With the Bears and Cardinals selling draft picks, is it time for the Colts to trade up?

INDIANAPOLIS – The Bears own the No. 1 pick in this year’s draft, and they’re making it clear at the NFL Scouting Combine that the pick is now for sale.

Indianapolis Colts general manager Chris Ballard must decide whether or not to trade up to the No. 1 pick in this year's NFL Draft to secure his favorite quarterback or to sit still at No. 4.

© Darron Cummings, AP
Indianapolis Colts general manager Chris Ballard must decide whether or not to trade up to the No. 1 pick in this year’s NFL Draft to secure his favorite quarterback or to sit still at No. 4.

For quarterback-needy teams like the Colts, that means the bidding war is on, and the winner could receive the prize sooner rather than later.

“There are some scenarios that might benefit us to move before free agency opens, potentially, but again when we get back with all the information that we’ve gathered from here I think we’ll have a better direction,” Bears general manager Ryan Poles told local reporters, via Shaw Local. “(It would give) a clearer view of what we need and there’s scenarios where you could add players (in a trade) as well, potentially, which again, gives you some clarity on what you want to do in the draft and free agency.”

Start the day smarter. Get all the news you need in your inbox each morning.

The Bears own the No. 1 pick but are not currently in the quarterback market. They drafted Justin Fields 11th in 2021 and plan to continue with him after he broke out as an explosive rusher last season.

FOR SUBSCRIBERS: Insider: Here are the Colts’ top 5 needs heading into the NFL combine

Because they own the top pick, they’ve been doing “due diligence” on the quarterbacks in this year’s draft, a group that includes Alabama’s Bryce Young, Ohio State’s C.J. Stroud, Kentucky’s Will Levis and Florida’s Anthony Richardson. As of now, the Bears have held firm that they will continue to build around Fields and will look to trade the top pick if they receive an offer they like.

The trade market will include multiple teams in the top 10, as the Texans at No. 2, the Colts at No. 4 and the Panthers at No. 9 are considered the ones most likely to draft a rookie this year. Other potential suitors could include the Seahawks at No. 5, the Lions at No. 6, the Raiders at No. 7 and the Falcons at No. 8.

The Texans currently own the top pick for a team that is in need of a quarterback, so the motivation to trade up would be to leap-frog them for the top choice. Houston could also move up to assure it gets its top pick.

Other teams will also look to leapfrog the Colts, who have made it clear in recent weeks that they plan to use the draft to find what will be their sixth Week 1 starter in six seasons. The Bears are one potential landing spot to do so, but teams could also trade with the Cardinals at No. 3, or one spot above Indianapolis. Arizona general manager Monti Ossenfort said his team will field offers to trade down as well.

If the Colts sit at No. 4, they could risk landing their third or fourth favorite option, based on this developing trade market.

“They’ve been on this veteran carousel for so long. They’ve got to get off of it,” NFL Network draft analyst Daniel Jeremiah said. “So if you have conviction of who that guy is, I think where there position is as an organization, I think it makes sense for them to be maybe more aggressive than Houston would be (at No. 2).

“I would not be sleeping well at night if I was just going to sit and hold tight there at No. 4.”

The Colts have some advantages on their side if they want to get involved in the bidding war. They have a connection between general manager Chris Ballard and Poles, who worked together in the Chiefs front office from 2013-2016. They also own a top-four pick, which would allow Chicago to move down and still land one of the top two defensive players in the draft, which are Alabama edge rusher Will Anderson and Georgia defensive tackle Jalen Carter.

Indianapolis also has players to offer in a trade that it knows Chicago would like. Bears coach Matt Eberflus was the Colts defensive coordinator from 2018-2021 and is a big fan of players such as DeForest Buckner, Grover Stewart and Kenny Moore II. He also has knowledge of players on the offensive side of the ball, which is where Fields needs the support most.

The Bears have more than $98 million in cap space currently available for 2023, according to OverTheCap.com. That’s $32 million more than any other team, and to use it effectively, it might make sense to absorb salary in a trade rather than just leave it to free agency.

If the Bears’ interest is more about draft capital, the Texans can offer the Nos. 2 and 12 picks this year, and the Panthers have additional Day 2 selections after trading Christian McCaffrey to the 49ers last season.

“Some teams have an analytically-driven (trade) chart of, ‘OK, here’s what that summation of the numbers is,’ and then some teams have the old Jimmie (Johnson) trade chart. I think most teams are still using the traditional Jimmie chart as a reference point, but each team has their own sort of model,” Texans general manager Nick Caserio said.

“The issue you have is you’re trying to do a trade and their model says one thing and your model says another thing, so we’re speaking two different languages. How do we find a resolution?”

That’s the question the Bears will ultimately answer.

Contact Colts insider Nate Atkins at natkins@indystar.com. Follow him on Twitter @NateAtkins_.

This article originally appeared on Indianapolis Star: With the Bears and Cardinals selling draft picks, is it time for the Colts to trade up?

Continue Reading