Recent history shows how Jordan Howard trade could benefit Bears

JJ Stankevitz
NBC Sports Chicago

Recent history shows how Jordan Howard trade could benefit Bears originally appeared on nbcsportschicago.com

Ryan Pace decided to part with a piece of the Bears' offense, a seemingly-important piece to have around quarterback Mitch Trubisky who led the team in an offensive category in the past. 

That could've been the lede to a story a year ago about the Bears not matching the New Orleans Saints' offer sheet for then-restricted free agent wide receiver Cameron Meredith. It applies now, too, in the aftermath of last week's trade to ship running back Jordan Howard to the Philadelphia Eagles for a 2020 draft pick.

Broadly, the situation is similar to that of Howard: The Bears let go of a player they felt didn't fit their plans. 

Of course, the specifics are different. The Bears knew Meredith's medicals after he tore his ACL in a preseason game in 2017 and weren't willing to guarantee over $5 million to him, as the Saints did. Meredith appeared in only six games for New Orleans in 2018 and had his knee scoped after landing on injured reserve. Keeping him would've meant not drafting Anthony Miller, who led the Bears in receiving touchdowns as a rookie in 2018. 

Howard, however, doesn't have a history of injuries. He simply didn't fit what the Bears hoped to accomplish out of a running back unit that added Mike Davis in free agency and seems likely to add another player in the draft, just as Pace did in letting go of Meredith and drafting Miller. 

Granted, Pace doesn't have a second-round pick - or, too, three picks in the first two rounds, as he did after trading back into last year's second round to take Miller - with which to draft a running back. The Bears aren't necessarily going to take a running back when they go on the clock with the 87th pick in April's draft. 

"It's going to be a unique year where we're picking and it's still going to be best player available," Pace said. 

The good news for the Bears' running back depth chart is players at that position usually fall a round or two below their grade, given teams (that don't play at MetLife Stadium) usually don't prioritize that position. The Bears could have a second-round grade on someone like Penn State's Miles Sanders or Memphis' Darrell Henderson and get them in the third round, or even the fourth round (the lack of a clear-cut top running back in this year's draft class, though, could lead a few to go off the board after the first round). Or the Bears could see a good prospect to target with a fourth- or fifth-round pick, perhaps like Ohio State's Mike Weber or Notre Dame's Dexter Williams. Either way, the Bears will have options. 

But for those concerned/annoyed/frustrated with the Bears' trade of Howard, perhaps consider what happened a year ago. The Bears didn't appear to be a better team when they let Meredith go to New Orleans, then wound up a better team because they replaced him with Miller. 

With Pace and Matt Nagy working closely to identify the right guy to add to their running back group with Howard out of the picture, perhaps they deserve some benefit of the doubt. 

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