Bears Trade QB Justin Fields To Steelers

The Bears were finally able to offload quarterback Justin Fields into the trade market today. Ian Rapoport of NFL Network reports that Chicago is trading Fields to the Steelers, where he could potentially compete with newly signed quarterback Russell Wilson for the starting job.

ESPN’s Adam Schefter provides details, telling us that Pittsburgh is sending the Bears a 2025 sixth-round pick that can conditionally become a fourth-round pick, depending on whether or not Fields plays 51 percent of the team’s offensive snaps in 2024. Both teams have announced the deal.

Pittsburgh’s QB room has changed dramatically in recent days, starting with the team’s Wilson deal becoming official. The former Super Bowl winner’s arrival was followed in very short order by a deal sending Kenny Pickett to the Eagles being worked out. The Steelers’ 2022 first-rounder will head to Philadelphia in a pick-swap arrangement. Fields will occupy the vacancy created by Pickett’s departure.

Of course, this deal has led to immediate questions of how Pittsburgh’s depth chart will look in 2024. Rather than Fields entering his first offseason with the team in an opportunity to take over the No. 1 role, it will be Wilson handling starting duties, as reported by both Rapoport’s colleague Tom Pelissero as well as Gerry Dulac of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Wilson being handed the reins was a key factor in the Pickett deal coming together as quickly as it did.

Fields will firmly be entrenched in the backup spot, though, considering Mason Rudolph (who finished the 2023 campaign as the starter over Pickett) has signed with the Titans. Quarterback play was seen by many as something which had considerable room for improvement in Pittsburgh’s case compared to the post-Ben Roethlisberger options used to date. General manager Omar Khan has moved quickly in re-shaping the depth chart under center. As ESPN’s Ed Werder notes, this offseason marks the first since 1957 that no Steelers signal-caller who played the previous campaign will return for the following one.

The Bears have had a lingering Fields decision to make for the past two offseasons. General manager Ryan Poles had the opportunity to move on from the 2021 11th overall pick last spring, but the team instead elected to forego drafting a passer at the top of the board. The decision to trade last year’s No. 1 pick to the Panthers has left Chicago in a nearly identical situation in 2024, with Poles facing the task of re-committing to Fields or moving on and drafting a rookie (all-but certainly Caleb Williams) with the top selection this April.

Poles’ move last year paved the way for Fields, 25, to cement his status as the quarterback of the future in Chicago. He saw incremental growth in a number of passing categories in 2023 while remaining a threat with his legs. However, Fields’ performance (and that of the team as a whole during the first half of the campaign in particular) was not sufficient to convince Poles to again trade out of the chance to draft a new franchise passer. He, head coach Matt Eberflus and many Bears players publicly praised the Ohio State product but for some time it has been clear a trade would take place.

The matter of Fields’ market has led to challenges for Chicago’s front office. A shortlist of logical landing spots was in place before the outset of free agency, but very few teams made an aggressive push to acquire him knowing Poles was in position to sell at a low price. As one veteran QB domino fell after another this past week – including, perhaps most importantly, Kirk Cousins signing with the Falcons – signs increasingly pointed to Fields being destined for a QB2 gig. A team such as the Rams had been floated as a reasonable spot, but Los Angeles has just added Jimmy Garoppolo as its backup. That left Pittsburgh as one of the few remaining teams without a relatively certain quarterback depth chart in place.

Poles made it clear at the Combine that he wanted Fields’ future to be sorted out as soon as possible. While the Bears have indeed “done right” by him with this deal getting finalized well before the draft, it obviously marks a massive disappointment given the move to trade up and select him three years ago. Like fellow 2021 first-round draftees Trey Lance and Mac Jones, however, Fields has now been dealt to a new team with the possibility of a fresh start. The latter has one year remaining on his rookie contract, but Pittsburgh could add another via the fifth-year option. Picking up that $25.6MM option would come as a major surprise, however, given the fact Wilson will serve as the starter in 2024.

For the coming campaign, though, the Steelers will have a highly cost-effective QB room. Wilson signed for $1.2MM since he is owed $39MM guaranteed from the Broncos. Fields’ 2024 cap hit, meanwhile, will check in at just over $3.2MM. Those two passers will each have plenty to play for in the coming campaign as they spearhead the transition to an offense guided by new OC Arthur Smith and which no longer features wideout Diontae Johnson

Reacting to the news of the deal, Fields has offered a farewell to Chicago after three seasons in the city. The Bears – a team which has made several moves to augment its skill-position corps this week – will prepare to move in a new direction next moth when they add a passer first overall. As they look to break through for a postseason win for the first time since 2016, meanwhile, the Steelers will boast an intriguing quarterback room featuring little certainty beyond the coming campaign.

Ely Allen contributed to this post. 

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