Chicago Bears general manager Ryan Powles finally found the deal he was looking for.
The No. 1 pick, which the Bears collected to finish last season with a 3-14 record, now belongs to the Carolina Panthers. On a headline-grabbing Shopping Friday, Poles agreed to send the best choice in April’s draft to GM Scott Fetterer in exchange for the No. 9 pick, the No. 61 pick, a 2024 first-round pick, a 2025 second-round pick and the No. 9 pick, the No. 61 pick, a source confirmed.
ESPN and the NFL Network first reported the news, which was not yet official Friday night.
The Bears have long preferred to trade the No. 1 pick instead of using it to draft a quarterback. Poles has said repeatedly since January that the Bears’ plan was to stick with quarterback Justin Fields, leaving little room to change his mind if he was “surprised” by the quarterback prospect.
With the Bears sticking with Fields, talk on the trade front heated up as league scouting began in late February. The Poles have vowed to keep a firm grip on the situation, looking for a trade partner who can help maximize what the bears squeeze out of the top pick, while keeping in mind how much they’re willing to trade down.
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The Bears have now succeeded and can begin recalibrating their draft board heading into the start of the 1st round on April 27th. And the Panthers, who need a quarterback, have the best prospect choice after passing on other quarterbacks. Needy teams like the Houston Texans and Indianapolis Colts, who pick Nos. 2 and 4. Alabama’s Bryce Young and Ohio State’s C.J. Stroud are among the possibilities for the Panthers.
It’s the first time since 2016 and just the fifth time in the last 30 years that the No. 1 pick has been traded. All these trades took place in April. But the Poles hinted to an NFL team last month that a trade before the free agency window opens Monday would be beneficial, especially if a player is part of a comeback.
Moore gives the Bears an established wide receiver who has three seasons of over 1,100 receiving yards. Moore, 25, was a first-round draft pick in 2018 and has 364 catches for 5,201 yards and 21 touchdowns in his first five seasons in the league.
Before last season, Moore signed a three-year, $61.9 million extension with the Panthers that runs through 2025.
The addition is critical to the Bears’ passing attack, which was the NFL’s worst last season at 130.5 yards per game.
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Moore joins the Bears with just one 1,000-yard receiver in Darnell Mooney, who is recovering from an ankle injury. The move gives the Poles a new target for Fields without having to break into this year’s weak free agent receiver pool. The Bears also return Chase Claypool, Equinemus St. Brown and Velus Jones Jr. to the receiver room.
The trade likely puts the Bears, who are in dire need of defensive line help, outside of drafting a pair of top quarterback prospects, including Alabama’s Will Anderson Jr. But if the Bears decide to stay at No. 9 and not move back, again, they’ll be making their best pick since Roquan Smith, who went No. 8 in 2018. Smith turned pro with the Baltimore Ravens in 2022 after The Poles traded him in the middle of the season.
Friday’s trade was just the latest move in a busy and potentially landmark 2023 offseason for the Bears. Even after hitting rock bottom in 2022, there was high hope in Halas Hall and among fans that the Bears could begin to fill their roster with high-end talent and depth given the resources they had to use in free agency and the draft.
The Bears now have 10 draft picks with plenty of cap space to pay — No. 9 in the first round, No. 53 and 61 in the second, No. 64 in the third, No. 103 and 133 in the fourth , No. 136 and 148 in the fifth and No. 218 and 258 in the seventh.
At the plant, the Poles admitted he was glad to get to work.
“We have flexibility. We have an opportunity,” he said. “I know our whole front office, our whole organization is loaded, just with the possibility that we have to do something special.”
After choice #1 was canceled, the Poles are now obliged to turn the resources they received into something meaningful. This process, of course, will continue with the project.