Shane Ray is the popular name among Chicago Bears trade rumors of late. That’s no surprise given the situation in Denver. The Broncos just drafted defensive end Bradley Chubb with the fifth overall pick. Combine that with the team not picking up Ray’s fifth-year option in his rookie contract and it’s clear his time with the franchise runs short. Set to become a free agent in 2019, this could mean they look to trade him.
However, he’s not the only intriguing young pass rusher facing this situation. He’s joined by another fellow 2015 first round pick in Dante Fowler Jr. Like Ray, he’s endured his fair share of frustrations due to injuries the past couple years but finally seems to have found his groove after notching eight sacks last season for the Jacksonville Jaguars. That didn’t seem to impress their team brass much though.
The Jaguars did not pick up his fifth-year option as well, making it look more likely he becomes a free agent next season. The odds of that happening are virtually guaranteed too given the extremely tight financial quandary Jacksonville will be in. So unless they look to trade him he’s all but gone in 2019. If that is the course of action they choose, some think the Bears are an ideal landing spot.
Dante Fowler a perfect Chicago Bears trade target
Sean Wagner-McGough of CBS Sports sees a number of plausible trades that could happen in the coming months. One that he finds particularly interesting is the idea of Jacksonville sending Fowler to Chicago.
“The Jaguars drafted Fowler No. 3 overall, but he’s yet to look like a player worthy of that selection. He missed his entire rookie season due to a torn ACL. In 2016, he notched four sacks and five passes defended as a rotation player. His sack total doubled in 2017. Then, during the Jaguars’ loss to the Patriots in the AFC Championship Game, he sacked Tom Brady twice. So, he’s an ascending talent.
It’s just that, the Jaguars might not really have room for him — not with both Calais Campbell and Yannick Ngakoue slotted in as the starting defensive ends in their stacked defense. So, if they’re looking to move him before he likely leaves in free agency after the season, they could send him to a team that needs pass-rushing help, like the Bears and Lions.”
The prediction by itself isn’t anything special. Fowler is a young, athletic edge rusher. The Bears are sorely in need of help at that position with Leonard Floyd being their only proven option currently on the roster. What makes this interesting actually goes all the way back to before the 2015 draft.
Top expert Mike Mayock spoke with the MMQB about major first round prospects and who they compared to in the NFL.
His choice for Fowler was a fascinating one.
“A few comparisons Mayock sees now, before the workouts:
Defensive tackle Leonard Williams, USC :: Richard Seymour.
Nose tackle Danny Shelton, Washington :: Haloti Ngata.
Safety/linebacker/running back Shaq Thompson, Washington :: Deone Bucannon.
Outside linebacker Dante Fowler, Florida :: Justin Houston.
Wide receiver Phillip Dorsett, Miami :: Mike Wallace.”
Why is this so significant? Bears head coach Matt Nagy was in Kansas City since 2013 as both quarterbacks coach and offensive coordinator. He had a front row seat to watch the exploits of Houston as one of the best pass rushers in football. If he sees the same similarities in Fowler that Mayock saw, then this trade idea just gained a ton of unexpected momentum.
He could have visions of another Justin Houston-Tamba Hali combination in Chicago with Fowler and Floyd. The question will be what the price is to obtain him and whether GM Ryan Pace has any desire to make such a deal.