Emma: Assessing Bears' options in NFL quarterback carousel

Whether it's through a trade, free agency or the draft, the Bears need to find a new quarterback.
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Editor's note: This marks the first in a series of positional outlooks for the Bears' roster, but given that quarterback change is on the horizon for Chicago, it's a more detailed breakdown of what options the franchise has moving forward.

(670 The Score) After going 8-8 for a second straight season, the Bears chose to retain coach Matt Nagy and general manager Ryan Pace for 2021 and are cash-strapped against the salary cap as they enter an offseason in which they also hold the No. 20 pick in the NFL Draft.

So how can the Bears change their course as a franchise and turn into a championship contender for the 2021 season? Perhaps their only chance to do so is with a major move at quarterback.

The Bears are in line to return only veteran Nick Foles at quarterback. Mitchell Trubisky, the No. 2 overall pick in 2017, and veteran backup Tyler Bray are both set to be free agents.

Like every team, the Bears have three paths to find an answer at quarterback -- first in a potential trade, then in free agency or the draft. Let's break down their options this offseason, starting with the top prize in the quarterback carousel.

Go all in for Watson
Deshaun Watson, 25, Texans

Watson is a unicorn running free, a 25-year-old transcendent star who has made three Pro Bowls and is inexplicably available on the trade market.

The Texans have created a self-inflicted dilemma by failing to incorporate Watson in their franchise's future plans, leaving him so upset that a trade seems to be the lone avenue ahead. While it's always possible cooler heads could prevail, the Texans are now taking trade offers for Watson, according to reports.

For the Bears, every other quarterback option should be placed on the backburner until every attempt at acquiring Watson has been exhausted. The Bears' challenge is putting a package together that would match those of the Jets or Dolphins, who both have young quarterbacks and top-three picks in the upcoming NFL Draft. Chicago's offer would have to start with its next three first-round picks as well as an impact player like edge rusher Khalil Mack or linebacker Roquan Smith.

Watson also has a say in where he would land in a potential deal, as he holds a no-trade clause in the four-year, $156-million deal that he signed in Houston last September. It's worth wondering whether he would accept a deal to the Bears if they did reach an agreement with the Texans.

But the Bears need to at least seriously pursue a Watson trade, because his arrival in Chicago would drastically change everything for the franchise. He would instantly become the best quarterback to ever play for the Bears -- before he could even select a jersey number. Watson would quickly be an icon in the city. And he could make the Bears a true Super Bowl contender in 2021.

Make a trade that costs less than a Watson deal
The quarterback carousel certainly won't stop with Watson. That's where it might really get going, allowing the teams that missed out on him turn their attention to their next move.

For the Bears, the trade market features plenty of intriguing options who would cost far less than Watson.

Teddy Bridgewater, 28, Panthers
The Bears had interest in potentially signing Bridgewater last March. He instead landed with the Panthers on a three-year, $63-million deal.

The Panthers are seen as a potential sleeper on the quarterback market this offseason, even with Bridgewater on the roster. They made a push to acquire quarterback Matthew Stafford from the Lions and could still be in play for Watson. Carolina holds the No. 8 pick in the draft.

Bridgewater threw for 3,733 yards, 15 touchdowns and 11 interceptions while posting a 92.1 passer rating in 15 games in 2020.

Jimmy Garoppolo, 29, 49ers
Like the Panthers, the 49ers were in play for Stafford and could be involved for Watson as well. That means Garoppolo could be available for trade this offseason.

While Garoppolo is more Trubisky than Stafford, he was the starting quarterback in the Super Bowl a year ago Tuesday, so he could be a viable upgrade for Chicago. Garoppolo threw for 1,096 yards, seven touchdowns and five interceptions with a 92.4 passer rating while playing in just six games in 2020.

Carson Wentz, 28, Eagles
The Eagles have a mess on their hands, and Wentz is still at the center of it. He struggled mightily in 2020, when he had an NFL-worst 15 interceptions, posted a 72.8 passer rating and was benched in favor of Jalen Hurts. Coach Doug Pederson was then fired after the season.

The Bears attempted to trade up for Wentz prior to the 2016 draft. Do they still see him as salvageable?

Sam Darnold, 23, Jets
The Jets could be a strong suitor for Watson or instead select Ohio State quarterback Justin Fields with the No. 2 overall pick. Either way, they have options outside of Darnold, the No. 3 overall pick in the 2018 draft who has been let down by a poor team and coaching staff in New York. For the Bears, the appeal of Darnold would be his upside.

Sign a free agent
Free agency would essentially be the fallback plan for teams unable to add a quarterback on the trade market, as the options are thin and less promising.

Note: While two-time Pro Bowl quarterback Dak Prescott is set to become a free agent, he's likely to return to the Cowboys. Thus, he wasn't included in these listings.

Mitchell Trubisky, 26, Bears
Trubisky's four-year tenure in Chicago has been marked by uneven play. Even at his best, he was just good enough -- never great.

Trubisky remains an option for the Bears, but he seems less likely compared to the alternatives. Chicago needs to completely reboot its offense, and it could use someone new under center to help do that. Trubisky may also be best-suited with a fresh start, where he isn't under such an intense microscope like he has been in Chicago.

Ryan Fitzpatrick, 38, Dolphins
The wily veteran Fitzpatrick has enjoyed one hell of a career, suiting up for eight different teams over the course of 16 seasons. Fitzpatrick will turn 39 in November but is still playing at a high level. He threw for 2,091 yards, 13 touchdowns and eight interceptions with a 95.6 passer rating in nine games, including seven starts, in 2020.

Cam Newton, 31, Patriots
Newton is a long way from his MVP form in 2015 and struggled at times in New England in 2020. But the Patriots also failed to provide him with a quality supporting cast on offense. The Bears could attempt to pair him with top receiver Allen Robinson, who would be easier to re-sign with a quarterback on a lower-cost contract.

Jameis Winston, 27, Saints
Do the Bears want to ride the roller coaster with Winston?

NFL Draft
Regardless of whether the Bears trade for a quarterback or sign one, they also need to draft their next developmental arm.

Pace will be overseeing his seventh draft in Chicago and has selected just one quarterback in his tenure: Trubisky. The Bears have preferred a structure at quarterback with veteran "sounding boards" as backups such as Chase Daniel, Tyler Bray and Foles. It's time they do more than than and add another young quarterback in the draft.

Zach Wilson, 21, BYU
Wilson is projected to be selected in the top 10, and he represents the next-best option after Clemson's Trevor Lawrence and Fields. Wilson would bring mobility and excellent arm talent to the next level.

Wilson won't fall to the Bears at No. 20, so they'd need to make a trade to move up to select him.

Trey Lance, 20, North Dakota State
Like Wilson, Lance is projected to be drafted in the top 10. If the Bears want him, they will need to move up.

Lance has dominated at the smaller level of college football. Is he ready to take a big jump in the NFL?

Mac Jones, 22, Alabama
A Heisman Trophy finalist and national champion with the Crimson Tide, Jones checked all the boxes at the collegiate level. Jones isn't a surefire prospect like Lawrence, but he's an intriguing option for the Bears in the first round.

Kyle Trask, 22, Florida
Trask has prototypical size at 6-foot-5 and 240 pounds and is entering the NFL after lighting up the SEC as a senior with the Gators.

Trask is projected to fall into the second round. If the Bears covet him, they could trade back and acquire more draft capital.

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