A former Chicago Bears starting quarterback is heading to the Carolina Panthers to serve as the bridge to the quarterback of the future — who will presumably be selected with the No. 1 overall pick in the 2023 NFL draft that the Panthers acquired from the Bears in last week’s blockbuster trade.
According to ESPN’s Adam Schefter, veteran free agent quarterback Andy Dalton is “expected to reach an agreement” on a two-year, $10 million contract with the Panthers that offers him $8 million fully guaranteed and carries a maximum value of $17 million. The 35-year-old served as the Bears’ starting quarterback for six games in 2021 — the year in which Justin Fields was drafted — before he moved on to New Orleans in 2022.
Dalton should have a shot at beginning the 2023 season as the Panthers’ starter, but he will be hard-pressed to make it into Year 2 of his contract with Carolina all but certain to select their new franchise quarterback with the top overall pick in the draft. Whether it is Alabama’s Bryce Young or Ohio State’s C.J. Stroud — or a surprise, maybe? — it figures to be a similar mentorship situation for Dalton that he faced in Chicago.
Meanwhile, the Bears are primed to head into 2023 with Fields as their quarterback after trading down to No. 9 overall in the draft and acquiring a true No. 1 receiver, D.J. Moore, for him in the exchange with the Panthers. Moore’s arrival raises the skill level of Fields’ receiving options for next season, but the Bears still have more work to do to ensure their roster is appropriately tuned up for a better season in 2023.
Will Bears Stick With Trevor Siemian as Backup QB?
Fields seems to have the endorsement of the Bears franchise to be the starter for next season, but that doesn’t mean Chicago can’t still improve their quarterback room for next year as they navigate the early days of 2023 free agency.
Right now, veteran quarterback Trevor Siemian is set to be Fields’ backup in 2023, but the 31-year-old was far from impressive in his limited action in 2022, completing 15-of-26 passes (57%) for 184 yards, one touchdown and one interception over two games. The Bears can also save $1.965 million of the $2.465 million owed to Siemian in 2023 if they release him anytime between now and the start of next season, which could motivate them to secure a better veteran backup on the open market.
Some of the options with the best upside — Jarrett Stidham, Taylor Heinicke — have already signed new contracts, but Marcus Mariota, Jacoby Brissett and Teddy Bridgewater all remain unsigned after two days of the NFL’s legal tampering period. Any of the three could appeal to Chicago, assuming the value is right.
Could a Late-Round QB Interest Bears in 2023 Draft?
The Bears have made several key investments in the first two days of legal free agent negotiations, giving out deals to linebackers T.J. Edwards and Tremaine Edmunds, interior offensive lineman Nate Davis and defensive lineman DeMarcus Walker, but the work isn’t done just yet with plenty of needs still to address in free agency or the draft.
With that in mind, signing a veteran quarterback might not be the move for general manager Ryan Poles, even if he wants to upgrade from Siemian. A more affordable approach to improving the depth behind Fields could be sinking one of the Day 3 draft pick into a quarterback prospect who is more of a developmental/project talent. Poles will have the satisfaction of being able to install one of his self-scouted passers into the offense — as he was not involved in the decision to draft Fields — while also saving a bit of money that would be going to Siemian, who would likely be cut in favor of the rookie.
TCU’s Max Duggan and Georgia’s Stetson Bennett are two quarterbacks who could tempt the Bears if they are still on the board when Chicago picks in the seventh round. While it is more unlikely, there is also a chance that Tennessee’s Hendon Hooker will be in play in the (admittedly rare) chance that he falls into the middle or late part of Day 3.