By Brent Schwartz
In today’s NFL landscape, teams either have a franchise quarterback or they are pursuing one.
The Chicago Bears’ pursuit has led them to last week’s signing of former Tampa Bay Buccaneers backup, Mike Glennon, who they will be paying $43.5 million over the next three years, with $14.5 million guaranteed according to NFL.com’s Ian Rapoport.
After paying big money for another team’s backup, did the Bears make the right move?
“The Mike Glennon deal is big, but it’s essentially a one-year ‘prove-it deal,’” said ESPN Insider NFL analyst Scott Kacsmar. “I like him, but not sure I’d bother to give him that kind of tryout over keeping Jay Cutler, who is still a better player than Glennon, or drafting a quarterback such as Deshaun Watson or Pat Mahomes.”
Glennon, 27, has just 18 NFL starts on his resume, but hasn’t started the last two seasons, as he’s sat behind Jameis Winston in Tampa. Now Glennon will attempt to revitalize a franchise that has faltered over the past few years under 33-year-old Jay Cutler, who the Bears released last week.
“I’ve liked [Glennon] ever since NC State,” said Bears general manager Ryan Pace during a news conference. “He’s a big quarterback with a strong arm. He’s intelligent, he sees the field, he’s accurate, and he gets the ball out quick. There’s a lot of traits about him that I like, and we’re really excited to have him here.”
Despite the reassurance from Pace, the deal seems somewhat of a panic move for the rebuilding franchise. The Bears do hold the No. 3 overall pick in the upcoming NFL Draft in May, but the draft class is not considered to have a strong group of quarterbacks.
Additionally, the Bears have many other holes to fill. Their defense lacks a Brian Urlacher or a Julius Peppers, and isn’t as strong as some of their great defenses over the past 15 years.
Also, the offense has gone through a talent purge over the past few seasons, with the departures of running back Matt Forte, tight end Martellus Bennett and now wide receiver Alshon Jeffery, who signed with the Philadelphia Eagles last week, so they need to retool in several other areas.
“Chicago has one of the more anonymous rosters in the league, and is a few seasons away from contending again,” Kacsmar said.
But what else could the Bears have done? The Glennon signing magnifies a shortage of quality quarterbacks in the league.
One possibility the Bears could have considered was attempting a package deal to the New England Patriots for Chicago-area native Jimmy Garoppolo. According to ESPN’s Adam Schefter, the Patriots are not expected to move Garoppolo this offseason. But if the Bears were to have offered multiple second-round picks over the next few seasons, history says Patriots coach Bill Belichick would have at least listened to the offer. Belichick loves stacking second-round draft picks.
In a move that will have a ripple effect on all QB-needy teams, Patriots are not expected to trade QB Jimmy Garoppolo, per league sources.
— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) March 1, 2017
But giving up valuable picks for a quarterback with a small sample size was ultimately too risky.
“The problem with trading a premium for a quarterback with limited experience is that it’s practically impossible to recreate the situation that made him look good on that team,” Kacsmar said. “Without a larger sample size of Garoppolo being legitimately good on his own, it makes any deal for him a huge gamble.”
In hindsight, the Bears were stuck in a situation with no attractive options. Chicago could still explore the idea of drafting a quarterback after the first round. Mock drafts have Deshaun Watson and Pat Mahomes all over the board, so there’s a possibility that one or both could be available when the Bears select with the 35th overall pick.
But for now, the Bears will ride with Glennon, a former third-round pick, and backup in Tampa. The sad truth is that the signing of Glennon may have been the Bears’ best option in a bad situation.