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Help Wanted: Franchise QB Needs Company

One of the first orders of business for the new GM and coach in free agency for the Bears will be who backs up Justin Fields in 2022, and there are some appropriate arms for hire available.

Justin Fields needs company and one of the offseason issues facing the team is what to do about backup quarterback.

The Bears chose to surround the rookie with veterans and not let him practice with starters initially, then finally had to go to him when Andy Dalton was injured.

Dalton becomes a free agent and unless the Bears want to absorb a full $0.66 million cap hit while letting him serve as backup again, Nick Foles will be cut from the roster at some point. At least they could realize a cap savings of $3 million then. One way he might not be a cap cut victim would be if the Bears signed Doug Pederson as coach, since the two were interconnected forever due to their Super Bowl win over New England after the 2017 season.

So what can the Bears do to provide backup to Fields? They'll need someone who can play because running quarterbacks frequently wind up missing games, and Fields found this out by missing the final three games this year and five games total.

Drafting a later-round rookie and using him as an immediate backup rarely works. If he's forced to play, he'll not only have no experience but will have been watching the starter take all the first-team practice reps.

So a veteran is necessary and the only way to pull this off barring a trade is a free agent signing. There will be a long list of free agent quarterbacks this year and looking at this group might cause some anguish because they're not exactly an illustrious lot. But this is a backup position the Bears will need to fill and they're not being viewed as full-time starters.

Here are 10 free agent choices aimed at the Bears' particular position with cap concern and need for experience.

10. A.J. McCarron

Atlanta's backup has played in only 17 games in six seasons with four starts, but the good news is he worked for only $1.5 million last year. The likelihood is he would return to Atanta. The Falcons liked his veteran presence behind Matt Ryan and he didn't cost them much, so unless someone wanted to overpay for what they would be getting, he'll stay put.

9. Jameis Winston

The former Tampa Bay starter would rate higher on the list, maybe near the top except for one real problem. No one will know if he'll be available by training camp as he suffered both a torn ACL and torn MCL and had November surgery. It's not a huge problem for quarterbacks to come back from these injuries but doing it in eight to 10 months might be a stretch and the position is too critical to leave this to chance.

8. Mitchell Trubisky

No, really. Matt Nagy is gone and so is Ryan Pace and Trubisky could live the quiet life of a backup. It would never work, of course. There's probably too much holdover harshness over being bumped out of town for him to come back. But for the $2.5 million he made this year, it would be a bargain for the Bears to have a backup like this. Trubisky is probably having too much fun being with a winner to come be a backup for someone else when he could do it for similar money in Buffalo again. The only way he would leave is for a starting shot or much bigger cash. The Bears wouldn't be able to offer either and probably wouldn't want to anyway.

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7. Jacoby Brissett 

Brissett is known as the king of the quarterback sneaks because of the successful times he's done it, especially in Indianapolis. He is a solid performer as a backup. On thing teams don't want from backups is the tendency to turn it over. He has thrown interceptions only 1.4% of the time, an excellent rate.

6. Andy Dalton

Bringing Dalton back isn't so far-fetched, although he did come away with $10 million for playing only eight games and six starts. Dalton was promised the starting spot and really didn't get what he was promised behind starts in Games 1 and 2. He played later only due to injuries and sickness. Dalton probably could find a better shot at starting elsewhere and would be more likely to pursue that, although QBs in their mid-30s who wilted in a few appearances against good teams do not break the bank.

5. Cam Newton

He has had three seasons like Dalton's 2021 season, with a below-average 77.1 passer rating, eight TDs and 12 interceptions. Newton was overpriced at $6 million for 2021 but Carolina likes him. The Bears' interest might be for Fields to have a mentor. Fields says he patterns his game after Russell Wilson, but also says he has sought out advice from Newton in the past. A young starter-mentor situation is a healthy one for a team.

4. Colt McCoy

Like McCarron, he's a backup forever. Except, he has been called on to play more and played fairly well when he did get out there. When Kyler Murray had an ankle injury in 2021, McCoy started three times and the Cardinals won twice. He had a 101.4 passer rating for those games and 74.7% completions at 7.6 yards an attempt. His career numbers are not so impressive, with 80.3 for a passer rating and 6.6 yards an attempt but something seems to have clicked with the Kliff Kingsbury offense.

3. Tyrod Taylor

Mobile and with a strong enough arm to be a good answer if the team lost Fields for any amount of time, Taylor once had numbers so good it seemed he should be a starter. They have fallen off at his last two career stops and now he has been in Baltimore, Buffalo, Cleveland, Los Angeles and Houston. His career yards per attempt is a solid 7.0 and passer rating 88.2 for 11 seasons.

2. Marcus Mariota

Mariota collected $3.5 million for two pass attempts and 13 rushes in 2021. He can do more and still has great speed as well as passing stats that say someone gave up on him too soon as a starter. He has averaged an excellent 7.5 yards an attempt with a passer rating of 89.5. A team would be getting a backup with 61 career starts with Mariota.

1. Teddy Bridgewater

Some team might want to try giving him starting status again, but honestly Dalton deserves this as much as the Broncos' QB. Bridgewater has excellent numbers. What he doesn't do is get the ball in the end zone from the red zone. He's still likely to command money bordering on what starters get but if not then the Bears could certainly use a veteran QB who could fill in as occasional starter in the role he had in New Orleans behind Drew Brees. 

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