NFL Sack Leader Robert Quinn Fits Contender Better Than Chicago Bears

While the Bears may posture about the importance of winning games in 2022, their behavior since the arrival of General Manager Ryan Poles telegraphs his plan to build a new team around quarterback Justin Fields, essentially from the ground up. There’s little reason for them to hang onto their two highest paid players, All-Pro defensive end Robert Quinn and reclamation project Eddie Jackson.

The NFL is closely monitoring the trade market around Quinn, who last season led the NFL with 18 1/2 sacks. Jackson has contributed so little from his free safety position since signing his four-year, $ 58 million contract extension in 2019 that he seems likely to be a release candidate after this season, when his dead-cap hit drops from $ 24.6 million to $ 9.6 million.

Poles appears to be doing everything he can to amass draft picks, salary cap room and young starters. He is expected to more aggressive in free agency next March than he was this time around, when made a handful of minor moves to patch holes. He’d no doubt love to add a high pick or two for the 2023 draft, where there’s already speculation the Bears will focus on a talented class of wide receivers.

Quinn, who is two years into his five-year, $ 70-million contract, reportedly was shopped before the draft but Poles wasn’t blown away by the offers. He may still trade him before September – keep an eye on the Dallas Cowboys’ interest – but the more likely scenario is he’ll become one of the biggest blue-chip stocks available before the November deadline.

Lots of contenders currently have the salary-cap space to add him. The list of those that have at least $ 15 million in cap room, per Spotrac, includes the Bengals, Chargers, Packers – wouldn’t that be interesting? – Dolphins, Panthers and Browns.

The easy comparison for a possible Quinn trade is Von Miller, who was dealt from the Broncos to the Rams at the trade deadline in November. The Broncos landed two picks for Miller – a second-rounder and a third-rounder.

But is Miller really a comp for Quinn?

While Miller helped the Rams win the Super Bowl, that game was one of only 12 he played for the Rams. He was in his walk season, allowing him to jump to Buffalo for a six-year, $ 120 million deal that guarantees him $ 51.435 million. Quinn is signed for three more seasons, so he could help a team make multiple trips to the post-season.

Poles offloaded Khalil Mack to the Chargers before the draft, landing a lukewarm return. Mack brought only a second-rounder in 2022 and a sixth-rounder in ’23. But Poles was motivated to trade Mack in part because his salary cap hit was due to increase from $ 14.6 million last season to $ 30.2 million in 2022.

Mack, like Quinn, is signed through 2024. But the Bears’ previous general manager, Ryan Pace, was trying to save his job when the trade deadline rolled around in November. That would have been when Mack’s value was highest but Pace had tied his tenure to winning with Mack and the Bears other veterans.

Poles can afford to be a patient in dealing with Quinn. He’ll serve a significant purpose early in the season, pressing quarterbacks to help rookies Kyler Gordon and Jaquan Brisker – the Bears’ top two picks in the ’22 draft – build some confidence as instant starters. Trevis Gipson seems ready to become the Bears’ top edge rusher after a Quinn trade.

Quinn is in his prime, and barring injury in the first half of the season would be an asset for almost any contender. Poles could create a bidding war between interested teams, possibly even landing a first-round pick in a deal.

Jackson was one of the best draft picks by the Pace regime. He slid to the fourth round of the 2017 draft after a great career at Alabama because of a broken leg his senior season. He started every game as a Bears rookie and returned three interceptions for touchdowns his first two seasons but has had few impact plays the last three seasons.

Pro Football Focus graded Jackson as the 78th best safety last season. Backup DeAndre Houston-Carson is playing at about the same level, and will earn $ 1.77 million this season.

Jackson has missed only missed five starts in five seasons but it figures Poles is looking to upgrade and clear some cap space, which he can until next season. The Bears are clearly a team in transition, and players like Quinn and Jackson no longer fit.


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