In an alternate universe in which the Chicago Bears made a deal for Russell Wilson, would they be battling for a playoff spot Sunday in his return to Seattle instead of worrying about a pink slip in their paycheck?
It’s interesting to wonder what could have been had the Bears been able to swing a massive trade for Wilson in March and, boy, did they try to make it happen.
Flashback to January and the days following the Bears’ wild-card round playoff loss at New Orleans. General manager Ryan Pace and coach Matt Nagy, after meeting with Chairman George McCaskey, learned they would remain in place and were 24/7 in their search for the next quarterback.
They were as stunned as everyone else to find the Bears listed as one of four teams Wilson, who has a full no-trade clause in his contract, would move towhen it became clear not everything was hunky-dory in Seattle shortly after the Super Bowl. Also on the list were the Dallas Cowboys, Las Vegas Raiders and New Orleans Saints. The Cowboys were committed to Dak Prescott, the Raiders didn’t want to pay a ransom for Wilson with Derek Carr under contract and the Saints were trying to dig out of salary-cap hell.
If a deal was going to happen, the Bears were going to be the ones to do it, and by the beginning of March acquiring Wilson was the team’s top priority, according to multiple sources. It advanced to the point the teams met in Fargo, N.D., for Trey Lance’s pro day and kicked around possibilities. Exactly what the Bears offered for Wilson remains unknown, but suffice to say it was a package that included three first-round picks plus more.
Eventually, the Seahawks said no. It’s possible Seattle GM John Schneider would have pulled the trigger on a trade, but coach Pete Carroll maintains control of the roster and wasn’t inclined to go from being a have to a have-not.
When that door closed, the Bears pivoted to the draft knowing they would have to find a way to trade up from No. 20 in Round 1 to have a shot at a promising rookie. They signed veteran Andy Dalton to a one-year, $10 million, contract, and behind the scenes the Bears made it clear they had exhausted every possible angle in efforts to land Wilson. It wasn’t a scenario in which they didn’t put a big enough offer on the table.
The Bears sent the New York Giants two first-round picks, a 2020 fifth-round pick and a 2021 fourth-round selection to move up to No. 11 and select Justin Fields. Fields studied Wilson’s game as he prepared for the NFL and they possess similar skill sets.
“Russell does a great job of extending plays, not only him but their receivers they have over there,” Fields said. “They have a lot of explosive plays off scrambles. That’s one thing you can take away from Russell’s game. I’ve always looked up to him. The kind of person he is on the field and off the field. He’s a great quarterback and a great person.”
It begs the question: Would the Bears be better off right now with Wilson or Fields? The Seahawks (5-9) will have their first losing season since 2011, the year before Wilson was drafted. Wilson has had a tough season, missing three games because of finger surgery. The Seahawks had a season-low 214 yards offense in their 20-10 loss at the Los Angeles Rams on Tuesday night.
“He’s still got a finger in his throwing hand that is on the rebound,” Carroll told Seattle media. “I’m not trying to give him an excuse, and he would never want that. He feels like he’s fine. But the fact remains he’s still got to deal with that.”
If you envision a healthy Wilson, 33, on the Bears this season, it’s easy to project the offense being significantly better. The Bears could have managed Wilson’s $19 million salary-cap hit, although it would have required some maneuvering.
There’s an endless series of connected moves that acquiring Wilson would have affected. Maybe that would have led to a long-term deal for wide receiver Allen Robinson, if for no other reason than to lower his cap hit.
Wilson’s contract would require juggling moving forward but that comes with the territory when you have a franchise quarterback that has been selected to seven Pro Bowls. Maybe with Wilson the job statuses of Pace and Nagy wouldn’t be under the microscope. Of course, the Bears would be looking ahead to the 2022 and 2023 drafts without a first-round pick and there would have been more shipped to Seattle in the deal.
“It just depends on how Nagy would coach him, if the Bears had gotten Wilson,” a veteran scout said. “Would he have been willing to adapt more of his offensive structure more to fit the instinctual traits of Russell Wilson? If he did that, yes, they would be better because they’ve been playing a rookie and Andy Dalton. There are a lot of factors that make this offense so poor. Will Fields get there? No one knows. They’re so bad on offense right now. They look disorganized.”
In a perfect world, Fields takes a major step forward next season when the Bears will be short on draft capital. He has shown flashes of high-level plays. The seam pass to tight end Cole Kmet against Cover-2 in Monday night’s loss to the Minnesota Vikings was an excellent delivery. Fields has an immense skill set with greater mobility than Wilson, and he will have almost a full season of experience when this year ends.
Fields has started 10 games this season, but he is nursing an ankle injury. The Bears on Friday named Nick Foles the starter Sunday against the Seahawks.
Everything in Fields’ game is under construction and will be guided by whatever coaching path the organization chooses. With a quarterback on his first contract, the Bears will have added flexibility for building the roster around Fields. That will be critical in his development.
Wilson almost certainly would have made the offense better right now but at a high cost. Fields offers the franchise hope, but this hasn’t gone the direction the club wished for entering Week 16.
That’s the reality of the Bears, the quarterback position and their never-ending search for a savior.
<mark class=”hl_green”>DK Metcalf, Seahawks wide receiver</mark>
Information for this report was obtained from NFL scouts.
DK Metcalf, 6-foot-4, 235 pounds, is in his third season after Seattle drafted him in the second round in 2019 out of Mississippi. The son of former Bears guard Terrence Metcalf, he has 62 receptions for 805 yards (13.0 average) with eight touchdowns.
Metcalf needs 68 more yards to pass Joey Galloway for the most yards in a player’s first three seasons with the Seahawks (3,076), and with 25 career touchdowns only Randy Moss (36) and Odell Beckham Jr. (34) have had more in their first 40 games since 1990.
Metcalf’s production has dipped since Russell Wilson was injured, and all eight of his touchdown receptions came in the first eight games. In the last seven games, he has not had more than 60 yards receiving.
“They have a lot of isolation routes to the boundary or from the split position as an outside receiver,” the scout said. “They’re running a lot of fade routes, verticals and stop routes and comebacks, really trying to isolate him. I thought you would see in Shane Waldron’s offense — this is the first year — more schemed up stuff where they would try to get him loose on in-breakers and crossers where he would have the ability to create production after the catch in the open field because he has such great straight-line speed.
“The thing people always bring up with DK is the three-cone time at the combine (7.38 seconds) because you’re always going to see it in his game. He’s got hip tightness and it’s going to take him a while to get out of his breaks. But he’s a really powerful athlete who can run in the low 4.4s or high 4.3s and stretch the defense vertically over the top.
“He’s a tough matchup in man coverage because he’s so strong and physical at the line of scrimmage. I think you’ve seen him develop a lot more nuance in the route tree since his rookie season. In 2019, he was an explosive play target they could scheme up. His footwork has gotten better, his hand use is better and he has a better feel for how to attack leverage at the NFL level.
“There are always going to be parts of his game that shows up because of the type of athlete he is and how he is built. They haven’t maximized his ability in that passing game this season and that has been a major issue. The timing and rhythm with Russell Wilson has been nonexistent on occasions, and the Seahawks have to find ways to manufacture touches for him. They haven’t done a good job of that because he’s the No. 1 wide receiver and he is a consistent threat if he’s used the right way.”
Source: Berkshire mont