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Buyer or Seller? Bears Fit Neither Category Now

The gray area where the Bears find themselves at 3-4 could be clarified to a greater extent if they lose to San Francisco but there are players to trade for various reasons.

It is the beginning of a week when trade winds become tornadoes as the swirling is everywhere. 

As is usually the case with the Bears, nothing is a simple matter. They are caught in no man's land. They can't be sure whether they are traders or whether they are buyers.

At 3-4 in this NFL, and with a 17-game schedule and playoff berths handed out to almost anyone asking—see last year's Bears team—it can cloud judgment as to whether they should be trying to trade veterans or keep them.

A team with a very young starting quarterback and losing record usually is a seller, but the Bears are atypical in that they are the rare team trying to start a young quarterback without an entire rebuild. 

They need to weigh several deciding factors before the dealing ends on Nov. 2 at 3 p.m. Dealing away too much could threaten Justin Fields' health or deprive him of targets.

The deciding factors include a team's ability to deal a player, because not just anyone is eligible for trade in the NFL.

A team still must immediately eat the remaining portion of a player's prorated bonus when they make a deal, so only players who are near or at the end of their contract are going to be dealt. Trades in the NFL can cost both the trading team and the acquiring team against their salary cap. 

For instance, the Bears are not trading Eddie Jackson just because he missed a chance at an easy pick-6 early in last week's game and missed some tackles earlier. His prorated signing bonus money alone more than doubles the amount of cap space ($3.367 million) says they have left and that doesn't even take into account the restructure bonus money he gets.

The Bears don't have the salary cap space to be buyers at $3.367 million unless you're talking a player who is at the bottom end of the pay scale. In many cases they don't have the cap space to be sellers, but there are some players they could trade without such repercussions affecting their ability to do business.

These would affect their ability to do actual business on the field. 

The other factor to take into account is what the Bears would get in return. 

A team without a first-round draft pick next year can use picks of any kind but it must be remembered that buyers on the deadline in the NFL know the selling team has no recourse in many cases. 

Few teams actually get players in return for veterans available at the deadline, largely due to the cap ramifications. But if such creatures do exist then the Bears can use an experienced cornerback, nickel or otherwise. They also could use another tackle as they've depleted their supply already for this year and probably for the next two decades. 

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A respectable third receiver would help, or at least one as good as Anthony Miller was. In each of his three Bears seasons, after seven games Miller had 19 catches for 189 yards, 16 for 211 and 14 for 210 yards. 

Marquise Goodwin, that third receiver with speed the Bears had to have, has nine catches for 91 yards after seven games. In fact, all of the speed receivers the Bears brought in together—Goodwin, Damiere Byrd, Nsimba Webster, Breshad Perriman and Jakeem Grant—have combined for only 13 catches and 112 yards after seven games. None reached the end zone yet and Miller had seven TDs in his rookie year alone. 

When it becomes fire sale time, prices have to be slashed. A player of high quality might need to be traded for very little. 

It should also be a player without a contract for next year due to the bonus acceleration against their cap for players with multiple years remaining.

Here are the most tradeable Bears with deadline approaching if they decide to be sellers rather than buyers:

7. Danny Trevathan

It's safe to say this one would not happen. There is a much greater likelihood he would be cut rather than traded. The Bears will be absorbing his signing bonus for the next four years and can't afford to trade him because of the acceleration of his remaining $9 million in signing bonus. Cutting him lets them save so little money that it isn't worth the effort, but this is a trade deadline we're talking about now and not cut deadline. They will have Trevathan as a backup or spot starter in place of Alec Ogletree for the remainder of the season.

6. Damien Williams

If the injury to David Montgomery has been disruptive for the Bears offense, at least it has shown them they have a good, young backup for their starter. Khalil Herbert has emerged as a forceful runner who only needs to figure out when and who to block in blitz situations. So Williams is expendable. Williams was only away for COVID-19 and would be a valuable asset at a low cost for any team with a back shortage that wants an extra ball carrier or receiver out of the backfield, even a backfield pass blocker who can contribute in the stretch run.

5. Bilal Nichols

Trying to find a taker after he couldn't control his temper Sunday in Tampa shouldn't be a problem. He's never been the sort of player to cause problems like he did against the Buccaneers. The injury status of Akiem Hicks makes Nichols of immediate importance to the Bears. He's out of contract after this year and thus expendable or retainable, and some teams would value him. Even average interior defensive linemen get paid in the open market. Converted linebacker Roy Robertson-Harris got $23.2 million for three years to go to Jacksonville and Nichols has more potential. Do the Bears want to pay that money for someone who gets ejected? The Bears might be able to find a taker now who would give them something in return if they have decided he isn't what they want for the future. There is also Nichols' own health to weigh into this. He had a knee injury last week but played anyway. How healthy is he?

4. Akiem Hicks

If someone wants to rush out and trade for a player with a groin issue, who turns 32 in three weeks, then more power to them. The Bears don't even have Hicks on the field now. It was obvious from the way their run defense has slipped to 23rd in the league that even when he was on the field against Green Bay he wasn't healthy. Hicks is in the last year of his deal and so cash isn't an issue for the Bears with him, as they already decided to pay his $10.4 million salary. It most likely would be an issue for the acquiring team to find cap space to pay the remainder of his salary for this season. If the Bears trade him, and Hicks is allowed to be healthy, he gives the acquiring team what he also could give the Bears if he is allowed time to heal his injured groin—a potentially dominant interior force necessary for both the pass rush and the run defense. The problem an acquiring team would have would be how far into the future to give him a new contract. 

3. Allen Robinson

He's easily the most talented of players who could be trade bait, but his situation as a highly paid franchised player makes it seem less likely to happen. If a team really wanted him, they might believe they could just wait it out until free agency. A team with plenty of cap space and few receivers would be an ideal place for Robinson, especially an AFC team so the Bears didn't have to face him many times in the future. Here are top potential targets: Jacksonville has $28.7 million of cap space, Philadelphia $21.3, Denver $14.7 and Seattle $12.3. One ideal spot for Robinson because of the quarterback to work with would be the L.A. Chargers but at $10.9 million cap available they'd need to work out a new contract immediately. Another good spot would be Pittsburgh, which has just $10 million available now.

The Bears are not using Robinson now to his full extent. They've had Breshad Perriman collecting cobwebs as an inactive each week almost like an X-receiver in waiting until, or if, Robinson is dealt. Not that there is a comparison between the two, but Perriman at least could help them get through the end of the year until they can add an X-receiver type in the draft or free agency if they deal Robinson. Which team could really use a receiver about now? Does Ryan Pace's buddy in New Orleans sound about right, Mickey Loomis? The Saints would love someone healthy and talented at receiver but they have far less available under the cap than the Bears, at $1.3 million. Robinson's franchise player pay for this year was almost $18 million. A new team will need to get him the contract he thinks he should be paid and have the cash availability.

2. Nick Foles

He's still available for a team needing a backup, and as he has said, preferably one where he wants to go. The market doesn't seem to be there, or it didn't anyway. Otherwise, at his important position someone would have been willing to come up with a late draft pick somewhere for the Bears by now. The Colts would have been an ideal place to send him but the proper interest didn't exist and now Carson Wentz seems healthy enough to play until his next injury. But one great possibility just opened up with the trade of Joe Flacco to the Jets. The Eagles have an opening for another quarterback, and in Philly Foles is still St. Nick, with his own statue and not just the guy who was paid a lot of money to rally a team to one win and then lose five out of the seven games he started in 2020.

1. James Daniels

After a bit of a shaky start, Daniels has settled in and Pro Football Focus grades him the NFL's 31st best guard with a 65.9 grade. The Bears won't have him after this year unless they want to pay him, as he is in the final year of his contract. They have alternatives at this position as Alex Bars performed adequately there last year after Daniels' season-ending injury. It's also suggested often throughout the league that tackles can easily be converted to guards, but not vice versa. The Bears have enough spare tackles laying around in various states of health or decay to make another guard. There is no reason to think they don't want Daniels back next year, but if they decide they can't spend the money on an interior offensive lineman then this would be a good time to get something back in return. The original plan had been for Daniels to develop into their starting center but they seem to like undrafted Sam Mustipher doing it.

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