What Bears trading No. 1 pick to Panthers means for franchise

What Bears trading No. 1 pick to Panthers means for franchise originally appeared on NBC Sports Chicago

Ryan Poles said what he was going to do last week at the NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis. The Bears' general manager told NBC Sports' Peter King he "felt urgency" from some teams who wanted to trade for the No. 1 overall pick before free agency in order to get clarity on their quarterback situation.

Poles said the price would be exorbitant for him to move the pick now. He wasn't lying. He didn't blink.

On Friday, Poles found the haul he had been searching for since the Bears landed the top pick thanks to a Houston Texans miraculous win in Week 18. The Bears traded the No. 1 pick to the Carolina Panthers in exchange for the No. 9 overall pick, a second-round pick (No. 61 overall), a 2024 first-round pick, a 2025 second-round pick, and star wide receiver D.J. Moore.

Poles created his leverage over the past seven weeks by creating the impression that the Bears would be willing to trade quarterback Justin Fields and draft a rookie signal-caller at No. 1 overall. That facade dissolved at the combine as Poles' phone started to heat up with interest from several teams.

The Panthers had been viewed as a top suitor from the outset. Carolina met with veteran quarterback Derek Carr in Indianapolis and was interested in making the 32-year-old a Panther. But once Carr chose to join the division rival Saints, the Panthers were low on options at quarterback.

The Panthers tried to land Matthew Stafford two offseasons ago and were involved in the Deshaun Watson trade sweepstakes last spring. They missed out on both just as they whiffed on Carr.

Just like that, Poles found the desperate team he'd been hoping to ravage.

The return might not look like the might haul you'd expect for a team going from No. 1 to No. 9. The San Francisco 49ers gave up two first-round picks to go from No. 12 to No. 3 two offseasons ago.

Moore was the key to making this deal happen now.

In Moore, the Bears get a 25-year-old No. 1 receiver who is under contract through the 2025 season.

It's imperative that Fields takes a massive step forward as a passer next season. We've seen Josh Allen and Jalen Hurts' leaps happen after their respective teams acquired star receivers who could help take the pressure off the young quarterback.

Moore is a master in the intermediate area of the field, a place Fields thrived at targeting last season.

Per ProFootballFocus' Brad Spielberger, Fields led the NFL last season with a 66.7 percent completion on throws 10-19 yards downfield. From 2019 to 22, Moore has been targeted 172 times in that range, the second most in the NFL.

At the combine, word spread that Poles wanted a 2024 first and a 2025 first in the package for the No. 1 pick.

Knowing they'll be breaking in a young quarterback, the Panthers were undoubtedly reticent to throw in a 2025 first in the deal. Moore is the compromise. One Poles had to be more than willing to make.

Twenty-five-year-old star receivers are hard to come by, and getting Moore, who still has three years left on his deal, allows the Bears to set Fields up for success next season. Acquiring a 2025 first-round pick looks good in the tweet, but that does little to help the Bears' supposed franchise quarterback in what is a make-or-break season this fall.

Moore will help Fields, and his gravity will make life easier for Darnell Mooney, Cole Kmet, and Chase Claypool. In acquiring Moore, the Bears' receiving corps starts to take expected shape, with Mooney and Claypool slotting into roles that fit their skillsets and talent level.

Trading down to No. 9 isn't without its risks. In doing so, the Bears tossed away any shot at drafting Alabama edge rusher Will Anderson, who looks like a superstar in the making. By moving to nine, Poles is betting on his and his staff's evaluation of this class.

Head coach Matt Eberflus told The MMQB's Albert Breer that the Bears had seven players they could take at No. 1. Even if that number is high, the Bears clearly like several players in this class who they believe will be available in the back end of the top 10.

They have to nail that selection.

As good as Moore is, the Bears still lack blue-chip talent on this roster. Whoever they pick at No. 9 has to turn out to be a difference-maker, especially if Anderson lives up to his potential.

RELATED: Schrock's free agency predictions for Bears include two big-name signings

The Texans handed Poles a ticket to reshape the Bears franchise and add nitrous to his rebuild.

On Friday, the Bears general manager made his big move and wrote the first line of his eventual Bears obituary.

Anyone could have ripped apart the bones of the Ryan Pace-Matt Nagy roster. Now Poles gets to put his fingerprints on this rebuild.

Poles rolled into Charlotte, picked up Panthers general manager Scott Fitterer and shook out his pockets, and sped away with a franchise-altering package in the trunk. It was a fleecing in every sense of the word.

This was the day the Ryan Poles era truly began in Chicago.

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