Will 2021 be the season the Bears finally find a franchise QB?
The Bears have been in search of a franchise quarterback since Sid Luckman retired in 1951, and merely an acceptable option since Erik Kramer suffered a serious neck injury following the 1995 season.
Still, rarely has the spotlight shone as brightly on that particular shortcoming as it does today.
When you hear general manager Ryan Pace and head coach Matt Nagy talk about believing their team is close to where they want to be, it is shorthand for they believe if they can find the quarterback, they can contend.
Who is on the roster in 2021?
Nick Foles is currently the only quarterback on the Bears roster. His contract calls for him to receive a base salary of $4 million in 2021 and 2022, will result in a $6.66 million cap hit in '21 and '22, currently has $10.3 million in dead cap money and will expire following the 2022 season.
It is reasonable for a number two quarterback and quite low for a starter.
Pending free agents:
Mitch Trubisky and Tyler Bray will both be free agents when the NFL's 2021 new league year begins on March 17.
Trubisky will attract inquiries from other NFL teams as a potential starter, backup or both. While he did play well and effectively after regaining the starting job in 2020, it was with an adjusted offensive scheme. That's not Nagy's first choice and so it appears unlikely the Bears will attempt to re-sign Trubisky.
That could change if the Bears are unable to acquire another veteran quarterback to replace him.
There is unlikely to be a market for Bray with other NFL teams.
Internal options in 2021?
Nick Foles' 2013 Pro Bowl, 2017 Super Bowl MVP and 2018 seasons with the Eagles in which he played very well were real.
His other six NFL seasons have been disappointing.
But you can't ignore that in 2020 when joining a new team with a new offense -- a familiar scheme but a new offense -- Foles had no team workout program, no OTA's, no minicamps, no exhibition season and a radically altered training camp and he did not even meet any of his teammates until the first day of that training camp.
He also played behind a clearly insufficient offensive line.
It is not unreasonable to believe that with a more normal offseason and improved offensive line Foles could still be the right answer at quarterback.
However, based on what did happen in 2020 it would be indefensible not to bring in new competition.
Dak Prescott, Cam Newton, Jameis Winston, Ryan Fitzpatrick, Tyrod Taylor, Andy Dalton, Jacoby Brissett and Trubisky are all options the Bears can consider to compete with or replace Foles.
While not free agents, Carson Wentz, Sam Darnold, Jimmy Garoppolo, Derek Carr, Teddy Bridgewater, Matt Ryan and Marcus Mariota could be available via trade and all might be better options for the Bears than any of the free agents.
Who is available in the draft?
The top five quarterback prospects in the 2021 draft are Trevor Lawrence, Zach Wilson, Justin Fields, Trey Lance and Mac Jones.
With the Bears owning the 20th pick in the first round, it is almost certain Jones is the only one that might still be available. That's unless they trade up, probably at least as high as 12 or 13, and Jones could very well be gone too.
Most likely Day 2 options could be Kyle Trask, Jamie Newman and Kellen Mond.
Most likely Day 2 options include Sam Ehlinger, Davis Mills, Brady White, Shane Buechele, Felipe Franks, K.J. Costello and Ian Book.
Most likely outcome:
The Bears will almost certainly acquire a veteran quarterback to either replace as a starter or compete with Foles, and the only way Foles won't be here is if he is part of a trade for that new veteran.
The most likely trade targets are Wentz, Carr, Mariota and Garoppolo and if they are not able to trade for one of them Winston and Fitzpatrick are the best free agent fits for Nagy's offense. Dalton could serve as a solid backup to Foles.
If the Bears do not trade for a new starting quarterback they could draft one in the first round but their options will be limited.
If they do trade for a new starter expect them to draft a quarterback on day two or day three.
As of right now Foles is the odds on favorite to be the Bears' starting quarterback in 2021.
• Twitter: @Hub_Arkush