It was a matter of when, not if, the Chicago Bears would trade the No. 1 overall pick in the 2023 NFL Draft. The when ended up being 5:30 eastern on the Friday before free agency. The Carolina Panthers were the team that came up to the top spot, reportedly sending the Bears picks 9 and 61 this year, a 2024 first-round pick, and 2025 second-round pick, and wide receiver D.J. Moore.
Getting this trade out of the way now allows both teams — and others — to map out the trajectory of their offseasons with the start of free agency approaching.
The Bears Get Their Haul
After the combine, Bears general manager Ryan Poles spoke to Peter King about the potential trade of the first overall pick. It was clear he was ready to receive a haul. Poles told King he had an offer of multiple first-round picks and would be asking for more. The Bears keep a pick in the top 10 with a late second-round pick this season and another first in 2024. In the offer Poles was flaunting, there was also a 2025 first-round pick, but Chicago will surely take the second and D.J. Moore over a first — more on that in a bit.
Using a blend of the Football Perspective AV chart and the Fitzgerald-Spielberger draft value charts, the Bears nearly broke even in value with the 2023 picks alone, recouping 87.8% of the value from the first overall pick. If you want to project the future picks to be in the middle of the respective rounds, the Bears received about a 171% return in picks alone.
NFL teams routinely downgrade the present value of a future pick by a round — a practice that makes little sense and continually works out better for the receiving team — and by that valuation, the Bears got somewhere around 135% value on the first overall pick.
That value doesn’t include Moore, who will be a key to this deal. We’ve seen around the league that adding a top wide receiver is one of the best ways to help out a young quarterback and there is no better avenue to do that than by trade. If Moore was a free agent in this class, he’d easily be the best one and would get well over the value of the contract extension he signed with Carolina last offseason.
For now, the Bears will get Moore on what is a three-year/$52.3 million contract. Acquiring Moore helps Chicago in two areas. Obviously, he gives the offense a No. 1 receiver it desperately needed but he also aids the Bears in spending this offseason. Chicago had the most cap space in the league and needed to spend it to get over the cash floor. Moore is set to make over $19 million in base salary and the Bears could even tack on some more bonuses in Year 1 to raise the early cash flow.
The on-field impact will also be enormous with Moore adding to a Bears receiving corps that was lacking a top option. Chase Claypool and Darnell Mooney were the two Chicago receivers who qualified for ESPN’s advanced receiving tracking metrics in 2022 and as overall receivers, they did not come out favorably. Among 82 qualified receivers, Claypool was 37th overall, splitting time between the Bears and Steelers, and Mooney was 45th.
Moore’s path to production has always been tricky. The quarterback play he’s gotten throughout his career, especially over the past few seasons, has been inconsistent at best. Yet, Moore has still been able to keep his yards per route run above 2.0 with every quarterback he has run at least 200 routes with, except for Baker Mayfield.
D.J. Moore Career Production by Quarterback, min. 200 routes
data per TruMedia
|Quarterback||Routes||Yards Per Route Run||Target Share||aDOT||Targets||Yards||TD|
Among 83 wide receivers with at least 1,000 routes run over the past three seasons, Moore ranks 15th in yards per route run, ahead of receivers such as DK Metcalf, Terry McLaurin, and Chris Godwin.
Moore is also an excellent intermediate receiver, which could continue to open up an area of the field the Bears were able to attack a bit in 2022. Justin Fields was 13th in EPA per play on throws between 11-19 air yards, per TruMedia, and had the eighth-highest rate of throws to that depth.
It’s unlikely Chicago is done making moves for this offseason. After the trade and Moore’s addition, the Bears still lead the league in cap space and there are still a number of holes around the roster. Chicago filled one and will not have to overspend at a position that doesn’t appear to have a top-tier receiver on the free agent market.
Now that the Bears haven’t locked themselves into keeping a draft pick that allows them to take one of the top defensive players in the draft, they could also set themselves up to move around the draft board should they want to also trade out of the ninth overall pick. The Bears are still the most fascinating team of the offseason.
Carolina Makes A Move
The Panthers seemed destined for a rookie quarterback. After Frank Reich spent the past few seasons trying to make stop-gap veterans work in Indianapolis and Carolina ran out the likes of Mayfield and Sam Darnold, getting a rookie to lay an actual foundation for the offense looked to be the right move. That’s what the Panthers are doing, though we don’t know which quarterback they favor.
That’s what makes this quarterback class so intriguing. All four projected top picks appear worthy of the selections, but there is no clear No. 1 option. Could the Panthers feel comfortable with the skill of Bryce Young? Or do they prefer the accuracy of C.J. Stroud? Could this be a massive swing for the upside of Anthony Richardson? Our Ryan McCrystal has Stroud with the pick.
Maybe it’s none of the above — at least at No. 1. The Panthers are in a position to take a quarterback, but they also now control the draft board in an eye-of-the-beholder quarterback class. That’s reportedly how the Panthers feel as well.
Assuming the Panthers take a quarterback, they’ve at least slightly hindered the supporting cast, losing the top wide receiver and a first-round pick next season. If we’ve learned anything from successful quarterback development around the league, it’s how important the surrounding can be for reaching the full potential.
Carolina might not be all that bad there, even without Moore. Something will have to improve in the receiving corps because a receiving corps of Terrace Marshall, Shi Smith, and Laviska Shenault won’t do a rookie passer many favors. But the to-be-determined quarterback will be able to play behind a solid offensive line that ranked 11th in ESPN’s pass block win rate and could continue to improve. The Panthers are also 11th in cap space with just under $23 million, per Over The Cap.
The Panthers also kept their own high 2023 second-round pick in this trade. The 61st overall pick was acquired from the San Francisco 49ers in last year’s Christian McCaffrey trade. Carolina still has the 39th overall pick in the second round, which could be a prime spot for a pass-catching weapon to add to the rookie quarterback.
Still, this is quite a lot to give up for the first overall pick. The Panthers technically traded more than would have been needed to sign Lamar Jackson to an offer sheet — of course, that also would have come with a significant contract. Still, in that path the Panthers could hang onto D.J. Moore, all picks besides the ninth overall and 2024 first, and be ready to compete earlier.
There is also the risk that waiting on a Jackson offer sheet would make the Panthers miss out on the ability to make this deal had the Ravens matched. It’s also clear the Bears wanted to make this deal before the start of free agency to get Moore on the roster.
In this current position, the Panthers will start their next foundation with the quarterback of their choosing. Carolina was already the second-youngest team in the league with the second-youngest offensive per snap-weighted age and there is plenty of 2024 cap space to play with.
How this impacts the rest of the draft
Moving the first overall pick has a ripple effect on a few teams that follow. The Houston Texans sit with the second overall pick and are likely to select a quarterback of their own. That potentially puts the Arizona Cardinals in a position of power with the third overall pick.
The Indianapolis Colts, who sit at fourth overall, were a popular candidate to trade up to No. 1 and now a team could jump them to get the No. 3 quarterback. The Las Vegas Raiders (seventh) and Tennessee Titans (11th) could now get a bit desperate with at least the landing spots for the quarterbacks starting to line up even if the exact order of the passers selected is still up in the air.