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Why is Mitchell Trubisky starting vs. Packers? Bears QB gets one last chance to boost free agent market

Mitchell Trubisky’s tenure in Chicago could be in its final days, but how the former No. 2 overall pick plays in the near-term could have great impact on his NFL future long-term.

Trubisky will start for the Bears (5-5) against the Packers (7-3) on Sunday Night Football in Week 12. Nick Foles was hurt in Week 10 and didn’t heal enough over the Chicago bye week to maintain his starting spot, so it’s Trubisky getting yet another chance. He’s looking at free agency following the conclusion of the 2020 season, making his performance in Week 12 and any starts that follow cruical in determining what teams want Trubisky in the offseason (and for how long and how much).

The draft-bust label that most put on Trubisky in Chicago likely won’t ever leave, because any major improvements will probably come in another city. But that doesn’t mean Trubisky can’t change the way his career is perceived across the league, and that starts with another starting opportunity in Week 12. 

MORE: Why Bears picked Mitchell Trubisky over Patrick Mahomes, Deshaun Watson

Why is Mitchell Trubisky starting vs. Packers?

Trubisky is starting due to a Nick Foles hip injury. Foles hurt his hip on a big hit late in Week 10 against the Vikings. Trubisky wasn’t yet back for that game from a shoulder injury, but he’s healthy after the bye and starts for the Bears in Week 12.

Foles entered Sunday listed as doubtful, but he didn’t practice all week, so it seems like he’ll be inactive for Sunday Night Football. Tyler Bray was elevated from the Chicago practice squad and will likely back Trubisky up against the Packers. 

When is Mitchell Trubisky a free agent?

Trubisky is in the final year of his rookie contract in 2020 since the Bears declined his fifth-year option on May 1, 2020. Barring an unforseen extension, that means Trubisky will be a free agent at the conclusion of the 2020 season.

The impending free agency makes Trubisky’s opportunity to start against the Packers mightily important for his NFL future. Quarterback paydays increase in monetary value every year, and it’s not uncommon for backups to step in as starters and earn big money with just a few good performances — think Matt Flynn and Brock Osweiler.

There’s a good level of evidence of Trubisky as an average at best NFL quarterback, but recency bias is real. Maybe someone could look at Trubisky and see the potential for a Ryan Tannehill-like breakout in a new environment. If Trubisky can ball out for even a week or two before Foles potentially returns, that could gain him an extra year or two with added dollars in free agency.

Of course it’s easy in retrospect to say Trubisky was overdrafted. But to go No. 2 overall points to his perceived talent level and upside. He fits the mold of an athletic, mobile, modern NFL quarterback. If the most recent tape on Trubisky backs up a level of growth that could point to bigger things, he could find a soft landing soon after the new league calendar opens.

Projected 2021 NFL free agent quarterbacks

Trubisky isn’t the only notable quarterback name looking at free agency in 2021. Dak Prescott is the highlight of the class, although Dallas could franchise him or give him the extension he wants. Trubisky, 26, will provide youth on a market more filled with veterans, though.

Here’s a list of NFL quarterbacks currently lined up to enter free agency after the 2020 season:

  • Dak Prescott
  • Cam Newton
  • Philip Rivers
  • Jacoby Brissett
  • Andy Dalton
  • Jameis Winston
  • Ryan Fitzpatrick
  • Tyrod Taylor

Trubisky is younger than every quarterback on that list. Teams could  look at his 2018 season, when he threw 24 touchdowns compared to 12 interceptions as Chicago went 11-3 in his starts, and see the chance to groom Trubisky into the gem of the 2021 free agent quarterback class. 

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