Bears ‘Digging in Hard’ on Dominant DT for 2023 Draft: Report

Bears Digging Hard Carter

Getty Jalen Carter has a chance of falling to the Bears at No. 9 overall in the 2023 NFL draft.

The Chicago Bears seemingly took themselves out of the running for one of the blue-chip defenders in the 2023 NFL draft class when they traded down from the top spot in the draft to No. 9 overall with the Carolina Panthers, but the legal questions surrounding Georgia’s Jalen Carter — and what those questions are doing to his draft stock — seem to have the Bears preparing for a small miracle.

According to Charlie Campbell of Walter Football, the Bears have been “digging in hard” on Carter in the wake of his arrest during the week of the 2023 NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis at the beginning of March. Carter had been considered one of the top two defensive prospects in the class — alongside Alabama’s Will Anderson Jr. — before his legal troubles arose, but the Bears could capitalize on the situation if his draft stock is negatively impacted and he falls into their clutches with the ninth pick.

“Team sources have told me the Bears have been digging in hard on Georgia DT Jalen Carter,” Campbell tweeted on March 11. “Chicago staff have been making lots of calls to Georgia about Carter. The quarterback trades/picks and character issues could easily cause Carter to slide to late in the top 10.”

If the Bears feel comfortable about the resolution of Carter’s legal issues, he would be a dream target for a defense that desperately needs a 3-technique defensive tackle. The 6-foot-3, 300-pound was a unanimous 2022 All-American selection and was a dominant force in the trenches during his career at Georgia, using a multitude of physical tools to blast off and penetrate opposing offensive lines to devastating effect. No doubt, he would fit perfectly as the “engine” of Bears head coach Matt Eberflus’ defense.

Will Carter actually fall far enough for the Bears to get him, though?

Jalen Carter Confident He Will Be ‘Fully Exonerated’

Chicago had already met with the standout defensive tackle prior to March 1 when the Athens-Clarke County Police Department issued warrants for Carter for reckless driving and racing in connection with an investigation into a fatal crash on January 15, 2023. The crash claimed the lives of one of Carter’s former teammates, Bulldogs offensive lineman Devin Willock, and a team recruiter, Chandler LeCroy, but Carter believes he will be “fully exonerated of any criminal wrongdoing” once all the facts come out.

Here is the statement Carter released on March 1 after the warrants were issued:

This morning [March 1] I received a telephone call from the Athens, Georgia police department informing me that two misdemeanor warrants have been issued against me for reckless driving and racing. Numerous media reports also have circulated this morning containing inaccurate information concerning the tragic events of January 15, 2023. It is my intention to return to Athens to answer the misdemeanor charges against me and to make certain that the complete and accurate truth is presented. There is no question in my mind that when all of the facts are known that I will be fully exonerated of any criminal wrongdoing.

‘Real Chance’ Bears Can Get Jalen Carter at 9th Overall

Carter Bears Interest

GettyJalen Carter remains a verified first-round talent for the 2023 NFL draft.

The Bears aren’t the only ones who believe Carter could fall to them at No. 9 overall. ESPN insider Adam Schefter echoed a similar sentiment about the Georgia star falling down the draft boards as a result of both his own legal troubles and the fact that there is largely expected to be an early run on quarterbacks in the top 10 of the 2023 draft.

“I think there’s a real chance he’s gonna be there for them,” Schefter said March 11 of Carter on ESPN 1000 with Peggy & Dionne. “And they’re gonna have to do the work on him and spend some time. And I know they’ll be at his Pro Day, watching him closely, meeting with him. And once they do that, they can decide what they want to do.”

For the fun of it, let’s play it out with the process of elimination. The Panthers traded up for the Bears’ No. 1 overall pick and are shoe-ins to take a quarterback of their choosing after giving up such a high price to get the top pick. The Houston Texans (No. 2) and the Indianapolis Colts (No. 4) are also expected to target quarterbacks, while the Arizona Cardinals (No. 3) could entertain trade offers from lower-situated teams to move down and let another team enter the quarterback race. If the Cardinals move down, that could mean the first four picks of the draft are quarterbacks.

The real problems start when teams like the Seattle Seahawks and Detroit Lions start making their decisions. Will Anderson Jr. projects to be the top non-quarterback taken in the draft with Carter’s draft stock falling, but the Lions could use a centerpiece like Carter to pair with 2022 No. 2 overall pick Aidan Hutchinson. The Seahawks may also want a force for their defensive line like Carter’; although, their intention to sign Dre’Mont Jones to a three-year contract could change their interests.

Still, there are some other high-level defensive prospects that could suit all of the teams picking before the Bears. Illinois’ Devon Witherspoon and Oregon’s Christian Gonzalez are two of the best defensive backs in the entire class and could go in the top 10, while Tyree Wilson and Myles Murphy are both NFL-ready edge rushers who come with fewer concerns/risks than Carter at the moment. Don’t count out Ohio State’s Paris Johnson Jr. or Northwestern’s Peter Skoronski — the two best offensive tackles in the class — as guys who could tempt teams in the top 10 as well.

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