which team remains a mystery. Ohio State’s C.J. Stroud, Florida’s Anthony Richardson and Kentucky’s Will Levis are the other quarterbacks expected to be taken in the first round.

After losing their place at the top of the draft, the Texans can either risk settling for the second-best quarterback prospect on their board or get aggressive and potentially move up one spot in a trade with the Bears.

“If a team is in front of you and you’re only talking about one player, well, that’s going to leave two or three other players,” Texans general manager Nick Caserio said.

Other potential trade partners for the Bears in the top 10 of the draft are the Raiders (No. 7), Falcons (No. 8) and Panthers (No. 9), who are each in the market for a new quarterback.

Should one of those teams covet a top quarterback prospect, they'd need to trade up or risk missing out altogether.

“If you have a conviction on a guy, you go get him,” Panthers general manager Scott Fitterer said.

"You better be right. You better have conviction if you do move up."

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

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