Justin Fields

Bears Sign Justin Fields

It’s a done deal. On Thursday, the Bears struck agreement with first-round quarterback Justin Fields (Twitter link via NFL.com’s Tom Pelissero). 

Per the terms of his slot, Fields will collect $17.9MM on his fully guaranteed four-year deal. That includes a healthy $11.1MM signing bonus for the No. 11 overall pick.

The Bears already had Andy Dalton heading into the draft, but they couldn’t pass up Fields. Meanwhile, Giants GM Dave Gettleman couldn’t resist the urge to trade. With that, the Bears moved up to No. 11 in exchange for pick No. 20, pick No. 164, a 2022 first-round pick, and a 2022 fourth-round pick.

Some evaluators preferred Zach Wilson and Trey Lance, who were the first QBs to come off the board after Trevor Lawrence. Regardless, the Bears were thrilled to land the Ohio State product. In just two short years as a Buckeye, he cemented himself as one of the most accomplished players in program history. The dual-threat QB threw for 5,373 yards, 63 touchdowns, and nine interceptions across 22 starts.

Now, the two-time Big Ten Offensive Player of the Year will try and work his magic in Chicago.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Vikings Wanted Justin Fields At No. 8

Recently, the Panthers shared a behind-the-scenes look at the 2021 NFL Draft, which showed the Vikings calling on their No. 8 overall pick. Ultimately, the offer wasn’t up to snuff. But, had the Panthers said yes, the Vikings would have selected Ohio State quarterback Justin Fields (via PFT).

The Vikings were connected to Fields in the weeks leading up to the draft, hoping that he’d fall to No. 14 overall. Now, we know that they were proactive in trying to land him. It’s an interesting footnote, especially given the presence of Kirk Cousins. Cousins has two years and $56MM to go on his deal; Fields could have prompted them to trade the veteran sometime between now and the end of the pact.

The Vikings offered up their No. 14 pick, their third-round choice at No. 90, and a fourth-round pick to jump to No. 8. Panthers GM Scott Fitterer wanted a 2022 first-round pick in order to move down, so the talks didn’t progress from there. Instead, the Vikings moved down to No. 23, tapped Virginia Tech tackle Christian Darrisaw, and added to their third-round stockpile. That’s where they selected Texas A&M QB Kellen Mond, who could be groomed as an eventual successor to Cousins.

Kirk Cousins is our quarterback,” GM Rick Spielman said in March. “I know there’s a lot of rumors floating around out there, but Kirk Cousins is our quarterback. We felt that he played very well, probably the best that he’s ever played down that stretch last year. Kirk is our quarterback going forward, and I look forward to him (having) another year in this system.”

Cousins is indeed the Vikings quarterback, but it’s worth nothing that his contract no longer includes a no-trade clause. Meanwhile, the Vikings will see Fields twice per year when they face the Bears.

NFC North Notes: Bears, Sewell, Bateman

In a comprehensive piece, Adam Jahns of The Athletic details how Bears GM Ryan Pace, head coach Matt Nagy, and the rest of Chicago’s brain trust approached their quarterback situation this offseason. These types of behind-the-scenes stories are always worth a read, especially for fans of the team in question, and particularly notable here is that the club identified the No. 8 through No. 12 overall selections as the “sweet spot” to target a collegiate QB. Pace’s predraft research indicated that trying to acquire the Falcons’ No. 4 overall pick would require too much draft capital, but he didn’t want to start calling teams holding picks eight through 12 too early for fear of tipping his hand.

So he waited until the day of the draft to start making those calls, and while the early run on QBs pushed down quality players at other positions, Pace identified Ohio State QB Justin Fields as his top target. 11 Bears staffers filed reports on Fields, and all of them had very similar grades on him. Pace and Giants GM Dave Gettleman had worked out the parameters of a trade earlier in the day, and when Fields was still on the board after the Eagles leapfrogged the Giants — Pace feared Philadelphia might have been targeting Fields — Chicago and New York were able to swing a trade that brought the former Buckeye to the Windy City. Now, Pace and Nagy will hope that the bold maneuver will help them keep their jobs.

Here’s more from the NFC North:

  • Even though the Bears just signed Andy Dalton this offseason, they extended him a courtesy that the Packers did not extend to Aaron Rodgers when they drafted Jordan Love last year: they told Dalton that they might pick a QB. “I talked to [Dalton] earlier in the day on [the day of the draft], and we were just catching up,” Nagy said (via Albert Breer of SI.com). “And at the same time I said, ‘Hey, listen man, I have no idea which way this thing may go, you never know, but all positions are open and we can do a lot of different things, including at quarterback. So I just want you to understand that and be aware for that.'” Of course, the news couldn’t have come as a surprise to Dalton, who was signed to a one-year contract and who presumably has no delusions that the Bears acquired him as their quarterback of the future, but it’s the type of gesture that might have helped ease the strain on the Packers’ relationship with Rodgers.
  • The Lions‘ first-round pick, No. 7 overall selection Penei Sewell, has tested positive for COVID-19, as Sewell himself tweeted several days ago. He will therefore miss this weekend’s rookie minicamp, but at this point it sounds like he is either asymptomatic or else has mild symptoms, so there shouldn’t be any cause for concern.
  • The Packers selected Georgia CB Eric Stokes with the No. 29 overall pick of the draft, but if Minnesota WR Rashod Bateman had still been around, execs around the league believe he would have been the choice, as Jeremy Fowler of ESPN.com writes (subscription required). Of course, taking a first-round receiver this year after selecting Love in the first round in 2020 might not have been enough to placate Rodgers. The Ravens took Bateman off the board with the No. 27 overall selection.
  • The Vikings have been busy over the past couple of days, trading cornerback Mike Hughes to the Chiefs and signing first-round pick Christian Darrisaw.

Vikings Discussed Trading Up For Justin Fields

Justin Fields will begin his NFL career in the NFC North, with the Bears having traded up to land the Ohio State passer with hopes of ending their run of quarterback struggles. But one of Chicago’s top rivals was monitoring this situation.

After seeing Fields drop past the Panthers and Broncos at Nos. 8 and 9, the Vikings contacted teams about moving up for a quarterback. Fields was the primary target, according to ESPN.com’s Courtney Cronin. Although Minnesota has Kirk Cousins locked in through 2022, the team wanted to draft one of this year’s top QBs.

The Cowboys traded their No. 10 overall pick to the Eagles, who moved up for DeVonta Smith, and the Giants shipped their 11th overall choice to the Bears, scuttling the Vikings’ Fields hopes. While the Vikes sought to acquire one of the first-round-caliber QBs that did not go in the top three, they were not willing to give up the draft capital necessary for a player who would sit for at least one season, per Cronin.

[RELATED: Vikings Tried To Trade Up Twice In First Round]

A Vikings coach briefed Cousins ahead of the draft to prepare him for the prospect of a quarterback selection, Cronin adds. The team was prepared to select Fields, had he fallen No. 14. The Bears, however, beat them by three picks. It cost them a 2022 first-round pick to move up nine spots to No. 11, but it also denied their rivals a chance to create a Cousins-to-Fields QB transition.

That reality would have likely meant Fields sitting for at least one season. While the Bears hope to execute this strategy as well, it is unlikely Andy Dalton will keep Fields off the field for too long. The Vikings ended up selecting Kellen Mond near the top of the third round. Mond was the seventh quarterback off the board, with the Buccaneers ending Round 2 with their Kyle Trask selection. Mond is viewed as more of a developmental player than Fields and may not end up being a starter-level NFLer.

Rick Spielman said the Vikings tried to trade up from No. 14, and although he declined to specify the target, Cronin notes the team — presumably after Fields went to the Bears at 11 — eyed tackle Rashawn Slater. The left tackle-needy Chargers nabbed Slater at 13. Minnesota traded down to No. 23 and selected Virginia Tech tackle Christian Darrisaw.

Thanks to a clause in Cousins’ 2020 extension, his being on the roster on Day 3 of the 2021 league year guaranteed him $45MM in 2022. His run as Minnesota’s starter will almost certainly stretch to at least five seasons.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

NFC Notes: Bears, Fields, Winston, Sherman

The Bears made the biggest splash of the draft by trading up for Justin Fields. When they did so, it couldn’t have been welcome news to Andy Dalton. Dalton signed with Chicago this offseason hoping to be their starter in 2021, and obviously the Fields pick put that plan in jeopardy. But Bears head coach Matt Nagy talked to Ian Rapoport of NFL Network shortly after the pick and told Rapoport he “wants the Kansas City model” that the Chiefs did with Alex Smith and Patrick Mahomes (Twitter video link).Smith, of course, played the entire 2017 season before Mahomes took over in 2018.

Nagy was the offensive coordinator in Kansas City for that ’17 season before getting hired by the Bears. Rapoport says “their goal is to have Andy Dalton play the entire year, have Fields develop under the radar, and then pass the torch the following year.” Despite Nagy’s contentions, that’s almost certainly unrealistic. Nagy is coaching for his job this season, and both he and GM Ryan Pace are on the hottest of seats. They need to win in 2021, and they know it. It’s far from guaranteed Dalton even makes it to Week 1 as the starter, and assuming he does he’ll be on a very short leash. For what it’s worth, Rapsheet notes the Bears did call and talk to Dalton about moving up for a quarterback prior to making the trade. As he points out, that’s more than Aaron Rodgers got from the Packers with Jordan Love.

Here’s more from around the NFC on a quiet Sunday night:

  • The Saints just drafted Notre Dame passer Ian Book in the fourth-round, but he’s not likely to be involved in the competition between Jameis Winston and Taysom Hill to become Drew Brees‘ successor. We heard when Winston re-upped with the Saints on a one-year deal with $5.5MM guaranteed worth “up to” $12MM that he had significant incentives, and now we have the details on those incentives. They come courtesy of Nick Underhill from NewOrleans.Football (Twitter link). There are too many to list here, but Winston will get $62.5K for every game where he plays more than 50 percent of the snaps up to $1MM. He’ll get $500K if he throws 20 touchdown passes ($1MM if he hits 25). He’s got an incentive for pretty much everything, including another $500K if the Saints make the playoffs and he plays 70 percent of the snaps.
  • We heard earlier this weekend that Richard Sherman was talking with a handful of teams, including the Seahawks about a potential reunion. The 49ers, Saints, and Raiders are apparently also in the mix, but it sounds more and more like a return to Seattle is a distinct possibility. Seahawks head coach Pete Carroll told the media on Saturday that he had talked to Sherman “quite a few times” this offseason about coming back to where he started his career, via Michael David Smith of ProFootballTalk.com. Sherman, now 33, only played in five games last season but was a second-team All-Pro in 2019. He was with Seattle from 2011-17, making four Pro Bowls and four All-Pro teams as part of their legendary ‘Legion of Boom’ defenses. Sherman has said previously he’d sign after the draft, so something could materialize here soon.

Draft Notes: Fields, Giants, Saints, Cowboys

Penei Sewell loomed as the Panthers‘ first-round target, but when the Lions selected the Oregon tackle, Albert Breer of SI.com notes the team moved into a Jaycee Horn-vs.-Justin Fields debate. The Panthers’ need at cornerback — in a division featuring the likes of Michael Thomas, Julio Jones, Calvin Ridley, Mike Evans and Chris Godwin — helped steer them to Horn. Fields, who went three picks later after the Bears traded up for him, was in the mix. The Panthers did not want to force a quarterback investment, Breer adds. While GM Scott Fitterer indicated the Panthers could take a quarterback even after trading for Sam Darnold, the team expressed considerable interest in Deshaun Watson prior to off-field issues squashing his trade market. A Fields pick would have made revisiting that pursuit more difficult. It cannot be assumed the embattled Texans quarterback will be available anytime soon, but the Panthers did not take themselves out of a potential market Thursday night.

Entering Round 2, here is the draft latest:

  • The Eagles were correct in assuming the Giants were planning to select DeVonta Smith at No. 11. Big Blue would have taken the Alabama superstar there, Breer notes. Howie Roseman engineered an intra-NFC East trade-up with the Cowboys, moving up two spots for Smith. The Eagles, whose Week 17 quarterback strategy came under fire re: the Giants’ unusual playoff pursuit, saw another move of theirs affect Big Blue. Philly pair Smith with 2020 first-rounder Jalen Reagor. The Giants still took a wideout at No. 20 (Kadarius Toney).
  • Prior to the Bears executing a successful trade-up with the Giants, moving from No. 20 to No. 11, they discussed a likely similar deal with the Cowboys, per Breer. The Cowboys did not want to take themselves out of adding a player on whom they placed a first-round grade; sliding down to 20 may well have done that. Dallas ended up with Micah Parsons at 12.
  • The Giants were busy at No. 11. Ahead of Dave Gettleman‘s first-ever trade-down (in nine drafts as a GM), he heard from the Vikings and Saints, Breer adds. The Saints, who had already seen top targets Jaycee Horn and Patrick Surtain II drafted, were linked to quarterbacks as well. New Orleans did offer one future first-round pick but did not include a second future first-rounder in its trade-up proposals. As a result, the Saints did not come particularly close to trading up Thursday. After the Chargers drafted Rashawn Slater, the Vikings ended up trading down.
  • After the Ravens traded their second-round pick to the Chiefs in the Orlando Brown deal, Eric DeCosta does not expect to move back into the round, according to Jamison Hensley of ESPN.com (on Twitter). The Ravens did not make any trades Thursday night, winding up with Rashod Bateman and Odafe Oweh.
  • Some teams are not comfortable with Alabama center Landon Dickerson‘s medcials, per ESPN.com’s Jeremy Fowler (on Twitter). The Steelers are one of the teams a bit leery on Dickerson, Gerry Dulac of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette tweets. Pittsburgh saw 11-year center Maurkice Pouncey retire this offseason. While the team has multiple lower-profile replacement candidates — B.J. Finney and J.C. Hassenauer — Dickerson will enter the NFL as a high-end prospect, albeit one coming off a December ACL tear.

Patriots Looking To Trade Up For QB Justin Fields?

Bill Belichick has a well-known affinity for trading back in the draft, but it sounds like New England could buck the trend and trade up. Jeff Howe of The Athletic writes that the Patriots have spoken with the Falcons about a trade for the fourth-overall pick.

If the Patriots are planning on spending assets to move up from No. 15, they presumably have a target in mind. Howe believes that these trade discussions are a strong sign that the Patriots have “found conviction” in at least one prospect, and he opines that the player is Ohio State quarterback Justin Fields. Tom Pelissero of NFL Network reported a similar sentiment earlier this week (Twitter link), noting that the Patriots were sniffing around at a trade with the hope of landing Fields. Pelissero’s report indicated that New England had spoken with the Lions at No. 7 and the Panthers at No. 8.

If Belichick and the Patriots do decide to cash in on a quarterback prospect, it’d be a surprising development. The Patriots haven’t used a first-round pick on a quarterback during Belichick’s tenure with the team (although that was easy to do with Tom Brady under center), but they’ve also generally been wary of trading up during the first day of the draft. Belichick has only traded up in the first round on three ocassions during his time in New England, and only one of those trades saw him acquire a top-15 pick (Ty Warren at No. 13 in 2003).

For a team that likes to retain their draft capital, the Patriots would have to give up a bounty to acquire the No. 4 pick. The 49ers had to give up No. 12, two future first-rounders, and a third-round pick to get up to No. 3; the Falcons would presumably ask for a similar haul if New England wanted to jump from No. 15 to No. 4. It wouldn’t be as pricey to move from No. 15 to either No. 7 or No. 8, with Pelissero estimating that it’d cost at least a second-rounder.

Of course, it’s still uncertain if Fields will even be around at No. 4, much less No. 7 or No. 8. The 49ers could still very well select the Ohio State product with the third-overall pick.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

49ers Down To Mac Jones, Trey Lance?

The 49ers’ focus at No. 3 appears to have narrowed to Alabama’s Mac Jones and North Dakota State’s Trey Lance (Twitter link via NFL.com’s Tom Pelissero). Pelissero notes that Lance and the Niners chatted following his second pro day last week, which was specifically tailored to Kyle Shanahan‘s favorite drills. 

Previously, the 49ers were believed to have three quarterbacks in consideration with Justin Fields completing the trio. Now, it seems that the Ohio State star is no longer in the mix. This jibes with a recent report from NFL.com’s Ian Rapoport, who now seems on course to be available for the Falcons at No. 4.

Lance seems to have the most overall buzz of the three, since he’s believed to have the most upside. Jones, despite his 77% completion rate last year, seems to have garnered disproportionate attention from the Niners. Still, NFL.com’s Mike Garafolo (Twitter link) has yet to hear from an executive that thinks it’d be crazy for the Niners to take him (and mortgage future picks for him) at No. 3.

Mac’s a stud,” said the anonymous executive. “[He has] everything you want.”

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

49ers Down To Mac Jones And Trey Lance

The 2021 NFL Draft is right around the corner, and the first two picks are more or less set in stone. Trevor Lawrence and Zach Wilson are widely expected to be picked first and second respectively by the Jaguars and Jets. The big question has been what the 49ers will do at three, and their decision will set the table for the rest of the draft.

Now, we’re starting to get a better idea of what San Francisco is going to do. The 49ers are down to Alabama’s Mac Jones and North Dakota State’s Trey Lance, sources told Ian Rapoport of NFL Network (Twitter link). That would rule out Ohio State’s Justin Fields, who was seen as the other contender to be taken third overall. Jones is the favorite, while Lance has been not far behind through the process.

When the 49ers pulled off their shocking trade to move up to number three and draft an eventual Jimmy Garoppolo replacement, Jones quickly emerged as the rumored target. Some found it difficult to believe that Jones, unheralded as an NFL prospect before 2020, would really be Kyle Shanahan’s preference at number three.

But that’s what most of the reporting has consistently indicated, whether college football fans want to believe it or not. Many believe that Shanahan has fallen in love with Jones’ pocket presence and footwork. Lance is the far superior athlete, and is viewed as having sky-high upside while at the same time possibly being a riskier proposition.

The news also means Fields will be there for the taking for the Falcons if they want him at four, or for a potential trade partner with Atlanta. There are still a few days until the draft kicks off on Thursday, but things are beginning to take shape.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Poll: How Will Broncos Address QB Need?

The only two starting quarterbacks to retire after winning Super Bowls played for the same franchise. While the Broncos made the playoffs multiple times in the five years following John Elway‘s retirement — with the likes of Brian Griese and Jake Plummer operating as the team’s primary starters — they have hovered off the contention radar for most of their post-Peyton Manning stretch. No team has started more quarterbacks than Denver’s 10 (counting the Kendall Hinton game) since 2016.

This stretch has placed the Broncos back on the quarterback radar. Although their last foray into the first-round market careened off course quickly (Paxton Lynch in 2016), the Broncos’ three subsequent QB investments — Case Keenum, Joe Flacco and Drew Lock — largely struggled. Will this run of futility at the NFL’s premier position force the Broncos to acquire one of this year’s top QB prospects?

New GM George Paton has said multiple times this offseason the Broncos will acquire a quarterback to push Lock, but it is not certain that will be a rookie. Denver brass, however, did extensive work on this year’s top passer crop. Paton was at Justin Fields and Trey Lance‘s initial pro days, while offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur trekked to the second workouts held by the Ohio State and North Dakota State QBs. Other teams have viewed Denver as a stealth quarterback seeker as well.

Only two of the draft’s top five passing prospects will be available to teams picking after No. 3, with the 49ers moving up for a quarterback. Considering the needs of some teams picking outside the top 10 — the Patriots, Washington and Bears have been linked to trade-up maneuvers — and the not-impossible prospect of the Lions (No. 7) or Panthers (No. 8) jumping into the fray, it is possible the Broncos will be left out if they stand pat at No. 9. They are believed to have inquired about trading up, though Paton denied this. The Falcons (No. 4), Dolphins (No. 6), Lions and Panthers are all open to trades, creating opportunities for the Broncos and teams eager to trade in front of them.

Given the Broncos’ above-average defense and bevy of skill-position weapons, going into another season with Lock (29th in 2020 QBR) could lower the team’s ceiling — in a hot-seat year for Vic Fangio. But Fangio’s status could also push the team to trade for a veteran instead of hoping this year’s fourth- or fifth-best QB prospect can make an impact right away. Although the Broncos sat out the free agent market and passed on trades for Carson Wentz and Sam Darnold — after falling short for Matthew Stafford — veteran arms remain available.

Paton was with the Vikings when they drafted Teddy Bridgewater in the 2014 first round; Carolina has since given Bridgewater permission to seek a trade. Given Paton’s history with the 28-year-old QB, it would make sense if the Broncos were one of the teams interestedGardner Minshew figures to be available — even though Urban Meyer denied it. The 49ers are holding out for a big offer to part with now-lame-duck starter Jimmy Garoppolo.

Lock has not been blessed with great circumstances, despite Denver drafting Jerry Jeudy and K.J. Hamler in the first and second rounds last year. The pandemic nixed the young passer’s first offseason with Shurmur, and No. 1 receiver Courtland Sutton went down in Week 2 last year. But the 2022 quarterback class, as of now, has received far less hype than the past two drafts’ QB crops generated. The Broncos not making a move for Fields, Lance or Mac Jones next week could limit their options going forward.

How do you think the Broncos will play this? Will they prioritize acquiring another quarterback by trading up or hope one falls to No. 9? Vote in PFR’s latest poll and weigh in with your thoughts on this situation in the comments section.

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