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Bears-Panthers trade grades: Chicago steals D.J. Moore in NFL Draft haul; Carolina gives up a ton for QB at No. 1

The Bears, as expected, were able to trade the coveted No. 1 overall pick in the 2023 NFL Draft for a massive return. The Panthers will now be on the clock first on April 27 after completing a blockbuster deal to move up. 

While Chicago parts with the highest selection, it is getting four picks back from Carolina, including sliding down to No. 9 overall this year. The Bears also score a second-rounder in 2023 (No. 61 overall) — replacing the one they send for Chase Claypool at the trade deadline — plus a 2024 first-rounder and 2025 second-rounder. 

The other part of the Bears’ compensation is huge — wide receiver D.J. Moore. Moore gives third-year quarterback Justin Fields a much-needed veteran No. 1 to help relieve his high ceiling. While the Bears continue to roll with Fields as their franchise QB, the Panthers will no doubt now select one of their own.

Here’s how Sporting News grades the 2023 NFL Draft blockbuster:

MORE: Breaking down Panthers’ best options for No. 1 overall pick

Bears-Panthers trade grades

Bears get:

  • WR D.J. Moore
  • 2023 first-round draft pick (No. 9 overall)
  • 2023 second-round draft pick (No. 61 overall)
  • 2024 first-round draft pick
  • 2025 second-round draft pick

Panthers get: 

  • 2023 first-round draft pick (No. 1 overall)

Bears grade: A+

The Bears took full advantage of being the worst team in the league record-wise while already having a promising young QB on his rookie contract. GM Ryan Poles got an offer he couldn’t refuse to just drop eight spots and get the type of offensive or defensive prospect his team needed most, anyway.

Chicago somehow doubled up on first- and second-rounders and still got a lot more — in Moore. Moore, a reliable route-runner with big-play moxie, will immediately serve as the Bears’ top wide receiver for Fields. He makes Darnell Mooney a dangerous No. 2. Along with former Steeler Chase Claypool in the big slot role and Cole Kmet at tight end, the Bears’ primary passing game weapons suddenly look a lot better.

The Bears now can focus most on holes up front, either to upgrade their pass protection for Fields or rebuild their edge pass rush. No. 9 will still allow them to do that with an elite talent. 

Chicago also has clear direction for what to do in NFL free agency, where the organization is sitting on a ton of salary-cap space, even with adding Moore to the mix. On top of everything else, the timing was ideal for the Bears, too.

MOCK DRAFT: Panthers jump Texans, Colts to draft C.J. Stroud

Panthers grade: B

The Panthers did give up a lot to jump three teams in particular — the Texans at No. 2 overall, the Colts at No. 4 overall and the Raiders at No. 7 overall. Those were the teams most attached to taking a QB in the top eight picks.

Although there are four QBs worth being taken the top 10, the Panthers couldn’t afford to let another team get the Bears pick, or otherwise be left out of the mix for Alabama’s Bryce Young, Ohio State’s C.J. Stroud, Florida’a Anthony Richardson or Kentucky’s Will Levis.

Given how much GM Scott Fitterer gave up to the Bears — including Moore, who would have been help to a rookie QB — the Panthers must hit on the right pick for new offensive-minded head coach Frank Reich. Based on the kind of system Reich has run plus factoring offensive coordinator Thomas Browns’ history with Sean McVay and the Rams, it would suggest they are going after the most polished pocket passer.

Give the slight edge to Stroud over Young for No. 1, with the QB not taken going to Houston, Indianapolis still hoping to get Richardson and Las Vegas still eyeing Levis. So in the end, other the Texans, the Panthers have done little to shake up the way the QBs should come off the board early.

The Panthers have decent cap space and need to use it wisely in free agency with their soon-to-be rookie starting QB in mind, especially with a massive shrinkage of their significant draft capital this year and beyond.

They still get graded “above-average” for the deal because of how good either Stroud or Young should be as long-term pros, ending their cycle of bridge QBs past the best days of Cam Newton. They just are more handcuffed around the QB to help him win big sooner rather than later.

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