One year ago today, the Bears traded the first overall pick in the 2023 NFL Draft to the Panthers in a move that notably included star receiver D.J. Moore. Although we might not have known it then, Chicago won the lottery in the deal. The move was considered more of a win-win at the time, as many were intrigued about the potential of adding a highly touted quarterback like Bryce Young to a team that finished 7-10 the year prior and played in a wide-open division. However, it didn’t take long for the true extent of the Bears’ fortune (and Carolina’s misfortune) to be realized.

The Bears’ decision to trade down the top pick last year was an easy one to make. Justin Fields was coming off a promising sophomore season, and they had countless holes to fill throughout the roster. They found a taker in the Panthers and received a haul consisting of D.J. Moore, the ninth-overall pick, a second-round selection, their first-round pick this year, and another second-round selection next year. They then selected Darnell Wright with the tenth pick last year (after adding an additional fourth-round selection this year in another trade-down) and later added Tyrique Stevenson (through moving up five spots) in the second round.

Moore was one of three players the Bears were reportedly looking to receive in the deal (they were also interested in Brian Burns and Jaycee Horn), and Carolina presumably felt better about replacing the pass-catcher, who was coming off a slightly disappointing season after three straight years of over 1100 yards, than they did the other two players. However, they seemingly failed to realize just how crippling of a situation they were bringing Bryce Young into, as Moore was the Panthers’ only viable threat at receiver. Without him, Young had to rely on a well-past-his-prime Adam Thielen and career journeyman D.J. Chark out wide, which surely contributed to their league-worst offensive attack and eventual 2-15 record.

Carolina’s loss was the Bears’ gain, as Moore quickly developed a great rapport with Justin Fields and proved he belongs in the same conversation as many of the alpha receivers across the league. The star pass-catcher eclipsed the century mark five times and finished the year with 1364 yards through the air, good for fourth-most in franchise history. If Fields had not missed four games in the middle of the year (Moore averaged 53 yards in those games and 89 yards with Fields at the helm), he may have finished with the most all-time. His impact on Chicago’s offense cannot be overstated.

While Moore was the obvious headliner of the haul, the contributions from Wright and Stevenson should not be disregarded, as the trade would not be nearly as impressive if they flubbed those selections. Wright immediately proved to be a stabilizing presence at right tackle. While he didn’t get much attention from the national media, he looked like the best rookie tackle last year and should only get better as he gets more experience. The 22-year-old is a rock-solid building block on the line. Meanwhile, Stevenson showed an excellent nose for the ball (he led all rookies with four interceptions and 16 pass deflections) and improved dramatically as the season went on. The cover man should have a starting spot opposite Jaylon Johnson for years to come.

Conversely, the Panthers enter this offseason in much worse shape than they were in a year ago. They are no longer ‘just a quarterback away’ from competing for a playoff spot, as their roster is littered with holes and underperforming talent. To make matters worse, they also seemingly selected the wrong signal-caller with the top pick, as C.J. Stroud proved to be miles ahead of where Bryce Young is right now. While even he probably would not have been able to stop the ship from sinking in Carolina, it feels safe to say he would have done a much better job at plugging the holes.

Thanks to Carolina, the Bears once again hold the number one overall selection and keys to the offseason. Ryan Poles has a red pill/blue pill decision on his hands this time around, as this year’s class features a much better quarterback class featuring a far more tantalizing signal-caller in Caleb Williams. He could either stay put and reset the quarterback clock with the USC product or attempt to strike gold again by trading the pick for a boatload of extra selections. With a beloved locker room leader like Justin Fields currently manning the quarterback position, it is surely not an easy decision to make, but there is no denying that Chicago is in a very fortunate position, and it is all thanks to the deal made a year ago today.

March 10, 2023, is a date that will be cherished in Chicago for a long time. It would be an understatement to say the Bears’ decision to move off the top overall selection paid major dividends. It was a franchise-altering trade that has already proven to be one of the most fruitful acquisitions in recent memory. If they make good use of the top overall selection (whether it be by landing a star quarterback in Caleb Williams or by getting another haul potentially highlighted by star pass-catcher Marvin Harrison Jr.), it could further cement itself as one of the most lopsided trades in league history.

Comments are closed.

Check Also

Don’t Be Surprised if Bears Pass on a Pass-Catcher at No. 9

Drafting a receiver at nine is not a luxury pick, as some have previously stated. The Bear…