Keeping the Old Guys Safe

Andy Dalton and Nick Foles aren't exactly decrepit but they both have shown in their careers they can be deadly passers with clean blocking so the Bears should be focused on this in the draft.
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It's time for followers of the Chicago Bears to face reality.

With less than three weeks remaining until the 2021 NFL Draft, the social media outpour favoring a trade up by general manager Ryan Pace to take either Justin Fields or Trey Lance is as extreme as it is pointless.

Washington, New England, Denver and possibly a few more teams seem more likely to make such a move and have more trade compensation to offer. It's possible either quarterback could even drop to No. 20, anyway, but unlikely because all of those teams and possibly Philadelphia would be interested in taking either quarterback.

The Bears need to focus on the reality they have created.

Andy Dalton is starting quarterback. Nick Foles is currently the backup. They apparently see enough in Dalton to think he can win.

Since they've put those two quarterbacks in place for this season, it's convenient because both need the same thing to succeed. They need something which will also help their running game.

They need offensive tackles. That's with an "s" on the end, as in plural.

The Bears should draft two tackles, load up on their offensive line and make sure they can protect 30-something quarterbacks who lack ability to escape the rush. They need tackles to bolster the running game because removes pressure from the two capable passers who need support.

The Bears Know It

The interest shown by the Bears in Trent Williams at the start of free agency reflects how they recognized this tackle need.

Andy Dalton is a capable quarterback when given time to pass. When given time to throw, Nick Foles is nowhere near the player who struggled last year and wound up on the back of a cart after a sack.

Dalton got sacked in Dallas last year 24 times in nine starts and showed enough still to let the Bears believe he could be their starter. He was being sacked at a similar or even greater rate over his final four seasons in Cincinnati. The Cowboys gave up 44 sacks last year total, and Cincinnati allowed 48, 37, 40 and 41 sacks in the final four years of Dalton's time as starter. Not coincidentally, their team was bad.

When Dalton started out in Cincinnati, he got the ball downfield better, posted better numbers and led five straight teams to the playoffs. In four of those years he was sacked 32 times or less and three of those he was sacked 29 times or less. Only once did he get slammed around, with 46 sacks allowed in 2012, but they still made the playoffs because the line improved in the season's second half and they won seven out of eight games.

Dalton was also better with teams who had capable defenses, because that also took pressure off him. He'll have this in Chicago.

As for Foles, the Eagles struggled on the offensive line plenty during the two playoff seasons he led them. But they only gave up 10 sacks in the seven 2018 starts he made counting the playoffs. And when they won the Super Bowl in 2017 they gave up seven sacks in his five starts including the postseason. They blocked for him and he produced. Foles did not get sacked on the day he won Super Bowl MVP.

Give either one of these two veteran quarterbacks time and they have delivered.

Can they do it in their 30s? The Super Bowl MVP this past season was a bit older. It shouldn't make a difference.

The line has plenty of guard and center help. They have more guard help than they can use. What they lack are high-quality, physical tackles.

This Tackle Field Can Supply Help

It's a strong year for tackles and there is the urge by the Bears to find a slot receiver with great speed. They've visited with enough of them to make this apparent.  

They also need at least one cornerback. They can still accomplish all of this and draft two tackles best by moving down in the first or second rounds and adding a pick.

The Bears wouldn't even need to use their first-round pick necessarily on a tackle and still take this approach. They could use the first-rounder for a speed demon like Rondale Moore or Kadarius Toney, and then look for tackles. NFL Draft Bible has Oklahoma State right tackle Teven Jenkins ranked as a second-round prospect, possibly late first, and Cincinnati's James Hudson as a second-rounder.

Left tackles Dillon Radunz (North Dakota State), Jalen Mayfield (Michigan) and Spencer Brown (Northern Iowa) all have second-round grades. The Bears have shown reported interest in these players.

If they waited for left tackle until Rounds 3 or 4, they might even get Walker Little of Stanford. He actually appeared headed for status above all of these previously mentioned linemen with All-Pac 12 status in 2018. A knee injury and then the pandemic kept him out for two years.

This is a year for the Bears to load up at tackle and take over the line of scrimmage.

The alternative is trading up for a quarterback who is a long-term project like Lance, or one who had his own faults, in Fields, and losing the draft picks they could use to address numberous issues.

If either quarterback could be labeled as the next Patrick Mahomes or the next Deshaun Watson, fine, trade up. If they were, there wouldn't be three teams rushing up to the front of the draft to take three other quarterbacks. It's not like one guy rushing up to the front of the pack to take one quarterback named Mitchell Trubisky. It's three quarterbacks and three teams not interested in Fields or Lance.

This would leave the Bears without a quarterback except maybe a long-term project taken very late on Day 3.

The Bears should put two strong blockers in place at tackle and fortify their line. Maybe next offseason when the salary cap situation doesn't affect teams so much, the cap hit is less, and Seattle has had a full season for its relationship with Russell Wilson to deteriorate even more, then they can revisit that trade.

By then, Wilson might have the offensive line of his dreams already in place in Chicago.

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