Emma: After passing on Carson Wentz, Bears should trade for Teddy Bridgewater

Bridgewater makes sense for the Bears, who had interest in signing him in the 2020 offseason.
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By 670 The Score

(670 The Score) The Bears and quarterback Carson Wentz were a match never meant to be, as one is a franchise seeking an immediate answer under center and the other a struggling former No. 2 overall pick who was in need of a change of scenery.

If the Bears had acquired Wentz -- who desperately needed out of Philadelphia after being benched -- the priority wouldn't have been a clean plan to salvage him in the long term. Instead, they would've been asking him to save jobs in Halas Hall in 2021 and turn them into a legitimate Super Bowl contender.

Wentz has now found a better fit in Indianapolis, which acquired him by agreeing to send Philadelphia a 2021 third-round pick and a 2022 conditional second-round pick that can become a first-rounder, according to reports Thursday.

In the smaller media market of Indianapolis, Wentz will face far less scrutiny and have the comfort of landing alongside Colts coach Frank Reich, his former offensive coordinator with the Eagles. Even though the price the Colts paid was less than what the Eagles initially demanded, the Bears were better off not bringing in Wentz as their next quarterback.

The risk with Wentz, who's being paid lucratively for four more seasons, wasn't worth the potential reward. While he could regain his superb 2017 form with the Colts, that doesn't necessarily mean he would have with the Bears.

The Bears' immediate priority is to win in 2021, and there's a feasible option for that. It's Panthers quarterback Teddy Bridgewater, whom Carolina has already shown a willingness to move.

Bridgewater is 28, the same age as Wentz, and a proven NFL starter who could provide a lift for the Bears this season. He's known for efficiency, having completed 66.5% of his career passes. In 15 games in 2020, Bridgewater completed 69.1% of his throws for 3,733 yards, a number that would rank as the third-most passing yards ever by a Bears quarterback in a single season.

The Bears had interest in signing Bridgewater last offseason before he landed with the Panthers on a three-year, $63-million deal.

"That was one (quarterback) that we looked at," Bears coach Matt Nagy said in October. "And just from evaluating Teddy, and I did that, I knew a good amount about him when he came out (in the 2014 NFL Draft). Then firsthand, we got to see him (in 2019) with the Saints and what he did to us there.

"He’s playing at a really consistent, high level. He’s putting his team in good positions. He’s making smart decision. That’s a huge part of playing quarterback is making smart decisions. And then making the type of downfield throws and getting the ball into your playmakers’ hands, which they have a lot of.

"Just who he is as a person and the type of leader that he is by example -- from what I remember, he wasn’t a very vocal guy, but his actions showed who he was as a leader."

The Bears are searching for a quarterback again because their gamble on Mitchell Trubisky, the No. 2 overall pick in 2017, didn't pay off. He's set to become an unrestricted free agent. Veteran Nick Foles is under contract, but he struggled last season and is likely to be the Bears' backup in 2021.

Owners of the No. 8 overall pick this April, the Panthers could be seeking their next franchise quarterback. That would make them open to a trade of Bridgewater, who's due $17 million and then $20 million in base salary across the next two seasons. He's a logical trade candidate for the Panthers and strong fit for the Bears.

Bridgewater likely wouldn't cost the Bears significant draft capital -- maybe two second-round picks back to the Panthers would do it? He wouldn't tie up Chicago's salary cap considerably, which would help the Bears lock in some other key pieces. And Bridgewater has proved with the Vikings, Saints and now Panthers that he can learn a new system quickly and thrive. Unlike Wentz, Bridgewater comes with lower risk.

At the least, Bridgewater could be a bridge quarterback (pun mildly intended) for the Bears, a leader who can give them a better chance at a playoff run in 2021 and provide them time for a more thorough evaluation of who's the long-term answer at quarterback. The Bears could still draft a quarterback prospect this April, then allow Nagy and his coaching staff to develop that youngster without rushing him into a starting role.

After passing on Wentz, the Bears still have plenty of quarterback options -- whether that's through a trade, free agency or the draft. It was best for both the Bears and Wentz that a deal in Chicago never came to fruition.

Now, the Bears can move forward with a better plan at quarterback.

Chris Emma covers the Bears, Chicago’s sports scene and more for 670TheScore.com. Follow him on Twitter @CEmma670.