As NFL trade deadline nears, here are 5 potential trade candidates on Chicago Bears’ roster

Could Jaylon Johnson or Darnell Mooney be trade candidates?

Chicago Bears general manager Ryan Poles walks on the field prior to the Bears playing the Green Bay Packers, Sunday, Sept. 10, 2023, in Chicago.

LAKE FOREST – Bears general manager Ryan Poles was a busy man at the trade deadline last year.

During his first year as the GM, in the span of a week Poles traded away defensive end Robert Quinn and linebacker Roquan Smith, and also added receiver Chase Claypool. Last year, the Bears were clearly in teardown mode. They sent away Quinn and Smith in exchange for three draft picks.

Poles also felt he needed to do something to give quarterback Justin Fields additional weapons. He sent a second-round pick to Pittsburgh for Claypool. The Claypool deal didn’t work out. Poles wound up trading him 11 months later for pennies on the dollar.

Poles’ philosophy remains to build his football team through the draft and with smart spending in free agency. With the team stuck at 2-5 and well out of the playoff hunt, Poles still could be looking to sell at the deadline. Those conversations are going to be happening between now and the Oct. 31 deadline.

“He’ll have me look at different players and then we’ll go from there and then just see where it is,” head coach Matt Eberflus said of his collaboration with Poles.

If the Bears are active at the trade deadline, these are the players most likely to be involved.

[Ryan Poles will] have me look at different players and then we’ll go from there and then just see where it is.”

—  Matt Eberflus, Bears head coach

CB Jaylon Johnson

Chicago Bears fans celebrate with cornerback Jaylon Johnson after his second interception during their game against the Las Vegas Raiders Sunday, Oct. 22, 2023, at Soldier Field in Chicago.

The latest: Cornerback Jaylon Johnson is the trade candidate who would garner the most interest from teams around the league. Johnson just had his best game of the season with two interceptions. He’s in the final year of his rookie contract. The Bears are either going to sign Johnson to a contract extension, or they’re going to deal him at the trade deadline. For Poles, there should be no in-between. He can’t let Johnson walk away in free agency next March. But a new contract hasn’t been agreed upon yet, which is reason to think maybe it won’t happen.

Johnson would probably net multiple draft picks. Maybe something in the range of a second and a fifth-round pick.

What other teams see: An elite cover corner. The turnover numbers over his career are pedestrian, but his ability to annoy top receivers is evident on tape. On a contending team, Johnson would be a mid- to low-end CB1 or a really high-end CB2.

WR Darnell Mooney

Chicago Bears guard Lucas Patrick hoists Chicago Bears wide receiver Darnell Mooney after he caught a touchdown in the second half of their game against the Green Bay Packers Sunday, Sept. 10, 2023, at Soldier Field in Chicago.

The latest: Like Johnson, receiver Darnell Mooney enters the final year of his rookie contract and it’s unclear if the Bears will sign him to a new deal. Mooney’s production has dropped considerably since Poles and Eberflus took over the team in 2022. He currently has 14 receptions for 184 yards and a touchdown through seven games in 2023. Those numbers are all second among Bears wide receivers. Mooney would likely net a late-round pick in return.

What other teams see: On a contending team, Mooney could be a solid No. 3 receiver or a decent No. 2. Teams in need of receiver help like Kansas City or Baltimore could use a smart target who understands the game and has high upside.

G/C Cody Whitehair

Chicago Bears offensive lineman Cody Whitehair lines up during the first half against the Atlanta Falcons, Sunday, Nov. 20, 2022, in Atlanta.

The latest: The Bears currently have four starting-caliber interior linemen juggling three spots. Cody Whitehair, Lucas Patrick, Teven Jenkins and Nate Davis have started games this season. Whitehair as a trade candidate is complicated by the fact that Davis is currently out with an ankle injury. While Davis is out, the Bears are unlikely to move any of the other three. But the Bears would probably love to find a way out of Whitehair’s contract, which has a $13 million salary cap hit next season.

What other teams see: It’s hard not to see the contract. Any team trading for Whitehair would have to pay him for the remainder of this season, in addition to next year. Whitehair is a solid veteran guard, but he doesn’t come cheap.

S Eddie Jackson

Chicago Bears defensive back Eddie Jackson smiles as he works on the field with teammates during practice, Wednesday, June 7, 2023, in Lake Forest.

The latest: This one is highly unlikely, given Jackson’s injury status. A foot injury has limited him to just three games so far this season. He injured the same foot in late November of last season and missed the final five games of 2022. Like Whitehair, Jackson has one more expensive season on his contract in 2024. Jackson will come with an $18 million cap hit for whoever controls him in 2024.

What other teams see: An injured former All-Pro who has played fewer than 100 snaps this season. Given the price tag, it’s probably not worth the risk.

DT Andrew Billings

The latest: Billings signed a one-year free-agent contract with the Bears in March. He’s a run-stopping defensive tackle who has worked wonders for the Bears run defense. The Bears also have two rookie defensive tackles who they are really high on waiting for more opportunities. Dealing Billings could give the chance for the Bears to showcase rookies Gervon Dexter and Zacch Pickens more prominently. Billings wouldn’t return anything more than a late-round draft pick.

What other teams see: Billings would be a solid rotational defensive lineman on a contender. A team looking to bolster its depth could use a run-stopper like him. He’s also cheap. His total contract this season was $2.7 million.

What if the Bears are buying?

After selling off Smith and Quinn last year, Poles surprised everyone by buying on Claypool. The Bears were clear sellers a year ago, but still Poles remained aggressive and looked to add young talent to his roster. Don’t rule that out this year, either.

If the Bears are looking to make any additions, they could potentially be shopping for help at defensive end, a position that remains one of the team’s greatest weaknesses. If there’s a young receiver on the market, the Bears could look to add to their receiving group after bailing on the Claypool experiment. They could also add safety help if Jackson is going to remain out for an extended period of time.

Keep this in mind when thinking about trade targets: Poles has specifically targeted young talent. Claypool was 24 a year ago. DJ Moore turned 26 in April. Top free agent additions Tremaine Edmunds and Nate Davis were 25 and 26, respectively, entering this season. The Bears want ascending players or players in the prime of their careers.

Sean Hammond

Sean Hammond

Sean is the Chicago Bears beat reporter for the Shaw Local News Network. He has covered the Bears since 2020. Prior to writing about the Bears, he covered high school sports for the Northwest Herald and contributed to Friday Night Drive. Sean joined Shaw Media in 2016.