The deadline moves by Chicago and Jacksonville to get their receivers of the future both came together as their individual front offices forecasted the future.
The Bears got Chase Claypool by sending their second-round pick to Pittsburgh, while the Jaguars got suspended receiver Calvin Ridley from the Falcons for what could amount to second- and fifth-round picks. Both teams were aggressive in getting their pass catchers because of what they predict to be a weak 2023 free-agent class.
Chicago spent aggressively for Claypool, who was taken with the 49th overall pick in the 2020 draft. The Bears had to outbid an eager Packers team for the receiver, and so they gave up their second-round pick rather than the (likely later) pick acquired from Baltimore in the Roquan Smith trade.
The Bears had been monitoring the wide receiver market dating back to the preseason. DK Metcalf and Deebo Samuel got their extensions and that took away the remaining available, young receiver targets. Chicago had its eye on Panthers receiver D.J. Moore, but Carolina wanted a first-round pick and then some for Moore. The 3-5 Bears currently have the 12th overall pick in the 2023 draft and weren't comfortable dealing next year's first with how this season could go.
For months Jaguars GM Trent Baalke researched Ridley, who had played his last snap in Atlanta even before his suspension for gambling on football. According to Falcons sources, Ridley's makeup didn't match the sort of culture Arthur Smith is building there, and a parting of ways was a fait accompli. The thought, though, was the Falcons would deal him in March as opposed to November.
Atlanta could have held on to the suspended player into March and gotten a bidding war going. But the Falcons reasoned that they could wipe the slate clean with Ridley now, avoid an offseason of dodging awkward questions about a player they knew they wouldn't have back and go into the offseason with a clear picture of available cap space and draft picks.
The list of free-agent receivers expected to hit the market next spring isn't inspiring. Receivers who will be under 30 years old who could hit the market include Jakobi Meyers, Deonte Harty, Nelson Agholor, Allen Lazard, Mecole Hardman and JuJu Smith-Schuster.
Of course, things could always change. Tyreek Hill, Davante Adams and A.J. Brown weren't expected to be traded at this time last year either. But in the case of Jacksonville and Chicago, those teams decided not to wait on a "what if."