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Bears gaining more clarity as draft process progresses


ORLANDO, Fla. – The Bears are continuing to do their due diligence on the top quarterback prospects ahead of April's NFL Draft.

General manager Ryan Poles and members of his staff attended USC's Pro Day last Wednesday and Michigan's Pro Day last Friday, and will head to LSU's Pro Day this Wednesday. A Bears contingent also plans to attend North Carolina's Pro Day Thursday.

USC's Caleb Williams, LSU's Jayden Daniels, Michigan's J.J. McCarthy and North Carolina's Drake Maye are widely considered the top quarterbacks in the draft. After trading Justin Fields to the Steelers, the Bears are expected to address the position with the No. 1 overall selection they obtained last year in a blockbuster trade with the Panthers.

"We're going to leave here, get right back to the draft process," Poles said Monday at the NFL owners meetings in Orlando. "Actually, going to fly to LSU straight from here and their Pro Day before heading back to Chicago. Just continue to put all the information together. Every day I feel like we get more and more clarity as we move forward. So we're excited about where we're going and everything looks promising."

The Bears have been impressed with Williams on and off the field.

"When you talk to his teammates, they don't like him, they love him," Poles said. "His leadership, how he brings people together. He's intentional with his leadership. Same goes with the staff. I'm having a hard time finding a person that doesn't like him or even love him and thinks that he can reach the highest limits. The feedback's been good." 

Asked for an example of Williams' leadership, Poles said: "We look for guys that can bring others around. There's pros and cons in this NIL setup, but the cool thing is you do have some resources to take your O-line out to dinner. You see the Christmas gifts that the NFL guys do. So really bringing those guys together, spending that time, creating that bond is really what you're looking for in that position, and he's done that."

Before Williams' Pro Day last week in Los Angeles, he and some USC receivers went out for dinner with a large Bears contingent that included Poles, assistant general manager Ian Cunningham, coach Matt Eberflus, offensive coordinator Shane Waldron, quarterbacks coach Kerry Joseph and passing game coordinator Thomas Brown.

One of Poles' main takeaways from that outing was that Williams is "really mature."

"One of my guys kind of bumped me on it, which I think is rare these days for a 22-year-old: he never touched his phone," Poles said. "Really intentional with his conversations and talking about his interests and things that he likes to do."

Poles told reporters that the Bears plan to bring Williams and other quarterbacks to Halas Hall for "top 30" visits the first week of April. (NFL teams are permitted to bring up to 30 prospects to their facilities in advance of the draft.)

"Just another touchpoint," Poles said. "I've done this over the years when guys come in, you can really do some installations, take a break, and then have them reinstall back to you just in terms of recall. Build relationships with coaches. Make sure that there's compatibility there."

Resetting QB clock

While Poles felt that Fields was showing improvement, the chance to reset the quarterback clock with a talented rookie was too good to pass up.

"It wasn't Justin versus one of the rookies; it's really the timeline and how much runway you have," Poles said. "To get a guy up off the ground, you need to support them with as much talent as possible. Then that flips because it takes so much cap space [to sign a quarterback to a second contract], which is a good thing if you get to that point. But they have to be the reason you start winning. Then it's harder to add the talent around them. You can look around the league and it happens a lot. The teams that can sustain success through that period I think do a really special job."

Path to success

Poles decided against having Fields and a rookie quarterback on the roster together.

"I know there was a lot of talk about having Justin there and drafting a quarterback as well," Poles said. "We had a lot of deep conversations and I got some really good guys on my staff to really dig into how that would play out in terms of the locker room, how would that play out with a young guy that needs a lot of reps, how would that play out with just the command and leadership that you need in that position, and we felt like it was best to probably move on and allow a young quarterback to come in and work into that role."