(670 The Score) Doomed by poor quarterback play for most of the Super Bowl era, the Bears may have a rare opportunity this offseason. They could solve their problem at the most pivotal position by instantly bringing in the best quarterback in franchise history.
Bears general manager Ryan Pace could end the narrative surrounding his infamous No. 2 overall selection in the 2017 NFL Draft by bringing in the star quarterback whom he passed on for Mitchell Trubisky. Chicago could welcome in the transcendent superstar it has long dreamed of finding and reopen a championship window that seemed to be suddenly closing.
This is the opportunity now available to the Bears -- and many other NFL teams -- with Texans star quarterback Deshaun Watson expressing his unhappiness in Houston. Because of the deteriorating relationship, the Texans could seek to trade Watson this offseason, according to reports.
But that deal certainly wouldn't come easy for the Bears, who would likely be at the center of a bidding war with a number of teams should the Texans take offers for Watson. The Jets, Dolphins, Falcons, Lions, 49ers and Broncos are all among possible fits for Watson -- and would be better positioned to offer what the Bears can't in top draft picks and starting quarterbacks in exchange.
Watson, a 25-year-old three-time Pro Bowler, also has a say in where he would land in a potential trade. That's because he has a no-trade clause that came in his four-year, $156-million deal that he signed with the Texans last September.
If Watson does hit the trade market, what type of package could the Bears offer the Texans to make a play for Watson? I collaborated with Brandon Scott of Sports Radio 610-KILT in Houston and Jordan Cohn of Radio.com Sports to come up with a hypotehtical offer and share our analysis. Here's a look:
Texans receive: Edge rusher Khalil Mack, 2021 1st-rounder (20th overall), 2022 1st-rounder, 2023 1st-rounder
Bears receive: quarterback Deshaun Watson
Emma: In general, the starting point for a Watson deal will likely be two first-round picks, with one being a top-five slot. The Bears hold the No. 20 pick in the upcoming 2021 NFL Draft, meaning they would need to add in their first-round pick in 2023 to match potential offers from teams like the Jets, Dolphins or Falcons, who own the No. 2, No. 3 and No. 4 picks, respectively.
The Bears don't have a starting quarterback to offer the Texans like the Jets have in Sam Darnold or the Dolphins have in Tua Tagovailoa. Chicago's best chance to top competing offers is by adding in a transcendent player of its own: star pass rusher Khalil Mack.
Mack, who turns 30 in February, remains an elite pass rusher. Though he had just nine sacks while playing through multiple injuries in 2020, Mack was still graded by Pro Football Focus as the top edge defender in the game.
Mack is under contract for four more seasons, the rookie contract window for a quarterback the Texans could draft to replace Watson should they find this route most appealing.
The Bears would have to start the bidding with their next three first-round picks. If Mack is the difference-making trade chip in a deal for Watson, the Bears must go through with it. Watson is worth every bit of such a grand offering from the Bears.
In the end, I don't think this proposed deal would get done between the Bears and Texans. That's because it would be best for the Texans to engage with the Jets or Dolphins in a Watson trade, as that gives them the new opportunity to land a franchise quarterback in the draft in Ohio State's Justin Fields or BYU's Zach Wilson.
The Bears can only offer the No. 20 overall pick in 2021 -- out of range for a top quarterback prospect in this class -- and would likely be picking in the bottom half of the first round with Watson at quarterback in the coming years.
The Texans would essentially be swapping scenarios with the Bears in such a potential trade. Houston would be the one left without a long-term solution at quarterback. The Texans would be wise to say no and seek an offer that addresses their quarterback position.
Scott: The Texans spent more money than any other NFL team in 2020, only to finish 4-12.
They managed to do that even with Watson making just $1.17 million in base salary.
Watson’s contract is structured to pay him $10.54 million in 2021, the last season before it jumps to $35 million-plus. It would make sense for the Texans to keep Watson while he’s cap-friendly, because they don’t have a ton of existing bargains for first-year general manager Nick Caserio to work with.
If the relationship with Watson isn't salvageable, the Texans would consider this hypothetical deal with the Bears.
I’d like to think they say no and just keep the elite franchise quarterback they waited 15 years to get.
But they had an opportunity to say no to a Jadeveon Clowney trade when he was set to play on the franchise tag in 2019; or no to a DeAndre Hopkins trade last year, a deal that was considered one of the most lopsided and perplexing in NFL history; or to making Laremy Tunsil the highest-paid offensive lineman by far.
The Texans have a reputation for getting exploited in major trades, and this would Caserio’s first one.
With J.J. Watt sure to be waived or traded and no other elite pass rusher in sight, Mack being on the Texans' roster would change the complexion of the league’s worst defense and the draft picks help build the future.
The Bears say yes. The Texans say yes.
But what does Watson say? There's that no-trade clause lingering in the background.
Jordan Cohn: If the Watson buzz wasn't enough, Houston just went through a nasty breakup in the basketball world involving James Harden, but instead of trying to forget about those ugly negotiations, we can try to apply them to this situation. Though the best player available seemed to be Ben Simmons, the 76ers weren't willing to give up everything else (Tyrese Maxey, Matisse Thybulle, picks) that the Rockets were looking for.
So, if assets like Tagovailoa or the No. 2 overall pick are the crown jewels in a potential Watson deal but the Dolphins or the Jets aren't willing to give up other assets that the Texans might need to satisfy their desires, the Bears could theoretically swoop in and make a play like the Nets did.
The Bears would need to completely mortgage the future by handing off three future first-rounders (like the Nets) and add in their best possible trade chip in Mack to pry away Watson from other likelier suitors. But will it actually play out that way?
I don't think it will. Quarterbacks are just too important for a football team to try to equate to any other position in any other sport, and a piece like Tagovailoa or the Texans' pick of the litter in the 2021 NFL Draft is way more important for their future than a game-changing defender like Mack. The verdict here is no deal.