There is no doubt that the Chicago Bears’ top priority this offseason is to come away with a revamped wide receivers room that is improved from top to bottom and led by a clear-cut No. 1 pass-catching option.
To reach that goal, the team could travel several different avenues in their search for help at a position that might be considered their biggest need.
We’ve discussed the possibilities in free agency (Albert Wilson, Allen Robinson, Sammy Watkins) and the draft (Calvin Ridley, Christian Kirk, and others) as places where the Bears can pluck some high-end talent for Mitch Trubisky to target in 2018 and beyond. And while we’ve touched upon one possible trade target (Jarvis Landry), another has emerged from the rumor mill.
ESPN Senior Writer Mike Sando spoke with NFL front office executives who proposed some suggested deals and shared rumors they’ve heard this offseason. Among the those deals is one between the Bears and Dallas Cowboys that would send Pro Bowl receiver Dez Bryant to Chicago in exchange for a low-level draft pick (the Bears’ 6th round pick in 2018 is mentioned).
To be very clear: This isn’t to say the two teams have an imminent deal in place or have even talked shop regarding a trade of this nature – Sando is simply sharing a deal that NFL executives have either proposed, vetted and/or heard rumors about – but still … let’s discuss.
All things equal, adding Bryant makes a ton of sense for the Bears.
The Bears need to add a playmaker to that offense and Bryant is a proven commodity with one first-team All-Pro appearance, three Pro Bowls, and three 1,000-yard receiving seasons under his belt. Quarterbacks dream of throwing to a player with Bryant’s talent and potential. His per 16-game averages come out to 75 catches, 1,056 yards, and 10 touchdowns. If given the opportunity, you would sign up for a Bears receiver to have that kind of production all day, every day, twice on Sunday, the occasional Monday, and for the annual Thursday night affair too.
Of course, all things aren’t equal.
While the Bears have ample cap space to absorb Bryant’s contract (a $16.5 million cap number for each of the next two seasons) and a need at the position, the talented receiver comes with some baggage. He has played a full 16-game season once in the last three seasons, which coincide with a slide in production.
Even if you extrapolate his numbers, a 16-game average of 63 catches, 857 yards, and seven touchdowns is respectable, but a significant step down from his peak production that came in his age 23 through age 26 seasons when he averaged 84 catches, 1,216 yards, and 12 touchdowns. Naturally, Bryant missed just one game during that four-year stretch.
It’s also fair to wonder about the risks surrounding the idea of adding Bryant to a young locker room. Offensive lineman Kyle Long is currently the team’s elder statesman at age 29. All of the team’s offensive skill position players of note are young and developing. Bryant has a reputation of being rough around the edges. It might not be the most sensible idea to bring in a mercurial presence like Bryant into a locker room with a first-year head coach and second-year quarterback.
The NFL trade market was off to a hot start more than a month before the new league’s new year began with deals that sent quarterback Alex Smith to Washington and Marcus Peters to Los Angeles in a pair of moves that had Bears implications in one way or another. A trade for Bryant would only cause for football’s hot stove to reach new levels. But whether there is a deal that makes sense for the Cowboys and Bears is something both sides should seriously consider before even thinking of engaging in talks.