Bears Trade Proposal Swaps 1st-Round Pick For Elite Wideout

Fields, Herbert, Bears

Getty Running back Khalil Herbert (left) and quarterback Justin Fields (right) of the Chicago Bears celebrate during a game at Soldier Field on September 11, 2022 in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images)

The time has come for the Chicago Bears to get aggressive in their pursuit of a high-end pass catcher.

The unfortunate fact is that there aren’t any players who meet that standard available via free agency once the start of the new NFL year opens on March 15. Odell Beckham Jr. used to fit the bill, and perhaps he could again, but he remains the closest even after missing the entire 2022 season with an ACL injury.

That leaves the trade market where there is one certain option in DeAndre Hopkins of the Arizona Cardinals while another potential deal may exist for Tee Higgins of the Cincinnati Bengals, assuming a team like Chicago comes correct with its offer. Said offer would presumably an array of draft assets that includes at least one first-round selection.

The Bears should be able to accommodate such a steep asking price if they decide to deal the No. 1 overall pick this year in an effort to amass major draft capital, which general manager Ryan Poles is expected to do.

Bengals Play Hard to Get Around Prospective Tee Higgins Trade Talks

Tee Higgins, Bengals

GettyWide receiver Tee Higgins of the Cincinnati Bengals catches a pass against the Miami Dolphins at Paycor Stadium on September 29, 2022 in Cincinnati, Ohio. (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)

Bengals Director of Player Personnel Duke Tobin said at the NFL Combine last week that Higgins was not, and will not be, on the trade market this offseason or the next, per the Cincinnati Enquirer.

But as always in the NFL, public comments from prominent front office members must be taken with a grain of salt. It is rare that teams ever speak openly about trading a great player in his prime, lest they run the risk of upsetting said player and/or driving his price down when he subsequently asks out. Tobin’s position that Higgins can’t be procured only serves to drive up the initial asking price in a prospective trade offer, though it could also be the Bengals’ true position.

The known facts are that Cincinnati has not traditionally spent on players like other NFL big dogs, though the team will be forced to break the bank on extensions for quarterback Joe Burrow this offseason and wide receiver Ja’Marr Chase a year from now. Because of that, Higgins could find himself as a trade piece sooner than later, which ESPN’s Football Outsiders noted in a piece published on March 3.

Cincinnati can simply keep Higgins for now and either figure out a way to sign him or franchise-tag him after next year, and this is the likely scenario. On the other hand, teams about to go from rookie QB contract paradise to massive QB contract hell need to make some hard decisions about personnel. Re-signing Burrow for whatever he asks for is a no-brainer. The tricky part is deciding where else to slice and dice.

Obviously, the model is [the] Kansas City [Chiefs], the team with whom the Bengals have slugged it out for AFC supremacy over the past two years. The Chiefs stayed on top after making the bold move of dealing [Tyreek] Hill rather than pay him top dollar, with most of the savings allocated to paying [Patrick] Mahomes. Cincy could easily do the same with Higgins, and he would return a fat haul in draft capital.

Bears Can Amass Trade Capital For Higgins by Moving Top Pick in NFL Draft

Tee Higgins, Bengals

GettyWide receiver Tee Higgins of the Cincinnati Bengals catches a touchdown pass during a game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Raymond James Stadium on December 18, 2022 in Tampa, Florida. (Photo by Douglas P. DeFelice/Getty Images)

Higgins is an elite wide receiver and is on the cusp of his prime at just 24 years old. He has put together back-to-back 1,000-yard seasons despite playing second fiddle to Chase throughout the their time together in Cincinnati. Higgins is capable and primed to step into a leading role for a franchise on the rise, and the Bears can afford to pay him like one with nearly $100 million in available salary cap space.

That said, Higgins is not worth the No. 1 overall pick. But Chicago won’t have to part with that directly to get a deal done for the wideout, assuming the Bengals can be brought to the table in trade discussions.

Football Outsiders noted that the Miami Dolphins sent the Chiefs a first-round pick as well as a second-round selection, two fourth-rounders and a sixth-round choice for Hill. That kind of haul is a bit high for Higgins, despite his talent level, simply because he doesn’t have Hill’s resumé as a championship team’s primary receiver target.

The Bears are expected to move off the top overall pick, and potentially trade down as many as two or three times while still remaining in the top 10. A range of scenarios could see Chicago execute trades with the Houston Texans (No. 2 pick), the Indianapolis Colts (No. 4 pick) and either the Las Vegas Raiders (No. 7 pick) or the Carolina Panthers (No. 9 pick). A combination of deals with two or three of the above teams is also possible.

Chicago is expected to amass a host of draft selections in the process, which Poles will presumably use to fill out the wanting units on his own roster. But if the Bears can procure one first-round selection and two second-round picks out of two or three trade downs inside of the top 10, they will have amassed enough to take a real run at Higgins.

Packaging a first-rounder with one second-round pick and another mid-round selection or two in exchange for Higgins is an offer the Bengals can’t afford to ignore outright, and one that the Bears may be able to legitimately afford depending on how Day 1 of the draft plays out.

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