Ryan Poles

Grading the Chicago Bears’ decision to trade No. 1 pick to Carolina Panthers

The Chicago Bears weren’t expected to take long to trade the No. 1 pick in the 2023 NFL Draft, and there were rumblings during the NFL Combine that GM Ryan Poles wanted a deal done before the start of free agency. Those rumors proved true; the Bears traded the first pick to the Carolina Panthers for the No. 9 and 61 picks in the 2023 draft, a first-round pick in 2024, and a second-round selection in 2025. The Bears also received superstar wide receiver D.J. Moore.

I try to be unbiased when issuing grades for a major transaction like this. I want to see both sides of the deal and why each party reached the decision they did. It’s easy to understand why the Chicago Bears dealt the first pick — they don’t need a quarterback — and why the Carolina Panthers were aggressive to acquire it — they do need a quarterback.

But even with the Panthers’ logic and motivation to make this trade, the Bears are big winners. It’s an expected outcome whenever a team trades down from No. 1 with a club that’s desperate for a quarterback. As NFL Network’s Daniel Jeremiah said before the start of the NFL Combine, teams pay a 120% premium when they move up to the first selection for a QB.

There are a few reasons why the Bears get a big grade for this trade.

First, and the most obvious, is Moore, who immediately flips Chicago’s unintimidating passing offense into one that now warrants respect. He could have a similar impact on Fields that A.J. Brown had on Jalen Hurts in 2022 and what Stefon Diggs had on Josh Allen in 2021. Moore isn’t as big of a household name as those other two wideouts, but it’s because he was stuck on a lifeless Panthers team that failed to propel him into national stardom.

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Second, the first-round pick the Chicago Bears received from the Panthers has a real chance of being a top-five pick in 2024. Is it possible that Carolina overachieves and wins a handful of games they aren’t expected to next year? Sure. But take a quick look at their depth chart on offense, and add a rookie quarterback into the mix. It’ll be a few seasons before the Panthers are ready to compete, and the Bears will benefit because of it one year from now.

Lastly, the Bears no longer have to worry about adding a wide receiver during 2023’s free agency spending spree. This year’s crop of pass-catchers is an underwhelming bunch, highlighted by Jakobi Meyers (Patriots), D.J. Chark (Lions), and Mecole Hardman (Chiefs). All three receivers are fine, but none of them would’ve moved the needle much for the Bears next season. And while Moore’s contract will soak up some of the Bears’ spending power, Chicago still has the most salary-cap space in the league when free agency kicks off.

Ryan Poles can focus his spending power on the offensive and defensive lines, which would’ve been the Chicago Bears’ priority even without this trade. Still, the Bears can go all-in without wasting time on wide receivers now that the trade is done.

The Chicago Bears’ trade will have a ripple effect on other players on the roster, too. Chase Claypool doesn’t have to shoulder the burden of being the WR1 in 2023, a role he probably isn’t made for at this point in his career. He’ll be a top-shelf WR2 who has the potential to be just as productive as a WR1 on any given week. Even Justin Fields will benefit beyond just having a go-to guy to rely on. Defenses must respect D.J. Moore on all three levels of the passing game. They can’t cheat and simply spy on Fields anymore. And that means more opportunities for QB1 to make plays with his legs.

A trade rarely feels… perfect. But this one does. Ryan Poles hit a home run. A grand slam. He addressed one of the Chicago Bears’ biggest weaknesses with a superstar veteran. He secured a top-10 pick in the 2023 NFL Draft. He likely secured a top-10 pick in the 2024 draft, too. And those second-rounders should become critical starters over the next few seasons.

As for the grade? As you can probably guess, the Chicago Bears get an A+.

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