NFL insider notes: Desperation driving Bears’ QB search, plus Dak Prescott makes Cowboys pay for waiting

The Chicago Bears remain on the prowl for a quarterback. And don’t for a moment discount the depth of their desperation.

And desperation has been the fragrance du jour in NFL quarterback transactions early in this 2021 offseason, as evidenced in the Carson Wentz trade and the Jared Goff trade and the Ben Roethlisberger reworked contract. And fear and desperation are running neck and neck as the prevailing sentiment within the Bears’ front office right now, as its criminal mismanagement of the quarterback position has come to a crest with few easy ways out.

Chicago needs a major upgrade, and the options are limited. League sources said the Bears were in fact pretty serious about Carson Wentz, and had internal discussions about Big Ben as well and were primed to be perhaps the only landing spot for him had he not agreed to take a significant pay cut to stay in Pittsburgh.

So what does this mean moving forward?

Well, sources said they are prepared to throw a boatload of picks at the Texans — for Deshaun Watson — and Seahawks — for Russell Wilson — in an attempt to upgrade at the most important position in all of professional sports. They are beyond serious and, as is generally the case when job security is at the fore, future picks in like 2023 don’t hold all that much value in real time. They don’t have the type of young, cheap talent that some other trade suitors do, but you can always keep throwing future top draft picks at the problem.

“There is a real sense of panic in that building,” as one NFL executive put it. “Don’t underestimate how desperate they are.”

Doesn’t sound like Mitch Trubisky is going to be the answer to return there. The Bears are looking to upgrade in a big way. And there are only so many ways to do that. If the 49ers land someone like Sam Darnold from the Jets — something being viewed in league circles as a very real possibility — then Jimmy Garoppolo is another name to watch, with the Illinois native homecoming making sense for all parties (though they’d have to contend with the Patriots, who drafted and developed Jimmy G).

It won’t be easy, and the next QB won’t come cheap. But that won’t stop the Bears from trying.

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Someone should try to pry Chandler Jones out of Arizona.

For the second straight year his franchise made a bold move, brining on a Texans star, and paying him handsomely before he’d ever played a game there. A year ago it was DeAndre Hopkins. Now, it’s J.J. Watt.

All Jones has done is play out his contract — now entering his final year — and produce unlike almost all other pass rushers in the NFL. Jones has been a model player and has adopted Phoenix like his second home, but you haven’t heard a peep about the Cardinals taking care of him, and I highly doubt you do any time soon. And you won’t hear a complaint out of him, either, but that doesn’t mean he can’t see what’s going on around him.

Watt, who turns 32 this month, hasn’t been able to stay healthy in consecutive seasons for a long time, and hasn’t played a snap for Arizona, but is basically assured of earning $28M from them over the next two years. Jones, who just turned 31, has one year left at the bargain price of $15.5M.

I’d burn up their phone lines. Wasn’t that long ago the Cardinals traded for Jones, themselves. In this climate of deal-making, with a limited number of pass-rush options in free agency, and with Jones having a unique pedigree, he would be a target if I needed an edge force. Jones suffered a season-ending pec injury in October — he’s fully recovered — and the Cardinals unlocked former first-round pick Haason Reddick in his absence. Reddick had a career season in his walk year so moving Jones’ salary might make keeping Reddick as a free agent more feasible.

I’d certainly ask.

Here’s what I know about Jones. Despite missing 11 games last year with the injury, here’s where he ranks among all NFL players from 2017-20: only Aaron Donald (57.5) has more sacks (50), and Jones is still 10th in batted passes and ninth in total quarterback hits. Between 2017-19, Jones ranked first in sacks with 49 (Donald is second with 44), 10th in quarterback pressures and second in quarterback hits.

That’s rare company for any player, let alone a player his team has made no overtures to retain beyond this contract. The Broncos have tried to wrap their arms back around Von Miller. I’d find out exactly how the Cardinals feel about their pass rusher coming off an injury-marred season. Trades are all the rage. Everyone has a price.

Cowboys got crushed in Dak deal

I keep reading how the Cowboys won some part of this Dak Prescott extension. How there were trade-offs and compromises.

Really? How?

Their quarterback crushed them. As their season collapsed after his injury, and with a second franchise tag an absolutely certainty, $40M was always going to be his magic number on annual value. He got it. And that is just the start.

The upfront money is staggering — $66M bonus. The length of the contract — just four years — is ideal, and if he keeps playing like he has, Jerry Jones will be back at the bargaining table in a few years — with the cap exploding — trying to retain his QB but without being able to wield another franchise tag at him. After blowing up a deal that would have cost around $33M a year ago because he wouldn’t include a no-tag clause, Prescott now has a no-tag and no-trade clause.

Prescott and his camp played this expertly, the suspect team building around him on that roster furthered his cause as the 2020 season quickly spiraled away, and Dak crushed it. Good for him.

“I don’t get it at all,” one NFL contract advisor said of the deal from the Cowboys’ perspective. “If you are giving on the APY and the signing bonus and the guarantee and the no tag, then the Cowboys at least have to get him signed for five or six years. I don’t get it.”

Neither do I.

More insider notes

  • How did the Bengals not tag Carl Lawson? Already had massive issues along the defensive line, and yet somehow they don’t tag him a year after giving a $17M subsidy to broken-down receiver A.J. Green in a non-competitive year? And top corner William Jackson is headed to the market, too, never to return, and corner was a problem even when you had him. And many teams view him as the best UFA corner out there. Yikes. Joe Burrow is only a bargain for two more years and that clock is ticking and good luck luring other team’s free agents to Cincy like it’s some coveted destination. Risking losing their own best young talent, at critical positions, is nothing short of baffling to me, but that’s not all that unusual for how they roll there.
  • Urban Meyer continues to turn heads in the NFL, in his very brief stint, for all the wrong reasons. No one I spoke to could understand why they would put the franchise tag on tackle Cam Robinson. He’s a nice player but multiple teams I spoke to had him rated as a $10M/year tackle; he just got tagged at around $15M. Strange. But strange has already been the norm in Jacksonville.
  • If the Panthers can’t land Watson via trade, look for them to be as aggressive as any team about moving into the top three picks to land one of the top three quarterbacks in this draft. Would not be a surprise at all.