Peter King had a really good article today about the trade between the 49ers and Bears, how it went down, and some really interesting tidbits on it. This trade has caused a great deal of debate. Some saying it was a big price to pay (in terms of value I think SF got a ton but high picks have always been overvalued) and others saying it wasn’t much. I’m in the camp that likes the concept of what the Bears did in taking a QB since I firmly believe that until you have one you know is great you should keep picking. But there still are some questions and in reading King’s article I had some added thoughts I wanted to share.
The thing that really stuck out to me when reading the piece was how the Bears were not informing the 49ers of who they were taking. It was basically one of those deals where “if our guy is there we want to make this trade” which San Francisco seemed fine with. There were only a handful of prospects in this draft and it would make sense, logically thinking, that Chicago was targeting Solomon Thomas, who was the eventual pick of the 49ers at 3. That was also what most of the 49ers front office believed as well except for Parrag Marathe who threw out the idea that this was for Mitchell Trubisky.
In reading this over I thought this was a brilliant strategy by the Bears. First of all they gained some serious intel by opening such a discussion with the 49ers. San Francisco, like Chicago, has no solid quarterback on the roster. The 49ers signed journeyman Brian Hoyer to man the ship for the season. Hoyer’s best year of his career came when 49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan was his coordinator, but Hoyer is often injured and not a long term solution. While popular opinion was that Hoyer is keeping the seat warm for an eventual signing of Kirk Cousins in 2018, planning that way in the NFL is rarely successful (the only recent signing I can think of that was rumored that far out was Branden Albert going to Miami a few years ago).
So the first piece of information that the Bears needed to determine was whether or not San Francisco was considering taking a QB and if they were not taking a QB whether or not they were open for business. The 49ers discussions with them would also indicate whether or not the 49ers were not just open for business but actively fielding offers for a quarterback.
Making it unknown as to who they are targeting is because if Chicago gives the appearance that they are in the market for a QB the price will likely rise. Here are some of the top QB trades in the draft over the last 20 years.
|1998||Ryan Leaf||2||3, 33, 1st in 1999|
|2001||Mike Vick||1||5, 67, 2nd in 2002|
|2004||Eli Manning||1||4, 65, 1st and 5th in 2005|
|2009||Mark Sanchez||5||17, 52|
|2012||Robert Griffin||2||6, 49, 1st in 2013, 1st in 2014|
|2016||Jared Goff||1||15, 43, 45, 76, 1st and 3rd in 2017|
|2016||Carson Wentz||2||8, 77, 100, 1st in 2017, 2nd in 2018|
The cost for the QB is astronomical. While the move from 3 to 2 is smaller than the Eagles last season in getting there or the Redskins in 2012, the fact is almost every trade has a constant in there- a 1st round pick a year later and some mid round add ins. The only exceptions to this were the Chargers trade of Vick to the Falcons and the Browns trade of Sanchez to the Jets.
The Chargers had little leverage in the Vick trade. They still had fresh memories of Ryan Leaf and were not going to be able to sign Vick to an acceptable contract, so they were compromised. They didn’t make the same mistakes when they traded Manning, who stated he wouldn’t play for San Diego, to the Giants. The Sanchez trade was just one of those things that you chalk up to an inexperienced GM in Cleveland. Everything else opens up the door to an additional 1.
If we look at the trades for non-QBs in the top 5 we see more uncertainty.
|2000||Chris Samuels||3||12, 24|
|2003||Dwayne Robertson||4||13, 22, 116|
|2011||Julio Jones||6||27, 59, 124, 1st and 4th in 2012|
|2012||Trent Richardson||3||4, 118, 139, 211|
|2013||Dion Jordan||3||12, 42|
|2014||Sammie Watkins||4||9, 1st and 4th in 2015|
In general the movement for these players was a bit more haphazard. You had two first rounders being given in 2000 and 2003. In 2012 you had mid rounders. An added 2nd in 2013. The Falcons gave up a ton in 2011 but had to move all the way from 27 to 6. The Bills followed that same blueprint in an awful trade, apparently not realizing that they already had a top 10 selection. But there is definitely more wiggle room and ways to move from outside the top 10 into the top 5 or 6 when the QB leverage is not there.
Chicago picking up the phone and making what seemed like an initial offer of 3, 67, and next years 3 is much closer in price to what we see from those non QB moves than the ones for the top QB prospects in a draft. Probably a bit better than the Richardson offer and a bit worse than the Robertson one. The fact that the 49ers countered with a sweetener of a 4th rounder should have said everything they needed to know about San Francisco’s actual offers on the table and the fact that none of them were likely for a quarterback.
This is where I think I have an issue with Chicago though in making this trade. For Chicago this should have been a fishing expedition. Going into this draft it sure seemed as if this was considered a poor draft, maybe not that much unlike 2013. Kind of poor at the top decent in the middle and no depth at the bottom. Now maybe they did start that way and negotiated to the 3rd round pick, but looking at the Jordan trade starting at a 1 and 4 should have given them enough insight into the process.
If San Francisco comes back to them with an offer, even if we assume it’s just that they need at least a 1, 3 and 4 this year to even think about it, Chicago should know two things- San Francisco is not taking a quarterback and as of that offer nobody has made any kind of offer to indicate they are taking one either. That should give Chicago a solid indication that they can get their guy at 3. Chicago should have had another advantage here as well.
Despite the Bears limitations at QB they were able to give off the appearance they were not in the market for one. Chicago signed Mike Glennon to a three year, $45 million contract this offseason that included $18.5 million in guarantees. The contract itself was probably a bit questionable being that Glennon has not played a competitive role in a game since 2014 when he was benched for Josh McCown. But Glennon was the best of a bad group of players available so the Bears went above and beyond what they needed to do to sign him, but the odds are far better he fails that succeeds. All that being said, while the contract gives the appearance of a commitment to a starter, neither the years of the contract nor guarantee indicate any long term commitment.
When looking at the first round of the draft the teams that were considered most likely to need a QB were the 49ers, Browns, and Jets. Maybe Jacksonville was a dark horse, though I would say that was doubtful. Outside the top 10 you had the Texans clearly in the market while the Chiefs, Saints, and Cardinals all were looking for a QB of the future.
The hot spot to move up in the draft was the number 5 pick, which was held by the Titans who were not in the market for a QB. This was a hot spot because once San Francisco passes on a QB neither the Bears nor the Jaguars were expected to be in the market. 5 gets you in front of the Jets.
The thing is any team doing some due diligence probably at least made a phone call to Chicago and/or Jacksonville to gauge their interest in dropping down to make sure that the Titans were in fact the prime spot for the trade. In King’s article he mentions how the 49ers called another team just to let them know that things were hot for the 2nd pick. There was seemingly lukewarm interest since after that call they went right back to the Bears. Still the 49ers were doing the smart thing and calling around just as someone had done the smart thing and called the 49ers at some point about the pick in the first place.
Chicago, picking 3, should have heard from the Browns, Chiefs, Jets, etc… in the days leading up to the draft. If nobody thinks they are drafting a QB they should be fielding calls from others who are tipping their hand.
Their initial offer to the 49ers should be enough to tell Chicago that San Francisco is not picking a QB and that nobody else is blowing them away with an offer to do so either. Chicago should know exactly which teams are considering making that offer because they should have been fielding/making those calls all week.
Chicago should have had more knowledge than just about anybody in the trade market and been able to use that to their advantage. Was there a possibility that a last second deal could have come down from someone else to San Francisco? You can never rule that out but they should have had more than enough information to piece together just who that team might be and what they were offering and probably better the offer.
In the grand scheme of things throwing in an extra 3 or a 4 isnt a big if you are 100% convinced that this is the QB of your future, but in hindsight its hard to believe that Chicago didn’t have enough information to just sit firm or have gotten the trade for a 1,3, and 4 at the most. I guess its possible they did have other information but the way things went after that trade it seemed that everyone was caught off guard that wasn’t in San Francisco or Chicago. Chicago seemingly did everything right but Im not sure if they planned it out as well as they could have. We’ll probably never know the full story but it would be interesting to see where Chicago started and why it finished where it did this past Thursday.
Jason is the founder of OTC and has been studying NFL contracts and the salary cap for over 15 years. Jason has co-authored two books about the NFL, Crunching Numbers and the Drafting Stage, which are widely circulated in the industry and hosts the OTC Podcast. Jason’s work has been featured in various publications including the Sporting News, Sports Illustrated, NFL Network and more. OTC is widely considered the leading authority on contract matters in the NFL.