The Chicago Bears have been one of the busiest teams this NFL offseason, including a trade that sent the No. 1 overall pick to the Carolina Panthers in exchange for WR DJ Moore and additional draft compensation. But what was the process that led to the decision? Bears GM Ryan Poles recently sat down to explain the process that netted the franchise one of the league’s top playmakers.
Acquiring DJ Moore Was a ‘Non-Negotiable’ for Ryan Poles and the Bears
The NFL offseason is one of the wildest rides in professional sports. So far, the Bears, led by new GM Ryan Poles, have been the conductors of this ride but turned the excitement and thrill up to 11 when they made arguably the most significant move yet.
Holding the No. 1 overall pick in the 2023 NFL Draft after finishing with a 3-14 record in 2022, it was announced on March 10 the Bears agreed to trade the No. 1 selection to the Panthers in exchange for Moore and four draft picks.
In exchange for the rights to the No. 1 pick and likely Carolina’s QB of the future, Chicago received the No. 9. and No. 61 picks in 2023, a 2024 first-round choice, and a 2025 second-round pick.
Sitting down with Charles “Peanut” Tillman and Roman Harper on the NFL Players: Second Acts podcast, Bears GM Poles discussed some of the processes that led to the blockbuster trade.
“Obviously, you do your homework of what teams are looking to move up, and you start looking at their roster,” Poles said. “You look at the picks now and in the future, and you start brainstorming. You put together different sequences that make sense, you know, for the Chicago Bears.
“You just have to find out if it makes sense for them. So you go back and forth and have those conversations that go over a couple of weeks, and there are some non-negotiables that you say, ‘Well, I need to have this in the package.’
“DJ was that for us. We wanted to add more playmakers to this roster. We wanted a player that can really help Justin [Fields] be successful. So that’s kind of [what] we stuck with and went hard on that, and it worked out.”
When asked if teams ever start negotiations with the “A deal,” Poles stated that tends not to happen when it comes to trade negotiations in football.
“Really, for any negotiation that I have been a part of from my time in Kansas City to now, you know, both sides start to their most favorable sell, and you work in from there.
Poles Has Been Preparing for This Role for Years By Attention To Detail
As for what has helped prepare Poles to be the general manager of the Bears, Poles credits his time as a graduate assistant working in the scouting department for Boston College University as the “best thing I could have ever done.”
“After I got cut from Chicago [as a player in 2008], I almost took a marketing job, and then I got a call from a friend at Boston College who said, ‘Hey, you want to come down and be a GA [graduate assistant]?’ So I said, ‘yeah, absolutely,’ because at that point, all you know is football, and you love it, and you are passionate about it.
“So you jump in the recruiting part of it, which to me was by far the best thing I could have ever done. What you learn is all the things in the office that you won’t know when you are playing.”
Poles also noted that while he was a GA and fresh off being cut, he printed off and stapled the scouting reports for the staff and went to work out. When he came back, he saw them taped on the wall with a red circle around the staple and a “WTF” written next to it. He learned staples should go parallel to the edge, but the bigger lesson was, “It’s a small job, but be detailed about it.”
“Those little things you start to sharpen that blade early and know what office life is all about. And then getting to Kansas City [Chiefs] as a scouting assistant, and again, it’s hard work. No one really talks to you. You’re grinding out the tape for people. No one is saying thank you. You know, it’s tough. But through that, you gain a rhythm of the league.”
“Getting time in college scouting, going out on the road pro scouting, getting a feel for the locker room, those things kind of morph and allowed me to create all these little buckets so then when it’s time to go, for me, there were very few blind spots.
DJ Moore Gives Justin Fields a True Difference-Making Receiver for 2023 and Beyond
Moore, the No. 24 overall selection in the 2018 draft out of Maryland, has appeared in 80 games with 73 starts and caught 364 passes for 5,201 yards and 21 touchdowns.
The 6’0″, 210-pounder topped 1,100 yards in three straight seasons, with 1,175 in 2019, 1,193 in 2020, and 1,157 in 2021. In fact, his stretch of over 1,250 total scrimmage yards was the longest active streak by any receiver in the league.
Last year, he had 63 receptions for 888 yards and seven TDs for a Panthers offense with three quarterbacks starting at least five games: Baker Mayfield, Sam Darnold, and P.J. Walker. Additionally, Moore’s 5,201 yards at 25 years old are more than anyone in Bears’ franchise history — Johnny Morris (1958-1967), 5,059.
Moore Is in Chicago To ‘Elevate the Offense’ and ‘Elevate Justin at the Same Time’
Justin Fields took a welcome step forward in his maturation in 2022 but clearly still has plenty of room for growth, especially as a passer. Fields averaged 149.5 passing yards per game and topped the 200-yard mark only twice in 2022. Though, in his defense, Fields was saddled by a mediocre offensive line and arguably the worst WR group in the league.
“I think everybody’s level can reach a new level here now that I’m here,” Moore said. “I was talking to [Darnell] Mooney and was talking about being together with Chase [Claypool] and me and him, how we’re just going to elevate the offense and just elevate Justin at the same time. Because I’m not just here to be like, ‘I’m here,’ just like a bright light. I’m here to make everyone around me better, and we just want to try to get some wins.”
Third-year WR Darnell Mooney led the Bears with 40 receptions for 493 yards and two touchdowns coming into Week 12 but suffered a season-ending ankle injury. The next leading receiver who started the season on the team was Dante Pettis with 41 targets, while Equanimeous St. Brown caught 21 of his 28 targets for 323 yards.
TE Cole Kmet led the entire team with 69 targets for 544 yards and seven scores. Meanwhile, Chase Claypool, who Chicago sent the No. 32 pick to the Steelers for in Week 8, had 29 targets with the club and played on 48% of the offensive snaps. Also, the 2022 No. 71 overall selection, Velus Jones Jr., had more touches on special teams (27) than opportunities on offense (23) and is separated in age from Moore by just 28 days.
With a new leader at the helm in Poles at GM and Matt Eberflus heading into Year 2 as the head coach, Chicago will need to capitalize on the momentum gained this offseason to close in on what has become a very competitive NFC North that could even be up for the taking should the potential exit of future Hall of Famer and long-time Green Bay Packers QB Aaron Rodgers materializes.
Whether or not Chicago can be there in the fight and if Moore can help push them over the hump is a question that will only be answered when the teams are finally back on the field come September.