(670 The Score) As the Texans scored a touchdown on a desperation fourth-and-20 heave and then converted a go-ahead two-point conversion against the Colts on Jan. 8 to swing the No. 1 overall pick in the 2023 NFL Draft to the Bears, Chicago general manager Ryan Poles and his brass walked through a dejected locker room in the northwest corner of Soldier Field. They weren't watching what had just taken place in Indianapolis.
Poles would soon find out how drastically the Bears’ offseason was about to change, knowing well the significance of holding the top pick in a draft. He suddenly held all the leverage and was positioned to make a franchise-altering move.
Two days later, Poles stated his belief in 23-year-old quarterback Justin Fields and proclaimed that he'd have to be “absolutely blown away” to select a quarterback prospect like Bryce Young (Alabama) or C.J. Stroud (Ohio State) with the No. 1 overall pick.
That means the Bears will likely trade down from No. 1, and Poles has already indicated he's ready to listen to offers. The Texans, Colts, Panthers and Falcons are among the teams in need of a young quarterback and represent a group of potential bidders for the No. 1 pick.
So, when could the Bears make a trade?
“It’s too early,” Poles said Tuesday. “No one kind of knows how it’s all going to fall. So, I would assume that picks up here in the next month once we get through the Senior Bowl and the East-West and all those all-star games.”
There’s simply no rush for Poles and the Bears, who will go on the clock a little after 7 p.m. CT on April 27 in downtown Kansas City. The Bears hope to create a bidding war, especially with a few quarterback-needy teams hailing from the same division. In the AFC South, the Texans own the No. 2 pick, and the Colts are slotted at No. 4.
There are angles for Poles to exert pressure in negotiations. After the Texans squandered the No. 1 pick, he can still sell them on getting the quarterback they covet most rather than Houston playing second fiddle to another team that potentially trades up to the top spot. As for the Colts, they're a franchise that seems to be in disarray, and general manager Chris Ballard has already stated he's willing to do "whatever it takes" to move up to No. 1 if there's a quarterback prospect who stands out to his organization as clearly being the best in the class.
There are also a handful of NFC South teams worth keeping an eye on. The Falcons have the No. 8 pick, the Panthers hold the No. 9 selection and the Buccaneers own the No. 19 pick. The Saints previously traded away their first-round pick, but every team in the division could be searching for a long-term answer at quarterback. Poles can attempt to sell them on moving up or risk a division rival doing so.
All those possibilities mean the Bears likely won’t be dealing their No. 1 overall pick anytime soon.
The No. 1 overall pick was last moved in 2016, when the Rams traded up from No. 15 overall to the Titans’ place atop the draft. In return, the Titans landed the Rams’ No. 15 pick, two second-round picks and a third-round pick in that 2016 draft and also a 2017 first-round pick and a 2017 third-round pick. Beyond the No. 1 overall pick, the Rams also received a fourth-round pick and a sixth-round selection.
That trade occurred on April 14, 2016, exactly two weeks before the draft.
In 2021, the 49ers traded up to No. 3 overall in a deal with the Dolphins in order to land a top quarterback prospect. San Francisco sent the No. 12 overall pick, a third-round selection, a 2022 first-round pick and a 2023 first-round pick to Miami, a significant haul for the rights to land quarterback Trey Lance.
That trade was struck on March 26, 2021, more than a month before the draft. The Dolphins weren’t interested in holding out for more when three first-round picks were part of a package on the table.
Poles and the Bears should covet a haul that starts with three first-round picks in return for the No. 1 pick, especially given the exciting potential of prospects like Young and Stroud. As teams in search of a quarterback carefully scout those two prospects as well as Kentucky's Will Levis and Florida's Anthony Richardson, they will form consensuses on the draft board that will inform any trade offers for the Bears.
The Bears currently own eight selections in the draft. Chicago's next-best pick after No. 1 is No. 53 overall, a second-rounder that it acquired from Baltimore in exchange for linebacker Roquan Smith. The Bears traded their own second-round pick to the Steelers in exchange for receiver Chase Claypool. That will be the 32nd pick made in the draft, as it landed at the top of the second round but the Dolphins previously forfeited their first-round pick.
With the No. 1 pick in hand, Poles can strike a deal at any point in time leading up to NFL commissioner Roger Goodell putting the Bears on the clock on the evening of April 27.
Chris Emma covers the Bears, Chicago’s sports scene and more for 670TheScore.com. Follow him on Twitter @CEmma670.