What the Bears are getting with new receiver DJ Moore
LAKE FOREST, Ill. — During an eventful week at the NFL Combine, Panthers general manager Scott Fitterer sat down to meet with representatives for star wide receiver DJ Moore and spoke of what he believed would be a bright future together.
Fitterer, who is going on his third year leading the Panthers’ football operations, ensured Moore’s representation that their client would be a focal point in the plans of new head coach Frank Reich, a top target for whomever Carolina coveted as its next franchise quarterback, and set to shine with three years still under contract.
However, that all soon changed when the Bears began in earnest exploring trade offers for the No. 1 overall pick in the 2023 NFL Draft. As the Panthers explored a move to select a prized quarterback prospect, Fitterer’s package couldn’t just include draft capital to satisfy Ryan Poles, his counterpart from Chicago.
The Bears wouldn’t settle for a deal with the Panthers involving the top selection in this draft without the 25-year-old Moore being included. Poles landed a proven No. 1 wide receiver in addition to the No. 9 overall pick, a 2024 first-round selection and a pair of second-round slots in exchange for the rights to draft first overall.
Ultimately, Poles and Fitterer may have never reached an agreement unless the Bears landed Moore.
“I was over the moon about that,” Poles said.
After missing out on the top wide receivers available last offseason, the Bears played the leverage in their hands with the first overall pick and dictated the chance to land Moore. They brought in a game-changing player who can help Justin Fields thrive in his third season.
Moore had 364 receptions over five seasons with the Panthers, a figure that would rank third on the Bears’ all-time leaderboard behind Walter Payton and Matt Forte. His 5,201 receiving yards would be a franchise record in Chicago. Moore accomplished this all playing with a constant carousel at quarterback in Carolina.
Late last Friday afternoon, Moore was carrying packages up his driveway when a phone call stopped him in his tracks. The Panthers were informing him of a trade to the Bears, a possibility he said is simply the “1%” unpredictability of this business.
“I’m going to make the most of it,” Moore said. “Going to have some fun, get some wins. That’s how I was thinking.”
Soon after Moore hung up the phone with the Panthers’ brass, more calls and text messages flooded in. Members of the Bears organization wanted to welcome in their new wide receiver, eager to have him at Halas Hall. Then came a text message from PJ Walker, a teammate to Moore over the last three years in Carolina.
Walker could not believe that the Panthers were trading their top target away. Six days later, he and Moore were teammates again with the Bears after Walker signed a two-year contract as Chicago’s new backup quarterback.
By acquiring Moore, the Bears were making a key investment in the future of Fields, whose promise displayed in 2022 allowed the No. 1 overall pick to become expendable. Chicago didn’t need to sit in the top spot of the draft and select Bryce Young or C.J. Stroud. Poles felt the Bears’ future was bright with Fields if he provided him a better chance at success.
Walker knows well what Fields can come to rely on with Moore.
“It’s good to be able to get the football into a guy’s hands that can make a lot of plays and just do special things with the football,” Walker said. “I think he’s one of those guys that when he gets the football in his hands, he’s a receiver that can do running back things.
“Second to none. His talent speaks for itself. But the little things like being smart, knowing where to be, knowing coverages, knowing how to break down zones, I think that’s something that impressed me as well.”
During the 2022 offseason, the Chiefs moved seven-time Pro Bowl receiver Tyreek Hill to the Dolphins after a breakdown in contract negotiations. Midway through the first round of last year’s draft, the Titans traded star receiver A.J. Brown to the Eagles for a first-round pick because of an impasse for a new deal.
More often than not, the NFL’s best receivers are only dealt because of contract demands. That was not the case with Moore, who is due $52.3 million over the next three seasons – a contract under market for his positional peers. Not only has Moore proven himself as a dynamic target but he also brings the type of makeup that Poles is seeking for the Bears.
“He fits our culture and what we’re trying to do,” Poles said. “And keeps that (wide receiver) room and our team and our locker room in a really good place.
“That’s where having DJ Moore as part of the (trade) package really got us over the edge, because we knew we were getting a top-end player included in that.”
How the offers came in to Poles and the Bears isn’t quite clear just yet, but the premium to pay was in place. Two years ago, the 49ers traded a package that included three first-round picks to the Dolphins in order to move up from the 12th overall pick to the third selection, landing the rights to bring in quarterback prospect Trey Lance.
The Texans and Colts, who are slated to pick second and fourth, respectively, were believed to have interest in jumping the line to draft the first quarterback off the board. The Raiders, set with the seventh pick, also were seen as a potential suitor. There had to be a different appeal for the Bears to trade down to the No. 9 slot, the furthest down where a trade would make sense. Admittedly, Poles has “six or seven” blue-chip prospects on his draft board, including the quarterbacks. That means he was willing to risk losing out on his most prized players.
But Poles didn’t prioritize draft positioning and wouldn’t settle for three first-round picks when he knew there was the opportunity to land Moore. He was the elusive star receiver that the Bears had to have – the trade chip that allowed this franchise-altering deal to be struck.
“They got a foundation that they wanted to set,” Moore said. “They set it. I’m just here to elevate it and elevate everybody around me.”