The Chicago Bears roster is dominated by young players and veterans with upside. As a result, 2022 season projections haven’t been kind. Many national outlets predict Chicago will be in the mix for the first overall pick in the 2023 NFL draft. It seems blasphemous, but in the words of former coach Matt Nagy, that’s where we’re at right now.
A few big names are mixed in with those young players and unproven veterans on the roster. Linebacker Roquan Smith is one of the NFL’s best at his position. Safety Eddie Jackson is still considered one of the league’s top young safeties. Wide receiver Darnell Mooney has a chance to emerge as a bonafide star in 2022, and quarterback Justin Fields is a blue-chip player at the game’s most crucial position.
The Bears aren’t immune to having overrated players, though. Perhaps, Cole Kmet won’t ever become the tight end former general manager Ryan Pace thought he’d be when he picked him in the second round of the 2020 NFL Draft. There’s a chance the fast start guard Cody Whitehair enjoyed in his career was his ceiling, and he’s nothing more than a fringe NFL starter. But there is one player who profiles as the most overrated on the roster, and that’s pass-rusher Robert Quinn.
Sure, Quinn just set the Bears’ single-season sack record with 18.5 in 2022. And, yes, it’s counterintuitive to suggest a pass-rusher who almost had 20 sacks in one season can be overrated. But at this point in his career, Quinn’s best football is behind him. Chicago was the beneficiary of his near-career year in 2021, and it was a fantastic season to witness. It was the cherry on top of what’s been a hot-and-cold career.
Robert Quinn doesn’t fit Bears’ long-term plan
Robert Quinn was the 14th overall pick of the 2011 NFL Draft by the St. Louis Rams. He was every bit the high-end pass-rushing prospect teams covet in that draft range, and he proved to be one of the NFL’s top sack artists early in his career. He had three-straight seasons of at least 10.5 sacks from 2012-14, including a career-best 19 sacks in 2013. Then it happened; Quinn’s production fell off because of injuries and system fit. He failed to reach 10 sacks in five of the next six seasons, including his first year with the Chicago Bears, when he totaled only two.
Now 32 years old, Robert Quinn is in the final lap of his career. Of course, he still has value to the Bears, but by the time Chicago gets rolling under coach Matt Eberflus, will he be here? Quinn was the center of trade speculation this offseason, and while it’s been dismissed as nothing more than fabricated offseason fodder, trading him would make sense. The Bears could leverage his maxed-out season for draft picks that will be more impactful once this rebuild takes shape.
Overrated is a layered term. Sometimes, it’s simply a talent assessment. For Quinn, it’s more than that. He is a good player. And he’ll be fine in 2022. But this Bears team is giving every player a chance to earn reps. We could see Quinn lose snaps to players like Trevis Gipson and Muhammad Al-Quadin. Remember: if General Manager Ryan Poles can trade Khalil Mack, there’s no reason to think this front office will be loyal to Quinn.
Expecting Quinn to repeat his dominant 2021 season is unrealistic. With Mack gone, Quinn is considered the Bears’ best pass-rushing threat. But I have a hunch that by the time the 2022 season is over, that won’t be the case.
Bryan is the founder and managing editor of Bears Talk. His previous stops include Bears coverage for NBC Sports Chicago and USA Today. His NFL Draft and Bears coverage has also been featured on The Draft Network.