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Bears Fri Oct 11 2013
Let me preface this by saying that it's always smarter to bet on trades not happening in the NFL. The complexities of the sport in terms of learning a team's schematics and salary cap structure make in-season trading nearly non-existent. If a deal happens, it's more than likely to make a team more flexible rather than having a substantial impact.
The Bears are in a perfect (dire?) situation for an addition to take place. The defensive line has been ravaged with season-ending injuries to Henry Melton and Nate Collins, along with ineffectiveness from guys like Julius Peppers and Shea McClellin (not to mention Sedrick Ellis totally screwing the team by not showing up to camp). The late-round picks, rookie free agents, and guys off the street have played exactly how you'd expect them to — leaving the squad ridiculously thin with talent up front.
Since the Bears play just one game in the next 24 days (extra rest after a Thursday game plus the bye week after next Sunday's game against Washington), it would be a perfect time to add a defensive linemen to the mix. The newbie could remain inactive next week to allow more time to get acclimated to the defensive system (though D-Line is probably the easiest position to learn the playbook at). Monday would be the earliest one could take place because the Bears have already played this week.
When searching for a trade partner, the first checkbox is a team's record. Since most of the league is roughly one-third of the way through the schedule, very few teams can be tagged as out of contention and willing to listen to offers. As it stands right now, only eight fit the bill:
Tampa Bay 0-4
NY Giants 0-6
Of the one win teams, Minnesota can automatically be eliminated because intra-division trades never happen during the season. If either Carolina or Washington wins on the road on Sunday, you could probably eliminate them too, though it should be noted that the Panthers already dealt Jon Beason to New York, and he played well last night against the Bears. And even if they do lose, Washington is unlikely to trade away a player for a pick -- they typically do trades the other way around.
Atlanta can likely be eliminated as well, despite their poor record and injury situation on offense. They're currently on their bye week, and appear to be doing everything possible to get back in the playoff race because they're built to win now.
You can also eliminate the Steelers because they run a 3-4 defense, meaning that most of their players wouldn't fit into the Bears 4-3/Cover 2 system. It would be too difficult to assimilate a guy that far behind the eight-ball this deep into the season.
Once the list of teams is locked in, the salary cap situation for both the Bears and their trade partners are 1B and 1C on the checklist. Chicago sits with roughly $2.9 million in cap space after the preseason restructuring of Peppers' and Earl Bennett's contracts, meaning anybody they acquire will have to be of low salary. The acquired player would also have to a have a minimum dead money hit on the team he's leaving, otherwise there's little incentive for the trade partner.
The types of players and contracts the Bears would focus on are guys in the last year of their contracts, whether it be a rookie contract or one-year deal. Those guys are typically the most gettable because a draft pick as compensation would be an upgrade over a team kicking a guy to the curb during the offseason without getting anything in return. The guy would also need to be playing relatively well, otherwise it would be senseless to give up a valuable draft pick.
That leaves the following list of players from Carolina (if they lose), Tampa Bay, Jacksonville and the New York Giants (ordered by teams with the worst record first):
Shaun Rogers. He's played on three consecutive one-year contracts, missed all of last year due to injury, and has been an overall negative player this season according to Pro Football Focus due to terrible games against Carolina and just last night against the Bears. He doesn't help at the 3-technique DT spot because of his size and poor pass rushing ability, but could help sure up the run defense that has plagued the team and put them in far too many third-and-short situations. If the Giants are willing, it wouldn't take more than a conditional late round pick to pry him away.
Linval Joseph. The former second round pick in 2010 has had a consistently solid career. He'll never be a Pro Bowler, but then again, he wouldn't qualify for this list if he had that kind of potential. If the Giants aren't planning to lock him up long-term, it makes complete sense to deal him. He'd probably cost a guaranteed mid- to late-round pick and would also be more of a help in the run game. It's also helpful that the Bears got a look at these guys in person during a real game.
Brandon Deaderick. He's a former seventh round pick out of Alabama in the final year of his rookie contract. His overall grade is negative for the year according to PFF, but he has been plus in pass rushing due to a really good performance against Oakland's banged up line. This wouldn't qualify as much of an upgrade over what the Bears currently have, but the advantage he possesses is the amount of snaps he's seen so far this year (123) -- far more than Zach Minter or Landon Cohen.
Sen'Derrick Marks. The downside for the Jags here is that he'd cause a dead money hit on their salary cap. The good news is that they have plenty of space, and it would present them an opportunity to buy a pick for a guy they signed to a one-year deal. PFF has him on the plus side for the season, with a big positive on pass rush and a big negative in run stoppage because of his crazy performance against St. Louis last week. He'd offer stability — which is more than what the Bears have now.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Nobody. The guys who are playing well enough to incur interest are also guys the Bucs wouldn't let go of (Gerald McCoy for example). Despite the two teams' history of trading with one another, there's no deal to be had here.
Greg Hardy. In the final year of his rookie deal, this is a guy that might offer the most interest. Despite being a sixth round pick, he's been good enough for the Panthers to demand a third or fourth rounder in return, and for that price, you better try and re-sign him. He would infuse the Bears with some needed impact talent, but might not be gettable if the Panthers are interested in him long-term.
I don't expect a trade to happen, but if the Bears want to pursue one, the time is now. There's no doubt they could use it.