Bears-Panthers trade: Why the blockbuster move was the right choice for general manager Ryan Poles

When the Bears left the NFL Scouting Combine, the question wasn’t whether they would trade the first pick.

The buzz had turned into which team it would be and how much they would get out of it.

On Friday, everyone had their answers.

That team became the Panthers, and Holy Moly, did the Bears get an outright win for No. 1.

The Bears’ trade with the Panthers won’t be official until the league’s new year begins on Wednesday. But here’s the deal: the Panthers receive the first pick to select their top quarterback in the NFL Draft; the Bears get numbers 9 and 61 this year, a 2024 first-round pick, a 2025 second-round pick and wide receiver DJ Moore.

The addition of Moore is the proverbial icing on the cake for Chicago.

AthleticismAdam Jahns and Kevin Fishbain talk about the blockbuster trade, which has the potential to change the Bears for years to come.

from Jahn: The fish is almost unbelievable. It’s not that the Bears traded the first pick. We all knew this would happen eventually. This is the loot they got. In one move, general manager Ryan Poles got Justin Fields, a No. 1 receiver and more draft capital to build around him. The Poles deserve credit for the way he played his hand this week and especially at the combine last week when other GMs did their best to throw up smokescreens. Teams always feel compelled to travel for quarters. The Poles apparently never underestimated this desire. After all, he was part of a Chiefs front office that did the same for Patrick Mahomes in 2017.

Fish shop : We knew the Panthers could be that team. They fit the bill as a franchise ready to be aggressive, and the Poles took advantage of that. Let’s start with Moore. The capital project is great, but who knows what comes of it? We know Moore is the Bears’ best receiver right now and immediately improves Fields and the offense. He will also be 26 at the start of next season. He’s not a one-year-old guy. I mocked Ohio State receiver Jaxon Smith-Njigba to the Bears in our last mock draft because I felt they needed a dynamic receiver and couldn’t get a veteran. Enter Moore.

from Jahn: The Bears receivers now look like a good bunch: Moore, Darnell Mooney, Chase Claypool, Velus Jones Jr. and Equanimeous St. Brown. Adding a No. 1 receiver like Moore — who has three 1,000-yard receiving seasons in five years — makes everything better. The fields must be ecstatic. It’s instant help. But it’s also a long-term decision for the Poles and the Bears. Moore is under contract for this season and the next two. The Bears can now devote their full attention to their offensive and defensive lines in free agency and the draft.

Fish shop : Before we get to the trenches, here’s a thought exercise: Are the Poles cut out at wide receiver? I know I said Moore is the guy and they don’t need to consider Jaxon Smith-Njigba or any of the other top receiver prospects, but consider this: What does the future hold for Mooney and Claypool? Will the two be re-signed? I’m not ready to close the door on adding a playmaker. But there are bigger priorities.

from Jahn: This is because there are still big holes in the list. The signing of right tackle Mike McGlinchey, linebacker Bobby Okereke and three-technical defensive tackle Dre’Mont Jones in free agency would fill three immediately, as would the arrival of Moore. The Bears still have the salary cap space to make all three a reality. I don’t think Moore is changing the Bears’ offensive plan for free agency. I’d bet the Bears have included adding a receiver of Moore’s caliber in their plans and scenarios for this offseason, especially with the No. 1 pick available to them.

Fish shop : Those moves next week will help dictate what to watch for in Rounds 1 and 2 of the draft. Posts have flexibility. He can move up from No.9 if he wants. He probably won’t get Will Anderson Jr., but if enough quarterbacks leave early, he can pick his spot to get his guy, whether it’s someone like Northwest offensive lineman Peter Skoronski, rusher of Texas Tech Tyree Wilson, Iowa defensive lineman Lukas Van Ness or a corner, as Oregon’s Christian Gonzalez. We talked so often last season about the Bears’ lack of top-notch players. Poles has plenty of swings he can take to add leads that have the traits to help build this thing into its ultimate goal: a consistent winner.

from Jahn: This is also the goal. The Poles wanted these extra swings. He wasn’t able to take just one with the first choice. The Bears have too many holes on their roster. He needed more equity. You have to enjoy his process. They’re not one Anderson away from being a contender in the NFC. But now the Poles have a No. 1 receiver for Fields, an additional second-round pick this year, another first in 2024, then another second in 2025. I didn’t want to repeat the compensation. But it is worth pointing out again. It’s a potentially franchise-changing carry for the Bears and a career-changing one for the Poles.

Fish shop : And it happened the first anniversary of Khalil Mack’s trade, the beginning of the overhaul of the list of Poles. It’s not easy to do a multi-year rebuild in the NFL, but George McCaskey has allowed the Poles to build this team in a way we haven’t seen in Chicago in a long time. The next step is picking draft picks and getting Fields’ high play. If they still lack talent, they already have the chips for the next two repechages. Look at the Lions right now. It’s weird to call them a role model, but they’re on the rise after last season’s success and this year’s draft picks. The Bears could be there next year — or better if Fields takes off.

(Photo by Justin Fields: Michael Reaves/Getty Images)

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