Chicago Bears are set up to own this year’s NFL offseason

NFL, Justin Fields (Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images)
NFL, Justin Fields (Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images) /

The Chicago Bears are in an incredibly envious spot. If general manager Ryan Poles handles his assets well, look out in future years.

Biggest winner of Week 18? Ryan Poles.

Poles took the Chicago Bears general manager job last offseason, understanding the program wouldn’t truly begin until 2023. The last nine months have been about wanting to see significant development from quarterback Justin Fields, amassing draft capital and preserving cap space.

Check. Check. Check.

Then, Sunday happened. The Houston Texans beat the Indianapolis Colts, right as the Bears were losing their finale to the Minnesota Vikings.

Incredibly, Chicago owns the No. 1 overall pick in the 2023 NFL Draft.

Poles now has the ultimate scenario. The Bears have a league-high $118 million in projected cap space, more than $45 million than anybody else. Chicago will be able to fill myriad holes along the roster, all while holding the first-overall pick.

This brings us to the decision Poles will face in the coming months. Does he hold onto the choice and draft an elite defensive talent such as Alabama edge rusher Will Anderson, or shop the selection to a quarterback-needy team to land a haul?

Consider what recent quarterback-centric trades involving top-three picks have netted.

In 2016, the Los Angeles Rams moved up from No. 15 to the top choice, sending a pair of first, second, and third-round picks to the Tennessee Titans for Jared Goff.

That same year, the Philadelphia Eagles went from No. 8 to the second-overall pick, relinquishing two first-rounders, along with second, third and fourth-round choices to the Cleveland Browns, eventually landing Carson Wentz.

Finally, in 2020, the San Francisco 49ers moved up nine spots from the No. 12 overall choice for Trey Lance, giving the Miami Dolphins three first-round selections and a third-rounder.

If Poles can get anything resembling those packages — and they should be the opening asking price — the Bears would be wise to accept.

Additionally, while there will be a temptation to go wild in free agency, Chicago should exercise discretion. The free-agent class is weak compared to most classes, with the top non-quarterback targets including defensive tackles Da’Ron Payne and Javon Hargrave, and defensive backs James Bradberry and C.J. Gardner-Johnson.

Regardless, this is a moment for Poles and the Bears’ franchise. They can resurrect a team that, since 2018, has been defined by the whiff of Mitchell Trubisky. Now, Chicago has its quarterback in a way it hasn’t since the halcyon days of Jim McMahon in the mid-’80s.

For Poles, the job begins in earnest. Soldier Field may fall quiet for the next eight months, but the work of paramount importance begins at Halas Hall.

There, the Bears will make moves defining them for years to come.