In this unusual time, the NFL offseason calendar brings a beacon of normality. As every team has to make decisions on their fifth year options for picks in the first round of the 2017 NFL draft, some headlines are made. Among the eleven options declined so far, including four of the first five picks, the big news is Mitchell Trubisky was rejected.
It always seems like bigger news when teams make decisions on QBs. Far less will be made of the 49ers declining Solomon Thomas’ option, particularly notable following the trade of DeForest Buckner to the Colts. Likewise Leonard Fournette in Jacksonville. Or Corey Davis in Tennessee, never mind players further down the first round.
Trubisky has always been the victim of circumstance. Regardless of his performance, his reputation has always been hurt by the fact that the Bears traded up. Chicago seemingly out-negotiating themselves, moving up one spot to two to draft Trubisky with the second pick. While that may have been forgotten, he’s then hurt by the other QBs drafted later in the first round, Deshaun Watson and MVP and Super Bowl Winner (and MVP) Patrick Mahomes at 12 and 10 respectively.
Is Trubisky a bust?
Even with factors working against him, Trubisky has disappointed. Last season his performances ranked 27th of 32 QBs with over 250 dropbacks. The Bears coddled the North Carolina alum through his rookie year. It was showing results in year two, as the Bears went 12-4 (11-3 with Trubisky as starter) to earn the three seed in the NFC. Trubisky was ok in the playoff defeat to the Eagles, throwing for 300 yards and a TD. However the Bears lost 16-15 at home, missing a last second Field Goal to win.
Having thrown for 3200 yards and 24 TDs in 2018, solid if unspectacular, Trubisky failed to make the leap in year three. In fact he slipped. Despite playing an extra game, Trubisky’s completition percentage dropped (from 66.6 to 63.2 – it was 59.4 In his rookie year). Trubisky threw for 85 fewer yards and seven fewer TDs. In all, instead of 230.2 yards and 1.7 TDs a game, Trubisky dropped to 209.2 yards and 1.1 TDs each week.
That is far from expectation for the number two overall pick. The drop in year three is also concerning from what were already poor figures. It of course wasn’t helped by the Bears dropping to 8-8 and missing the playoffs.
The clock starts now
So Trubisky is on the clock, though he is under contract for 2020. That’s assuming the season is relatively unaffected by coronavirus. What does it mean for the Bears? Clearly Trubisky is no longer seen as the answer. However, the Bears have declined a fifth year option before, only to sign the player to an extension later (Kyle Fuller). Chicago have also cut a player having exercised the option (Leonard Floyd). So perhaps the Bears moves with fifth year options aren’t the best barometers.
Regardless, it is clear that the Bears currently don’t see Trubisky as an option, even a relatively cheap one, beyond this year. Trubisky is $9.2M against the cap this year. For context, Watson and Mahomes will be $17-24M against the cap next yea. However, they both have a lower cap figure than Trubisky in 2020. It leaves the Bears seeing Nick Foles as the incumbent starter in 2021. Foles is under contract until after the 2022 season.
What’s the Bears’ plan?
Surely this implies that the Bears will draft a QB early in 2022, although the Patriots didn’t last weekend. It does raise the question though: if Trubisky isn’t long for the Bears, why didn’t they draft a QB this year? Why didn’t they target someone in arguably the best free agent QB class ever? Does it mean that they are targeting Cam Newton? Teams appear to be waiting to sign him until they can do a full physical.
Whatever, the strategy seems odd and not completely though through. Nick Foles may be a Super Bowl MVP but he has struggled as an out and out starter. Beyond Trubisky improving, what is the strategy? Is the hope that he can keep him in playoff contention and then move to Foles later in the season when Trubisky starts to struggle?
The Bears seem to have created quite the conundrum. What is more certain is that, much like the 2017 Jaguars, and the 2018 Rams, the window has closed on them competing at the top of the NFC. The trouble is, having had early picks in 2017, they appear too good in 2020 to tank and target the likes of Trevor Lawrence. It certainly will be an interesting year in Chicago.