Everyone is waiting on the Chicago Bears to trade the No. 1 pick in the 2023 NFL Draft, but they may not stop at just one trade.
League sources indicated to CBS Sports this past week in Indianapolis that the Bears could trade down once, then trade down again in the first round of April's draft. That result would net Chicago multiple first-round picks in 2023 and 2024 along with several other Day 2 picks.
Here's how one prominent league source sees it: the Bears deal the top pick to the Texans, who are currently selecting at No. 2 overall. The Texans don't want to get leapfrogged for their top pick and, armed with a dozen picks in this year's draft plus two firsts in next year's draft, they'll be able to give Bears GM Ryan Poles sufficient compensation to get their quarterback of the future.
In some regard, the Bears may be in an even better position to make a deal at No. 2. The Texans would have taken their top quarterback, and if teams feel there are two difference-makers at QB for the 2023 season, they'll want to get on the phone with Chicago before someone else does.
Essentially, Chicago gets two bites at the apple.
"Yeah, there's been some calls, just feelers, trying to figure out what we want to do, what we're open to do, and we're going to take that information," Poles told me last week in Indianapolis. "I've talked about it a lot. This whole setup here at the Combine gives you an opportunity to collect information and then get with your team, and I'll get with my team and we'll make the best decision for us moving forward. We're going to evaluate guys here that could help change our culture and improve our team and really move the needle, but there's also going to be options to move back.
"Then we've got to do a numbers game of how many guys are in a range and in a value we feel comfortable with to move back and we feel like we can still get them. So there's a lot going on. We'll put it all together, but I know as a front office, as an organization, coaching staff, we're pumped up. We're excited to really get this team to where it needs to be."
The Bears wouldn't be willing to go too far down, of course. It's unclear how many true first-rounders they'll have on their board, but on any given year that could be about 15 or so players.
If Chicago could go from one to two, and then from two to... say... nine with Carolina, I think the Bears would view that as a massive coup for the long-term vision of the franchise.
Jimmy G to the Texans?
One big issue standing in the way of the above is whether Nick Caserio and DeMeco Ryans would be willing to trade up to No. 1.
Sources tell CBS Sports there's a push within the building to sign quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo and play him in 2023 while drafting a quarterback at some point in the first round with the plan to sit him for the year and grow.
Houston picks at No. 2 and 12 with more than $40 million in cap space right now, so the Texans could easily fit their quarterback of the future into the team beside the quarterback of the now if it's Garoppolo.
The Texans hired Bobby Slowik from the Niners to be their offensive coordinator. Who better to execute that offense quickly and efficiently than a healthy Garoppolo, who knows the head coach and offensive coordinator from his time in the Bay Area and the general manager from his time in New England?
Garoppolo will have to want to go to Houston, though. A free agent, Jimmy G can pick his spot. The Jets are waiting on Aaron Rodgers and are hopeful he's going to give an answer any day now. The Raiders could have interest in Garoppolo. But those places would seemingly be the top landing spots.
If the Jets get Rodgers and the Raiders opt to go another route, the best remaining chair for Garoppolo would be Houston. The Texans could get him on a heavily-incentivized deal (due to his injury history) that they can get out of for little to no penalty after the season when their first-round quarterback has developed into a 2024 starter.
Lamar Jackson latest
I won't be surprised Tuesday if the Ravens use the non-exclusive franchise tag on Lamar Jackson. I had previously believed Baltimore would exercise the exclusive tag, and the Ravens still could. But since Indianapolis it's seemed as though the Ravens are willing to go non-exclusive. Why? It's nearly $13 million less, coming in at $32.4 million in 2023. The Ravens and Jackson have tried to hammer out a deal to no avail so far, and it's clear the issue is the principal and fact of fully guaranteed money. If you're the Ravens and you've tried this long and have no deal, what makes you think you'll figure one out by the July 17 deadline to strike an extension?
The exclusive tag would cause the Ravens to use about a fifth of their cap space on Jackson. They'll have to cut or restructure veterans like Calais Campbell, Gus Edwards, Patrick Ricard, Devin Duvernay and/or Morgan Moses no matter what, but that sort of number would force Baltimore to make even tougher cuts. (This isn't Jackson's fault, by the way, but it is the reality of the situation.)
The non-exclusive tag obviously opens up the possibility of the Ravens losing Jackson. They would not be able to replace Jackson in 2023. They would be a lesser team without him. But, from the team perspective, they could let him test out the market. As one source put it, maybe it'd be good for him to see what other teams believe he's worth. If there's a deal he's willing to sign, the Ravens could always match or get two first-round picks in losing him.
There are two dangers here. The first, those two picks are far less than what the Ravens should be getting for him. But if Baltimore is never going to give Jackson what he feels he's worth, and if this saga is going to continue for another year, maybe the Ravens will take what they can get.
The second danger is that you may never feel safe if you're the Ravens. Here's what I mean: a non-exclusive franchise player can "be completely free to negotiate and sign an offer sheet" with another team from the start of free agency on March 15 all the way through the Tuesday following the 10th week of the 2023 season if he never signs the tag, according to the CBA.
It's hard to believe he's going to rush to sign the tag this spring or summer. Under that scenario, any interested team could make an offer until he decides to sign and report to the team. This could continue into training camp, and it's a unique challenge the Ravens must account for.
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More insider notes
- The Chiefs opting not to franchise tag Orlando Brown Jr. means they very well could lose him in free agency. It's been a long negotiating process in Kansas City -- one that Baltimore anticipated when it traded him there two years ago. The Chiefs could still get a deal done, but it seems like he's destined to test the free agency waters where he would no doubt be the highest-paid offensive tackle in this year's free agency class. If nothing else, the Chiefs got a Super Bowl and a T-shirt out of it.
- One league source I spoke with offered up the possibility of the Giants using the transition tag on Daniel Jones if they can't reach a long-term deal by the end of the day. I don't think the Giants would do that, but it's an interesting thought. The transition tag would cost the Giants $29.5 million compared to the $32.4 million on the non-exclusive franchise tag. New York would lose the opportunity at getting two first-round picks if a team decided to give Jones a contract the Giants wouldn't match. But the source questioned whether that could actually happen. Many believe no one values Jones more than the Giants, so any interested team wouldn't put together a contract the Giants wouldn't be able to match. If there's no contract, the transition tag would be $3 million less than the franchise tag, and it would preserve New York's ability to franchise tag Jones down the road.
- On Monday, the Jaguars officially placed the franchise tag on tight end Evan Engram. I'm told the two sides weren't particularly close on a long-term deal, but of course they have until mid-July to hammer that out. Engram had the sort of season that reinforces to NFL owners why they must keep the tag, and reinforces to the players why the tag must die in the next CBA.
- I know there's talk that the Titans are shopping running back Derrick Henry but my sources tell me they are not. I had been told general manager Ran Carthon would be "methodical" in his approach to free agency and changes to the team. The releases of tackle Taylor Lewan and receiver Robert Woods weren't surprising, and cutting loose edge rusher Bud Dupree also makes sense. I don't believe the Titans see any tangible free-agent upgrade at quarterback over Ryan Tannehill, and taking away the most essential part of the offense in Henry would indicate Tennessee is tanking more than anything. The Titans can very much contend in the AFC South, and they'll have to do that with Henry.