Bears decline Mitchell Trubisky's fifth-year option

The Chicago Bears reportedly declined the fifth-year option for quarterback Mitchell Trubisky, the second overall pick of the 2017 draft, according to NFL Network’s Tom Pelissero.

Trubisky became a player Bears fans loved to hate last season, as his numbers dropped in almost every category. He threw for 3,138 yards in 15 games, which is low for this pass-first era, with 17 touchdowns and 10 interceptions. Only three quarterbacks last year with at least 300 attempts had a lower passer rating than Trubisky’s 83 mark.

His drop in year three put the Bears in a tough spot.

Chicago Bears quarterback Mitchell Trubisky struggled last season. (AP Photo/Andy Clayton-King)
Chicago Bears quarterback Mitchell Trubisky struggled last season. (AP Photo/Andy Clayton-King)

Mitchell Trubisky’s rise and fall

When Trubisky made a Pro Bowl at the end of the 2018 season, he seemed to be a player on the rise. The Bears won the NFC North and Trubisky played reasonably well for most of the season, before slumping a bit late.

That slump lasted into the 2019 season. He had a rough game against the Green Bay Packers in the opener, throwing a crucial interception late. The Bears’ play-calling became more conservative, and Trubisky’s production dropped.

As the season went on and the Bears weren’t able to replicate their great 2018 season, fans turned on Trubisky. Then the Bears traded for Nick Foles in the offseason, though they maintained that Trubisky would still No. 1 on the depth chart going into the camp competition.

It still set up a difficult decision on Trubisky’s rookie contract.

Fifth-year options are expensive

In the NFL, first-round picks have a fifth-year option attached to their rookie deals. Teams can pick up those options or decline them. If the option is declined, a player can become a free agent after his fourth season. Before the Bears made a decision on Trubisky, three of the other four players picked in the top five of the 2017 had their options declined.

Teams need to make that decision by early May before the player’s fourth season. The deadline this year was May 4. The Bears had not given any indication of what they planned to do with Trubisky, which spoke to how complicated the decision had become.

Teams don’t give up on quarterbacks easily, especially ones taken near the top of the draft. The Bears moved up one spot to draft Trubisky second overall in 2017. It’s not easy to spend that much draft capital on Trubisky, see him go to a Pro Bowl his second year and decline the fifth-year option.

But Trubisky’s option would pay him $24.8 million in 2021, and that’s a lot of money for a quarterback who fell out of favor last season. The option isn’t guaranteed, but becomes guaranteed due to injury so it’s not risk-free.

It was the kind of decision that was going to be controversial, no matter how the Bears played it.

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