Bears set up Caleb Williams or Justin Fields to win

LAKE FOREST, Ill. -- DJ Moore's 'face' said it all. Rather, the yellow, smiley emoji the Chicago Bears wide receiver posted on social media conveyed his anticipation for who he'll be lining up across from this fall.

That sentiment spread to other Bears players and the fan base as news filtered out late Thursday that Chicago was sending a fourth-round pick to the Los Angeles Chargers in exchange for six-time Pro-Bowl wide receiver Keenan Allen. Several of Moore's teammates quickly shared his enthusiasm, with safety Jaquan Brisker exclaiming "So turnt!" while the newest Bear, safety Kevin Byard, posted "Let's go!!"

Now all Bears general manager Ryan Poles has to do is figure out who will be throwing to Allen. Whether it's incumbent quarterback Justin Fields, USC's Caleb Williams or another top draft pick, Poles made sure whoever is under center in 2024 will be set up with one of the best arsenals the franchise has ever had.

Consider, Johnny Morris, who retired in 1967, is the Bears' all-time leading receiver with 5,059 yards. Allen has 10,530 receiving yards and 59 touchdowns over 11 seasons with the Chargers.

For decades, the Bears have tried to dispel the notion that Chicago is "where receivers go to die," the expression used by former wide receiver Muhsin Muhammad after being released by the Bears 16 years ago.

Poles began doing his part last offseason when he made Moore the focal point of the blockbuster trade that sent the No. 1 overall selection in the 2023 draft to the Carolina Panthers in exchange for four picks and the standout wide receiver. After five seasons in Carolina with eight different quarterbacks throwing him the ball, Moore reached career highs in receptions (96), receiving yards (1,364), yards per game (80.2) and touchdowns (8) last season.

Allen is also coming off one of the best seasons of his career in 2023 despite missing the final four games with a heel injury. He led Los Angeles in receiving (1,243 yards), receiving touchdowns (7) and set the Chargers' single season record for receptions (108), which marked his fifth season with 100 catches (tied for the third-most in NFL history). The Bears haven't had a player with 100 receptions in a season since Allen Robinson II in 2020 (102).

Across the league, eight players had at least 90 receptions and 1,200 receiving yards last season. According to ESPN Stats and Information, the only two currently on the same team are Allen and Moore.

The last great Bears wide receiver tandem spanned three seasons when Alshon Jeffrey and Brandon Marshall teamed up from 2012-14. With Jay Cutler at quarterback, Jeffrey and Marshall both earned Pro Bowl honors in 2013. It was a top-five passing attack in yards and touchdowns and the No. 2 scoring offense in the NFL.

That success was short-lived, and the Bears have struggled to find complementary pieces around their quarterbacks to sustain success. Whether it's Fields or a rookie, the Bears will start a young, developing quarterback in 2024. Poles' strategy was to give that quarterback as much help as possible.

"From Day 1 of training camp to Week 15 or wherever he stopped practicing, he gave it his all, and I'm looking at myself like, 'This dude still got it,'" said new Bears linebacker Amen Ogbongbemiga, who played with the Chargers from 2021-23. "He got a lot of years in the tank. That's what people don't understand. They might look at his age (31) and question him, but nah, he's got the juice.

"He's going to bring some special moments to the city of Chicago. They are going to love him. I'm excited."

Allen isn't the Bears' only new offensive weapon. Chicago also signed running back D'Andre Swift, who is coming off a Pro Bowl season with the Eagles.

Allen has a $5 million roster bonus coming due Sunday and turns 32 next month. Sending a fourth-round pick to Los Angeles for a player who will account for $23.1 million against the salary cap is an expensive price to pay without an extension. While one could come soon for Allen, his time in Chicago won't be nearly as long as the years spent with the Chargers.

But if his impact is anything like what he provided the Chargers, whichever young Bears quarterback is throwing his way will know his teammates were so excited when they heard the news.