The Washington Post

Bears land draft haul in deal for the top pick

Trade with Panthers nets two No. 1s, two No. 2s and wide receiver Moore

- BY NICKI JHABVALA

The Chicago Bears traded the No. 1 overall selection in next month’s NFL draft to the Carolina Panthers on Friday for a haul of draft picks and veteran wide receiver D. J. Moore, according to a person familiar with the deal.

The Panthers sent Chicago their first-round pick (No. 9 overall) and second-round selection (No. 61) in April’s draft as well as a 2024 first-round selection, a 2025 second-rounder and Moore.

The move presumably sets Carolina up to take a quarterbac­k and signals the Bears may be moving forward with theirs — at least for now.

Taking a quarterbac­k at No. 1 overall worked for the Panthers 12 years ago, when they drafted Auburn’s Cam Newton. He went on to win the NFL’S offensive rookie of the year award and earn three Pro Bowl nods, a first-team all-pro selection and league MVP honors after guiding the Panthers to Super Bowl 50.

But the Panthers haven’t had a winning season or playoff berth since 2017, and they have made multiple deals to land Newton’s successor to little avail.

Carolina was interested in acquiring Matthew Stafford from the Detroit Lions in early 2021, but when he landed in Los Angeles with the Rams, the Panthers shifted gears and traded for Sam Darnold from the New York Jets. Darnold was limited that season because of a shoulder injury, and he lost his starting job the following year. Carolina was also among the multiple teams hoping to acquire Deshaun Watson in a trade before he went to Cleveland last year. The Panthers instead drafted Matt Corral in the third round and later traded for Baker Mayfield, who was released in December.

Carolina has been aggressive but never this aggressive.

Since the AFL/NFL merger in 1967, the top draft pick has been traded only 12 other times, most recently in 2016, when the Rams acquired the top pick from the Tennessee Titans and selected quarterbac­k Jared Goff.

It’s unknown which quarterbac­k Carolina is targeting in this year’s draft, but the trade is an indicator it may be eyeing one. This year’s class is top-heavy on quarterbac­k talent, with some projecting that Alabama’s Bryce Young, Ohio State’s C. J. Stroud, Florida’s Anthony Richardson and Kentucky’s Will Levis could

be taken in the top 10.

If anything, the trade allows Carolina to keep its options open as it continues to evaluate quarterbac­ks and potentiall­y mull opportunit­ies to trade back and collect picks if there’s not one quarterbac­k it loves.

“We’re evaluating right now,” Coach Frank Reich said at the NFL scouting combine in Indianapol­is this month. “I mean, I think a lot of these guys are very talented, smart, have a lot of the qualities, but we’ll continue to make that evaluation.”

Carolina’s aggressive­ness comes at a significan­t cost, though.

In addition to the draft haul they sent to Chicago, the Panthers gave up their leading receiver for the past four seasons. Now Moore will be the top target for Bears quarterbac­k Justin Fields, Chicago’s first-round pick (No. 11 overall) two years ago.

There had been some speculatio­n that the Bears might trade Fields and use the top pick on a quarterbac­k. But their trade Friday is affirmatio­n that they will move forward with the 24-yearold by surroundin­g him with more talent on offense.

The Bears, who finished last season 3-14, now have 10 picks — including four in the top 100 — in April’s draft. They also have approximat­ely $75.1 million in salary cap space to rebuild their roster, according to Spotrac.com.

Coach Matt Eberflus acknowledg­ed at the combine that trading back in the first round was a considerat­ion and even indicated that the team may look to trade back multiple times to stockpile picks.

“You can stay there right at No. 1 and pick if you have a great player there that you like,” Eberflus said. “Or you can trade back as far as you need to get as many picks as you want. Those are all the options that [General Manager] Ryan [Poles] and I are looking at.”

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