Three times in the last six years, the Chicago Bears have spent their top draft choice on an offensive lineman. Now, for the second time in that span, one of those draft picks is heading out of town after an injury-plagued start to his pro career.
As reported by ESPN Chicago, the Bears have traded third-year man Gabe Carimi to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Chicago will get only a sixth-round pick in next year’s draft in exchange for the former Wisconsin star, who played a grand total of 18 games in a Bear uniform.
Carimi, who’s been rehabbing the balky knee that hampered his performance a season ago, was expected to have a tough time finding a spot on the depth chart in a crowded pool of guards. Even so, it’s hard to see how the Bears benefit from pulling the trigger on a trade at this point in the offseason.
In the first place, a sixth-round pick is such minimal compensation that Carimi might just as well have left as a free agent (as 2008 first-rounder Chris Williams did a year ago). Why bother making a trade at all if all the Bears get out of it is a draft pick who won’t make the roster?
Secondly, Carimi hasn’t even had a chance to take the field to compete against new acquisitions such as top draft pick Kyle Long and free agent Matt Slauson. Expectations are one thing, but it would have behooved Chicago to let Carimi prove that he couldn’t cut it on the current roster before exchanging him for a bag of peanuts.
That problem is compounded by the fact that Carimi (who injured his knee in his second game as a rookie) has never had a chance to play a healthy NFL season. If he turns out to be as good as the Bears thought he was coming out of college, Chicago has just given away a top-quality O-lineman for no real reason.
On top of all that, Chicago has been hit hard by injuries along the offensive front over the last several years. It seems an odd decision to sacrifice potentially valuable depth at that position before the season (and the potential for more linemen to wind up on the injury lists) has even begun.
It’s entirely possible that Carimi will never be a viable NFL lineman, in which case the Bears have lost nothing. However, when the stakes were as low as a sixth-round draft pick, Chicago should have shown more patience rather than risk giving away a player who could still turn out to be a valuable blocker for years to come.