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NFL Draft 2018: Could the Packers and Bears be first round trade partners?

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It has been rare to see a trade made between the two NFC North rivals, but a swap of picks may make sense for both teams in this year’s draft.

Driver breaks away from Green Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

One would have to go back to August 29, 1998 for the last time a trade was finalized between the Chicago Bears and Green Bay Packers.

It was a deal that seemingly paid dividends for both sides. Chicago received a game-changing return weapon in Glyn Milburn. The Packers wound up with a seventh-round pick that ultimately turned into Pro Bowl, fan favorite Donald Driver. Nearly 20 years have passed since the bitter Midwestern foes made this exchange, but the two sides find themselves in a appealing situation in which a draft day trade could benefit both franchises.

The Brian Gutekunst era has already gotten off to an interesting start with the Packers, showing increased activity in early free agency and a tendency to bring first-round caliber draft prospects in for visits. The new Packers general manager also didn’t back down from his Windy City rivals in free agency, signing transition-tagged cornerback Kyle Fuller to an offer sheet. While Fuller certainly would have filled a position of need on the Packers’ roster if the transaction had gone through, the offer carried the significance of forcing Chicago’s hand. Contract negotiations sped up with Fuller, leading to Chicago guaranteeing a large long-term investment. Gutekunst could further test the Bears by reaching out regarding a swap of picks in round one.

Chicago had an excellent draft in 2017, adding not only quarterback of the future Mitch Trubisky, but instant impact players in Tarik Cohen and Eddie Jackson. Another such draft could present a rebuilding Chicago team with an opportunity to catch up with the competition in the NFC North sooner than expected. What the Bears could profit from now is additional draft picks, especially on the second day.

The Bears are rumored to have high interest in Notre Dame guard Quenton Nelson, but if he is off the board when Chicago is on the clock at pick eight the team could go multiple routes with its first pick. Safeties such as Derwin James and Minkah Fitzpatrick, as well as linebackers like Roquan Smith and Tremaine Edmunds, have been names mentioned recently. However, moving down to the 14th pick may not be detrimental to the Bears if it means netting an extra second or third round selection while maintaining the possibility of securing a target that falls. If all fails, Chicago could still seek an offensive lineman with the pick, a top receiver, or the best defensive player on the board.

For Green Bay, this would be a rare opportunity to slide into the top 10 of a draft, a place it hasn’t made a selection from since 2009 with B.J. Raji. The Packers also haven’t made a move up in the first round since 2009, when they moved from the second round to take a chance on a potential transcendent talent in Clay Matthews.

Could the Packers, a team trying to maintain its standing as an NFC contender, make a similar move this year for a player they deem to be of that variety?

Tony Pauline of Draft Analyst noted that the Packers “truly covet” Ohio State cornerback Denzel Ward, a player who would be a surprise to fall outside the top ten picks at this juncture. Ward surely could be an option for a Chicago team searching for secondary help. But if Ward is not at the top of the Bears’ wish list and is still available, Green Bay could seize an opportunity to move ahead of San Francisco, which picks ninth overall. Even if Ward is not as sought after as advertised, the Packers have shown interest in Florida State’s James, a Green Bay visitor in early April. Again, the 49ers could be a landing spot for James and test the Packers’ patience if undrafted.

The Packers have 12 picks at their disposal next weekend, including a couple of fourth round selections. Most years, Green Bay could probably give up a third round pick and change to move up to eighth overall. But doing so with a divisional rival may hike the asking price up to a second rounder. Still, if Green Bay values a defensive player as a generational type of talent that rates well above the prospects hovering around pick 14, it could be worth the risk. With multiple day three picks, it would remain feasible for the Packers to package their way back into the second or third round depending on the cost of the former trade.

While a divisional exchange remains unlikely considering the Packers’ history in that area, this year could present a unique opportunity for Green Bay to acquire a top talent at an affordable price after years of picking in the bottom third of the first round. What kind of swingman will Gutekunst prove to be? And will he be comfortable providing the Bears with further draft ammunition?

We will all find out a week from today.