When the band stopped playing during Thursday's round of NFL musical chairs for quarterbacks, Carson Wentz was being packaged to the Indianapolis Colts … while the seat with the Chicago Bears logo on it remained unfilled.
Though the Bears salvaged a .500 regular season with a fast finish in 2020, claiming the NFC's final wild-card spot for their effort and advancing to the playoffs for the second time in head coach Matt Nagy's three seasons, this defensively reliant roster continues to be unsettled at football's most important position.
Chicago was in direct competition with Indianapolis for Wentz's services, but GM Ryan Pace — he and Nagy bought another season in the wake of their postseason dash — apparently didn't offer enough.
So what quarterbacking options does that leave the Bears for 2021? Here are six:
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1. Stand pat
Of all potential courses of action … welp, this is one of them. Nick Foles, 32, briefly energized the team after replacing Mitchell Trubisky in Week 3 but ultimately won two of seven starts and continued to look like a guy best served to a relief role. Trubisky played pretty well in the second half of the year, albeit against mostly poor defensive competition, once he'd reclaimed the job after Foles was injured.
However, he's generally been a disappointment since Pace traded up to get him with the second pick of the 2017 draft — when Patrick Mahomes and Deshaun Watson were available. Chicago declined Trubisky's fifth-year option and would now have to franchise him to keep him off the market — a move that would be patently ludicrous. Maybe he'd agree to come back on an incentive-laden deal and battle for the starting job again, but nobody in the Windy City wants to see that.
2. Draft a QB
It's more palatable than option No. 1, but hardly foolproof or easy to execute. For starters, though Pace has made several nice personnel decisions over the years — Khalil Mack, Allen Robinson, Tarik Cohen, etc., etc. — his Trubisky whiff doesn't engender any confidence he can pick a winner under center coming out of college. Not only that, the Bears' sprint to the playoffs dropped them to 20th in the first round — meaning Pace would almost surely have to trade significant assets to get in range of one of this year's top prospects, though there's almost no chance he could get his hands on Clemson's Trevor Lawrence or BYU's Zach Wilson and probably not Ohio State's Justin Fields.
3. Sign Cam Newton
Nagy was hired from the Andy Reid tree thanks to his exposure to a first-rate NFL offense. He helped turn Alex Smith into a Pro Bowl quarterback in Kansas City and, arguably, helped Trubisky (a Pro Bowler in 2018) maximize his potential. Newton, coming off an up-and-down season in New England, is still a fairly compelling — and cost effective — fallback, and his dual threat ability might be suited to a team that might lose its No. 1 receiver, Robinson, in free agency.
4. Trade for Jimmy Garoppolo
He's from the Chicago suburbs! And his contract, which has two years and about $50 million remaining, is far less onerous than Wentz's. Garoppolo has proven by now he's not Tom Brady 2.0, but he's still a better prospect than Pace and Nagy currently have.
The Bears would surely love to replace QB Mitchell Trubisky, left, with Houston's Deshaun Watson. (Photo: Mike Dinovo, USA TODAY Sports)
5. Trade for Deshaun Watson
Duh, of course. The Bears don't have anything close to the near-term draft ammunition or young quarterback to offer in return that the New York Jets or Miami Dolphins could muster in a deal for the disgruntled Texans Pro Bowler. But if Houston ultimately decides it has to move its superstar … and if Pace, say, offers up four first-round picks … then maybe he obtains the guy he could have drafted four years ago?
6. Get Dak Prescott
The Dallas Cowboys quarterback is once again unsigned, and Prescott is also likely to once again get stuck with the franchise tag — this year to the tune of $37.7 million. But unless Jerry Jones gets a long-term deal done — and soon — this is shaping up as a standoff similar to the one Kirk Cousins had in Washington a few years ago. But if the impasse persists, and Prescott doesn't get with the exclusive tag he received in 2020 (one that barred him from negotiating with other teams), there might be an opening here.
Franchised players are supposed to cost two first-round picks from teams that obtain them via unmatched offer sheets, but can sometimes fetch less in negotiations. However, if Jones and Co. determine Prescott won't play ball long term financially, then maybe they'll look to play ball with Pace and get something in return for their most prominent player while they still can.
Follow USA TODAY Sports' Nate Davis on Twitter @ByNateDavis.
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