Are the Bears now the favorites in the NFC North?

In one day, the Bears seemingly addressed their 20-year old quarterback problem and also added a significant piece to their offensive line. In one day, the Bears might have gone from a .500 team to the perennial favorites in the NFC North.

It’s way too early to be getting into predictions for the 2009 NFL Season. Voluntary workouts have begun, but the draft is still weeks away and teams are still trying to reshape their rosters.

But with the trade acquisition of Jay Cutler and the signing of left tackle Orlando Pace, the Bears significantly upgraded their offense and hopefully made current players like Matt Forte, Devin Hester, Frank Omiyale and Chris Williams better.

Make no mistake – Chicago is far from a Super Bowl contender. They still need to upgrade their wide receiver position, could use another defensive end to throw in the mix with Alex Brown, Adewale Ogunleye and Mark Anderson, and even though they signed Josh Bullocks this offseason, they could still use an upgrade at safety as well.

But while every team in the division has arguably gotten weaker, the Bears have upgraded. The Vikings are still pretty strong, but they lost long-time center Matt Birk and still have questions to be answered at quarterback. The Packers are planning to run a 3-4 defense next season, but have done next to nothing to add true 3-4 personnel and the Lions will continue to take a sandblaster to their entire roster.

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Jay Cutler traded to Bears

Several media outlets are reporting that the Broncos have traded quarterback Jay Cutler to the Bears in exchange for first round picks in 2009 and 2010, a third round pick in 2009 and Kyle Orton. Denver will also give up an undisclosed draft choice in the later rounds.

It’s amazing how this entire situation unraveled. Two months ago there wasn’t a peep about a potential Cutler trade and now he’s set to become a Bear. One has to wonder whether Cutler wanted out as soon as Denver fired Mike Shanahan and when he saw an opening (i.e. Josh McDaniels’ supposed interest in former Patriots’ quarterback Matt Cassel), he took it and ran with it.

Even though they gave up a king’s ransom to acquire him, Chicago fans have to be ecstatic. They get a young quarterback with plenty of starting experience and one that has a strong arm to play in poor, late-season weather conditions. The bottom line is that the Bears haven’t had a reliable quarterback in nearly 20 seasons and now they have one who has the potential to succeed. Two first round picks are a steep price, but as I wrote yesterday, GM Jerry Angelo was probably going to blow those picks anyway (Chris Williams instead of Branden Albert, Jerry? Really?!) so Chicago might as well get a franchise-type quarterback instead.

Another note about the compensation, you have to remember that Cutler is a young quarterback with starting experience and who was sought after by multiple teams. And when you factor in how weak the quarterback class is this year, any team that wanted Cutler was going to have to give up several high draft picks like the Bears eventually did.

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