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Assessing Bears’ trade for Mitch Trubisky: 14 players, 6 teams, 1 franchise quarterback

CHICAGO – For Ryan Pace, the trade was always about the return more than the price.

Last April, the Bears and their general manager needed a new franchise quarterback. It was long overdue.

A quarterback who would give the team direction and shape its identity.

A quarterback who would position the Bears for sustained success, as Drew Brees did for Pace’s Saints more than a decade ago.

A quarterback who represented hope, one promising enough for ownership to continue believing in the NFL’s youngest GM during a rebuilding effort that still has not produced progress in the standings.

So with the clock ticking on the 49ers and the second pick in the 2017 draft, Pace traded four picks to them in exchange for one, unwilling to risk losing out to another quarterback-needy team that might have eyes on trading up.

And with that, Pace got his man: North Carolina quarterback Mitch Trubisky.

Now, fast-forward one year, through Trubisky’s 12 rookie starts and the Bears’ subsequent coaching change. The trade finally has a player attached to every draft pick involved.

And not just the four picks the Bears traded to the 49ers. As it turned out, the initial trade was a rock in the pond.

The ripple effect, when it finally calmed Saturday, the last day of the 2018 draft, expanded the trade’s reach to 14 players and six teams.

Now the comprehensive balance sheet can be written into NFL annals, a time capsule of sorts to be unearthed in a few years for final judgment.

“Sometimes with these trades … there can be win-win scenarios,” Pace said two days before the 2018 draft. “There’s always this fear that someone is going to get the short end of the stick. Well, if you’re thorough with your research, and (the other GMs) are, too, there can be win-win scenarios in these trades.”

Pace then was asked whether he believes his trade for Trubisky qualifies as a win-win – as if there were any mystery about his answer, given how the Bears have spent the offseason building around their second-year quarterback.

“Yeah,” Pace said, “because we got (the) player we were excited about who’s a franchise quarterback.”

Here we break down the returns on the initial trade between the Bears and 49ers, as well as the subsequent trades in which the Bears’ picks were packaged.


The initial trade


Bears received

2017 draft-pick No. 2: Mitch Trubisky, QB, North Carolina

Bears traded

2017-3: 49ers – Solomon Thomas, DE, Stanford

2017-67: Saints – Alvin Kamara, RB, Tennessee (via 49ers)

2017-111: Seahawks – Tedric Thompson, S, Colorado (via 49ers)

2018-70: 49ers – Fred Warner, LB, BYU

Analysis: Trading up one spot to draft Trubisky was costly for the Bears. But just because something is expensive doesn’t mean it’s not worth buying. The Bears desperately needed Trubisky’s ability as a quarterback and everything it represents: hope, stability and a foundation on which to build. Without him, they still would be stuck. The optimism his partnership with new coach Matt Nagy fuels would not exist.

Of course, Trubisky remains unproven. He must develop quickly into a quarterback who lifts the offense around him and the entire franchise. Pace has bet his career on it, and that has driven the Bears’ offseason decisions, from hiring Nagy to overhauling their receiving corps.

At least Trubisky showed significant promise as a rookie despite a 4-8 record as a starter and a touchdown-to-turnover ratio of 7-10. Of most importance, he proved he can play from the pocket. He improved reading defenses, and his heralded accuracy was evident in many instances, even though his 59.4 completion percentage reflected a rookie in transition.

Trubisky’s mobility and mental aptitude fit Nagy’s scheme, which requires the quarterback to be extremely detailed with checks and adjustments on each play. Off the field, Trubisky excited the Bears with his work ethic, charisma and ability to connect with teammates.

“It’s easier to sleep not only when you feel like you have the guy who has all the physical traits,” Pace said, “but when he has the makeup you really want in that position.”

Detractors assume the Bears would have been able to draft Trubisky at No. 3 without giving up extra picks. But the 49ers could have dealt the second pick to another team intent on trading up ahead of the Bears. In fact, 49ers GM John Lynch said on multiple occasions that they were negotiating a trade involving the second pick with teams other than the Bears.

Pace acted aggressively to avoid an alternative he understandably considered to be too perilous. Fault him if you will, but if Trubisky ends up being great, then no price would have been too expensive.

Swapping first-round picks was a baseline for the trade; the real cost is the three mid-rounders. A year later, Kamara jumps off the page. After the 49ers traded the Bears’ third-round pick to the Saints, the Saints used it to select the eventual NFL offensive rookie of the year.

Kamara, the fifth running back drafted last year, quickly emerged as a weapon for Brees, He made the Pro Bowl over Bears running back Jordan Howard after totaling 1,554 yards from scrimmage and 13 touchdowns. He had 81 catches for 826 yards, as coach Sean Payton consistently exploited matchups between Kamara and linebackers.

Thomas’ modest rookie season for the 49ers consisted of three sacks and a midseason knee injury that hampered him. Thompson played in the Seahawks’ final nine games, almost exclusively on special teams, and recovered two fumbles on kickoff coverage. Warner is a rangy linebacker who is expected to play inside and contribute with his ability to run and cover more than his thumping as a tackler.


Subsequent trades involving Bears picks


Saints received

2017-67 (Bears’ pick): Alvin Kamara, RB, Tennessee

49ers received

2017-229: Adrian Colbert, CB, Miami

2018-59: Traded pick to Redskins, who drafted Derrius Guice, RB, LSU


Redskins received

2018-59: Derrius Guice, RB, LSU

2018-74: Geron Christian, OT, Louisville

49ers received

2018-44: Dante Pettis, WR, Washington

2018-142: D.J. Reed, DB, Kansas State

Analysis: There’s no telling whether Kamara would have been the same explosive player with the Bears or 49ers that he was as a rookie in the high-powered Saints offense. Pondering that is the fun of these trade postmortems, but reality is that a draft pick’s success depends on how a coaching staff develops him and how he fits into a team’s system. Any regret about passing up Kamara can be shared by 31 teams.

The 49ers turned the Bears’ 2017 third-round pick into players – Colbert, Pettis and Reed – minus a third-round pick they traded to the Redskins – Christian.

Pettis, the highest-drafted of the three, is a well-rounded route runner and explosive punt returner despite lacking elite speed. Colbert started six games as a rookie and forced two fumbles. Reed was a two-time All-Big 12 defensive back and first-team all-conference as a returner last season.


Seahawks received

2017-34: Traded pick to Jaguars, who drafted Cam Robinson, OT, Alabama

2017-111 (Bears’ pick): Tedric Thompson, FS, Colorado

49ers received

2017-31: Reuben Foster, LB, Alabama


Jaguars received

2017-34: Cam Robinson, OT, Alabama

Seahawks received

2017-35: Malik McDowell, DT, Michigan State

2017-187: Michael Tyson, S, Cincinnati

Analysis: The 49ers included the Bears’ 2017 fourth-round pick in their trade with the Seahawks to get back into last year’s first round and select Foster. He won the Butkus Award in 2016 as college football’s top linebacker – Bears 2018 first-round pick Roquan Smith won it in 2017 – but he fell to 31st because of character concerns. He showed promise as a tackler in 10 games as a rookie but was slowed by a high ankle sprain. Then in January, he was arrested on a marijuana-possession charge.

After the Seahawks acquired the Bears’ fourth-round pick in 2017 from the 49ers, they traded back with the Jaguars. The Jaguars believe they got their lockdown left tackle in Robinson, who in 2016 won the Outland Trophy, which recognizes the nation’s top lineman on either side of the ball.

The trade hasn’t worked out as well for the Seahawks, who reportedly are expected to release McDowell before he plays a game for them. He missed his rookie season because of injuries suffered in an offseason all-terrain-vehicle accident.

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Chicago Bears quarterback Mitch Trubisky (10) reacts after he throws a touchdown pass in a 33-7 win against the Cincinnati Bengals on December 10, 2017, at Paul Brown Stadium in Cincinnati. (Jose M. Osorio/Chicago Tribune/TNS)

Chicago Bears quarterback Mitch Trubisky (10) reacts after he throws a touchdown pass in a 33-7 win against the Cincinnati Bengals on December 10, 2017, at Paul Brown Stadium in Cincinnati. (Jose M. Osorio/Chicago Tribune/TNS)

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