Bears GM Backs Justin Fields, Acknowledges Team In ‘Unique Situation’

Last year, the Bears made a bold move centered around confidence in Justin Fields. The team traded the No. 1 overall pick before free agency, becoming the first team to knowingly trade a No. 1 choice before April since the draft settled in that month in 1976. A year later, GM Ryan Poles will survey his options.

Chicago is in the same situation this year, though it is Carolina’s pick that landed at No. 1 overall. Fields fared better as a passer to close out the 2023 season, but it is still viewed as somewhat less likely the Bears trade a top pick again to build around a quarterback chosen by a previous regime. Poles acknowledged this rare situation Wednesday.

We’re in information gathering mode right now,” Poles said, via WGN’s Kaitlin Sharkey. “Justin got better; he can lead this team. At the same time, there’s a unique situation and we have to look at everything.

One year ago today, Poles said he would need to be blown away by one of the QB prospects to bail on Fields and start over. With Caleb Williams — this year’s expected No. 1 choice — viewed as a better prospect compared to the Bryce YoungC.J. StroudAnthony Richardson lot, the third-year Bears GM looks like he will operate more deliberately. The Bears hold two top-10 picks because of the Panthers’ eagerness to pick Young; they could benefit in multiple ways.

Option A would be to keep Fields and trade the No. 1 choice for more than they collected from Carolina last year. Two future firsts could be a conceivable haul. But Fields has also struggled frequently as a passer, particularly late in games. Passing on a prospect like Williams and seeing Fields fail to live up to his end of that deal would threaten Poles’ job security, especially with a team president (Kevin Warren) that did not hire him in place. Fields’ fifth-year option also must be picked up or declined by May; the 2021 first-round pick’s time at a low rate is winding down.

Option B points to Williams, the 2022 Heisman recipient. While the USC product did not put together the kind of season he did as a sophomore, the latest Lincoln Riley-developed passer is still viewed as a high-end prospect who projects to be a superior NFL passer than Fields. Williams also will be attached to a rookie contract through 2027, not becoming extension-eligible until January of ’27. While the Bears will not land nearly as much in a trade for Fields (perhaps a second-rounder) as they would the No. 1 selection, three years of cost control and a better QB prospect — in the view of most — represents an enticing route.

It does not sound like Poles will be committing to another March decision, indicating (via ESPN’s Courtney Cronin) he is fine taking this decision “all the way to April.” The Bears retained Matt Eberflus today — a decision Poles confirmed was his, while noting he, Warren and George McCaskey were on the same page — but ditched their top offensive staffers, firing OC Luke Getsy, QBs coach Andrew Janocko and others. Will the next Chicago play-caller be drawing up plays for Fields or Williams?

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