Bears Hope To Make Justin Fields Decision Before Free Agency

Had the Panthers sustained the form they showed under Steve Wilks, Justin Fields is likely preparing for his fourth season as the Bears’ starter. Because Carolina produced the first 15-loss season in the 17-game era, Fields will probably be on the move soon.

The Bears obtaining the top pick via the Bryce Young trade has them surveying this year’s top college arms. Caleb Williams is the clear frontrunner to be Chicago’s starting quarterback next season, with a recent report indicating the Bears’ decision no longer involves a Williams-or-Fields call but rather a choice between which QB the team will select at No. 1. This places Fields in limbo.

Connected to the Falcons and Steelers, Fields also spent two years under new Raiders OC Luke Getsy. Though, Las Vegas is not viewed as a likely destination for the three-year Chicago starter. Denver probably should not be, either, considering Russell Wilson‘s clunky fit in Sean Payton‘s offense. Regardless of where Fields goes — if, in fact, the Bears are ready to move him — GM Ryan Poles wants this process done soon.

The team that made the most similar trade — the 2021 Jets, who moved three-year starter Sam Darnold before selecting Zach Wilson second overall — did not complete the move until April 5 of that year. Poles, however, bucked tradition last year by trading the Panthers the No. 1 pick before free agency. That is the earliest any team has knowingly moved a No. 1 overall pick since the NFL camped its draft in April in 1976. Fields wants this process to be settled, and Poles would not mind having it done by free agency’s outset.

I would love to know as soon as possible. I would love to know, but I know that’s not how the process works. Sure, before free agency would be good,” Poles said, via’s Courtney Cronin. “Like I said, I’m also taking, if we were to do something with Justin, I want to do right by him and I know, again, living in that gray space, we would want to do something sooner rather than later.

“But just like I talk about with contracts, it takes two teams to figure that out, but at the same time, we’re also trying to figure out the draft process as well. There’s a lot of different things with different timelines going and that’s what makes it a little difficult.

Two years remain on Fields’ rookie contract, and his next team will face a fifth-year option call May 2. The Panthers picked up Darnold’s option upon acquiring him; it should be expected Fields’ next team does the same. With the salary cap now set, Fields’ fifth-year option — which will come in on Tier 3 of the four-tiered format — will cost $25.6MM. Determining trade value also represents a potential stumbling block here, as other QB-needy teams gauge how they want to proceed. The Bears have been hearing from teams regarding Fields’ value for several weeks now, however.

The Commanders and Patriots have easier paths to addressing their position. The teams that do not hold top-three draft real estate and could use a veteran presumably represent the array of clubs with which Poles has been in contact. Fields would be a much cheaper alternative — for the time being, at least — to Kirk Cousins. The Vikings, who are not a realistic Fields destination due to being an NFC North team, are in talks with their six-year starter. But Cousins could shake up the QB market by testing free agency.

Should the Bears wait beyond free agency’s primary period to trade Fields, the market would narrow. Should Chicago make its latest big-picture QB move before the market opens, it would need to strike by 11am CT on March 11, when the legal tampering period begins.

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