As the free agency negotiation period opened for the NFL on Monday, there were organizations that the fate of a certain Hall of Fame quarterback held hostage, while other teams like the Chicago Bears pounced on the opportunity to spend money and show that there might be signs of life. The Green Bay Packers’ longest-tenured rival may be slowly mounting evidence of competence.
Let’s first flash back to Week 18, when Davis Mills inexplicably led the Houston Texans to a come-from-behind win against the Indianapolis Colts for some unknown reason (collusion on the part of outgoing coach Lovie Smith?). That helped lock up the second-worst record in the league for Houston and send the No. 1-overall pick to Smith’s former team, the Chicago Bears.
Chicago general manager Ryan Poles did a decent job of sending up smokescreens regarding his decision of what to do with the No. 1 pick. But the Bears finally have a promising young quarterback who, frankly, scares the crap out of me as a Packers fan. Therefore, there was no chance that Chicago was going to use that pick on a quarterback like C.J. Stroud or Bryce Young.
Even if it was a foregone conclusion that the Bears were going to trade the pick, Poles got an excellent haul for the first-overall selection that happened to fall into his lap. Poles may have lucked into the most draft capital thanks to Davis Mills, but the fact that he did something effective with it should raise an eyebrow of concern for Cheeseheads.
D.J. Moore might not be making an All-Pro team any time soon. However, he’s exactly the type of competent veteran receiver who is still ascending, a player that Justin Fields spent the first part of his career dreaming of. Moving back only eight picks to No. 9 in this year’s draft, while also adding a second in 2023, a first in 2024, and another second in 2025 sets Poles and the Bears up to be even more dangerous in the offseason.
Acquiring Moore not also brings in a quality wideout but also helped Chicago get the salary cap room jumpstarted heading into free-agency week. The Bears were active early and often on Monday, cutting into that cap space in an effective way by signing guard Nate Davis to a three-year, $30 million deal, while also adding help at linebacker with Tremaine Edmunds (four years, $72 million) and T.J. Edwards (three years, $19.5 million) to help offset the loss of trading Roquan Smith last year. Adding these veterans to the stockpile of draft picks won’t leave the rest of the NFC North shaking in their respective boots, but the Bears are certainly moving in the right direction.
In comparison, the two best teams in the division lately have done very little. Or worse, moved in the wrong direction. The Minnesota Vikings have moved on from Za’Darius Smith, Eric Kendricks, and Adam Thielen. And the biggest actual news out of Green Bay Packers camp has been re-signing a kick returner (albeit a very good one in Keisean Nixon, but still). Even the Detroit Lions made a splash today, signing cornerback Cam Sutton to a three-year, $33 million deal that will help Dan Campbell‘s defense.
However, the Bears are making the most noise across the entire spectrum of the NFL over the past week. The manner in which Chicago backed their way into the No. 1 pick feels like it could be a turning point for the organization. The front office is making smart moves, and there are growing signs of momentum coming out of the Windy City.
The Chicago Bears still have a long way to go. Their 3-14 record this past season certainly didn’t seem like a fluke, and I wouldn’t go betting on them to win the division quite yet. Still, there’s no doubt that Chicago is getting better. It’s hard to make the argument that the Green Bay Packers have done the same over the past week. It’s evident that the Bears are the closing of the gap between the haves and the have-nots in the NFC North.