Andy Dalton can’t preclude the Bears from finding future QBPatrick Finleyon March 17, 2021 at 12:40 am

The Bears signed Andy Dalton to a one-year deal Tuesday.
The Bears signed Andy Dalton to a one-year deal Tuesday. | Emilee Chinn, AP Photos

The Bears wanted Russell Wilson. They’ll have to settle for Andy Dalton.

The Bears wanted Russell Wilson.

They’ll have to settle for Andy Dalton.

The question Bears general manager Ryan Pace must answer now is, “and who else?” After an offseason in which he claimed he’d exhaust every possibility to fix the most important position in sports, Dalton can’t be considered the final answer. Not in a season with Pace and coach Matt Nagy’s job on the line.

Even in the feel-good world of free agency, the most charitable thing that can be said about the Bears agreeing to sign Dalton on Tuesday is this: the contract is for one year. Adding Dalton doesn’t preclude the Bears from their next far-fetched trade idea for a disgruntled star, as unlikely as it to come to fruition, or from drafting a quarterback next month.

Without doing either, though, the Bears are precisely where they were at the start of the legal tampering period: in quarterback hell, with Nick Foles and Dalton — two passers who probably wouldn’t be a Week 1 starter anywhere else — fighting for the first snap of the season. Dalton has the edge; that the Bears felt the need to sign him is as damning of Foles as it is of Pace.

Paying Dalton $10 million makes trading for the Seahawks’ Wilson or the Texans’ Deshaun Watson only slightly more unlikely now than it was 24 hours ago — but that speaks more to the long odds of each endeavor.

The Bears let the world, and the Seahawks, know that they wanted Wilson, the Super Bowl champion, reigning Walter Payton Man of the Year and a likely Hall of Famer. Wilson sparked their trade pursuit — which ESPN called “very aggressive” — when he put them on a list of four teams to which he’d approve the trade.

Pace couldn’t offer enough to compel the Seahawks to start over. They weren’t prepared to swallow $39 million in dead money by moving him before June 1 — almost a quarter of their entire salary cap — for the privilege of trading the greatest player in franchise history. That stance doesn’t figure to change before the draft, unless Wilson’s public frustration with the franchise ratchets up to a degree never seen before in his career.

If the Bears didn’t have the firepower to make the Seahawks contemplate a trade, they certainly won’t be able to outbid more than half the league for Watson if the Texans make their frustrated star available before the draft.

More realistically, the next quarterback to join the Bears’ roster will come from college — though the Bears will likely have to trade up from No. 20 to land one of the five projected first-round passers late next month.

The Jaguars are certain to take Clemson’s Trevor Lawrence first overall. It’s unlikely the Bears can move into the top five, where BYU’s Zach Wilson and Ohio State’s Justin Fields are expected to be picked. Pace and Nagy attended North Dakota quarterback Trey Lance’s pro day last month; Alabama quarterback Mac Jones will throw next week.

The Bears could draft one and sell them as the future of the franchise.

If not, they’ll be back in the same spot next year — in quarterback hell, and, possibly, with different decision-makers at the helm.

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