Courtney CroninESPN staff writer7 minutes to read
Mike Tannenbaum has a pretty good idea of what Ryan Bowles, general manager of the Chicago Bears, is about to try out at the NFL’s annual scouting competition in Indianapolis.
Tannenbaum, now an ESPN analyst, was the general manager of the New York Jets in February 2006 when he spotted Houston Texans GM Charlie Casserley at the airport on their way to the combine. That year, Houston had the No. 1 overall pick while the Jets were drafting No. 4.
Throughout the 2006 season and even on the eve of the draft, he was widely expected to be ranked #1 overall by USC running back Reggie Bush. There was only one problem. Houston wasn’t comfortable drafting a Heisman Trophy winner at that spot in the years before the NFL implemented a rookie pay scale.
“Charlie said, ‘We’d really like to go back to the number four, would you be interested in the first overall pick?'” Tannenbaum recalled. “I was half joking — sure, Charlie, what else would you give us to go from four to one?”
He said, “We don’t really want to cast [Bush] First in general. I said, “Yeah, and we are,” Tannenbaum laughed.
These candid conversations between general managers and information-gathering that take place between interviews with draft prospects, meetings with player agents and casual conversations with fellow teammates are common when the entire NFL world converges in Indianapolis.
The Poles will be in high demand in the combine this week, with the offseason effectively running through Chicago. Not only do the Bears have the first overall pick in a year when eight to 12 teams could be looking to make a quarterback switch, but Chicago also has nearly $100 million in salary cap space to use in free agency.
While the Poles will no doubt be involved in talks with other teams, and ESPN’s Adam Schefter reported Monday that the Bears are leaning toward option trading, it’s not like the Poles will have time to hold court in the St. Louis Cardinals. Elmo Steak House and Field Shows.
“He wouldn’t do it,” said Randy Mueller, former general manager of the New Orleans Saints and Miami Dolphins. “You have so much in your schedule with your team and the team’s own schedule that there is no time for that.”
The Poles have kept a steady hand in his approach to upgrading the Bears roster. In January, he reaffirmed his commitment to quarterback Justin Fields, who the Bears drafted 11th overall in 2021, and said he’d have to “wow” to draft a QB prospect in April. Alabama Bryce Young He is expected to be the first quarterback taken.
This information can give other teams leverage in what they may offer to first pick overall. And if the Poles weren’t keen on what the Bears would get in return, he could choose to stay put.
“We have the flexibility if there are opportunities where if we can turn that into a lot of players who come and help us then we can do that,” the Poles said. “If it continues or is really selective with certain people, we can do that as well. I know my expectation, our expectation, is that we move the needle to be more successful. We can win some of these close games and bring in guys who can make an impact on this football team.”
Should the bears be actively looking to come back from the first position, when will talks about a trading partner begin?
Since the AFL/NFL merger in 1967, the #1 pick has been traded 12 times before the start of the draft. This last happened in 2016 when the Los Angeles Rams moved from No. 15 to No. 1 two weeks before selecting quarterback Jared Goff from Cal. This was only the second time in the past 22 years that the #1 pick had changed hands prior to the draft (the Atlanta Falcons moved from 2nd overall to Michael Vick’s 1st overall draft pick in 2001).
In used to refer to every one of two or more people or matters of the last two seasons, there was a major shift in the draft order weeks before the draft took place. The Philadelphia Eagles and Saints shook up the standings in the first round on April 4, 2022, with New Orleans receiving first-round picks (No. 16 and No. 19) and a sixth pick, while the Eagles were awarded the No. 1 pick. 18, which was eventually traded to the Tennessee Titans in a package for wide receiver AJ Brown and a host of other picks. On March 26, 2021, the Dolphins made two deals starting with trading first-round picks with the San Francisco 49ers, which the 49ers used to draft quarterback Trey Lance before trading multiple picks to the Eagles.
These deals did not meet on the morning of their announcement. Collective and other off-season events have been fertile ground for candid conversations to gauge interest.
In January 1997, Mueller, then Vice President of Football Operations for the Seattle Seahawks, sat down with former Bears president Michael McCaskey and general manager Rod Graves for the East-West Shrine Game. Over a sandwich, the three discussed quarterback Rick Mirer, who was traded from Seattle to Chicago a month later.
In 2009, the Jets traded from No. 17 to No. 5 to draft quarterback Mark Sanchez. From the Senior Bowl in January to the Combine in late February, Tannenbaum tried to gauge where he could find a business partner.
“It was very informal,” Tannenbaum said. “I like to go in and out of the wings of other teams [at the RCA Dome in Indianapolis, where combine workouts took place]. That year, Detroit took first place, and they didn’t budge [Matthew] Stafford. You really want to start learning about landscapes where, well, we’re 17, what’s realistic? How high can we reach? “
After months of maneuvering, the Jets jumped 12 points while on the clock in the first round of the draft.
The Poles’ first experience with the Bears was spent preparing to allow more than 20 players from the 2021 team to walk in free agency, which included meetings with those players’ agents. His first major move as a Chicago GM came less than two weeks after his return from Indianapolis when he traded rushing rusher Khalil Mack to the Los Angeles Chargers for two draft picks.
Until the dust settles on free agency, it’s too early to predict whether the Poles will come up with a trading partner for the first overall pick. Teams in need of a quarterback that fail to get veteran QBs like Derek Carr, Jimmy Garoppolo, and possibly Aaron Rodgers and Lamar Jackson if available, can look closely at trading for a top pick.
“I don’t think there is a lot of talk about the draft strategy [at the combine]Mueller said. “You’re collecting information on individual players in the draft pool and you’re spending every minute outside of that collecting information from agents who are in free agency.”
What is likely to come directly from the consolidation are the deals players are involved in. Days after the Combine wrapped up in 2010, Tannenbaum acquired linebacker Antonio Cromartie from the San Diego Chargers in a trade. Often when teams are looking to trade a player, contract guarantees that often run at the start of a new league year in March create a sense of urgency.
The Trading Fields idea has sparked widespread outside discussion in the past few months. This discussion is likely fueled by rumors that permeate the halls of the JW Marriott and Indianapolis Convention Center, and the Poles are in a prime position to either fan or quash that speculation or send messages through the media to create more leverage for the bears surrounding the top pick.
“That period of time could be used as a tool for general observers to send messages or shots across the arc,” Mueller said of the combination. “But the actual conversations, really the meat and potatoes, may have already happened and then they’ll conclude.”
After failing to find a trade partner with the No. 1 pick in 2006, Casserly ended up picking defensive end Mario Williams first overall while Bosh fell to the New Orleans Saints at No. 2. Tannenbaum and the Jets remained at fourth and selected offensive tackle D’Brickashaw Ferguson.
The Pole could find himself in a similar situation if the offers he made for first-choice do not match what he feels is the right return. And staying in possession of the top pick means the Bears will have the entire draft board at their disposal and can pick one of the best players in the draft, like Alabama edge rusher Will Anderson or Georgia defensive tackle Jalen Carter to overhaul a class defense. in the bottom five in 2022.
Either way, Poles won’t have much time to sort out the odds until he returns from the ensuing marathon in Indianapolis.
“It’s a crazy practice of multitasking for every GM,” Mueller said. “You’re juggling free agency, you’re dealing with trades in your head, you’re having meetings with agents, and you’re also trying to gather as much information on those players in the draft because that’s your raison d’être.”
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