Justin Fields

Falcons Interested In Baker Mayfield?

Linked closely to quarterbacks this offseason, the Falcons may be moving close to landing their next starter. Justin Fields-to-Atlanta buzz is heating up, but the NFC South team also looks to be interested in Baker Mayfield — potentially as a contingency plan.

The Buccaneers have begun talks with Mayfield, who would stand to lose some leverage if the Falcons complete a Fields trade soon. But Atlanta is believed to be in the mix for Mayfield, according to Sportskeeda’s Tony Pauline. It would take the Bucs failing to complete a Mayfield deal to bring the Falcons into this equation, however. The Bucs’ exclusive negotiating rights expire at 11am CT on March 11, when the legal tampering period begins.

Last year, the Giants and Seahawks needed to pin down the markets for Daniel Jones and Geno Smith, respectively. Both teams reached deals with their QBs to keep them off the market. The Bucs are in the same situation, and it will require a big raise for them to keep Tom Brady‘s successor in town. Mayfield is expected to draw at least $34MM per year on his next deal, per Pauline, who throws out a $40MM-AAV prospect as a potential ceiling number.

The Giants giving Jones $40MM per annum could conceivably be a factor here, and that contract included $81MM fully guaranteed. Mayfield’s guarantee figure will be one of this offseason’s most interesting numbers, given where his value stood after poor 2021 and ’22 seasons. A team shelling out a Jones-level guarantee would certainly be taking a risk.

The Falcons do have some staffers familiar with Mayfield. New OC Zac Robinson was Mayfield’s position coach during his brief stay with the Rams, with Raheem Morris obviously observing the former waiver claim in that span as well.

Mayfield going from where he was entering last year’s free agency to his present value remains a fascinating process, one that underscores the supply-and-demand issue at quarterback. Other suitors are in on Mayfield, per Pauline, though it is not certain how aggressive the non-Bucs contingent plans to be. It would stand to reason the Raiders, Broncos and perhaps the Vikings — depending on their Kirk Cousins conclusion — are monitoring Mayfield. The Steelers have been linked to Fields, though they have also been connected to a plan of bringing in a veteran to compete with Kenny Pickett. Given where Mayfield’s price might be, he is overqualified for that assignment despite needing to win the Tampa Bay job last summer.

The Bucs likely have Mayfield atop their priority queue, but they also are believed to be readying to use their franchise tag on Antoine Winfield Jr. It would be a bit of a leap for the Bucs to tag Mayfield, as that would cost more than $38MM. Even if Mayfield’s AAV could wind up in this ballpark — a staggering raise from the $4MM base salary he signed for in 2023 — that would be a crippling cap hold for the Bucs to carry into free agency. That said, the team just qualified for the divisional round with Brady’s $35.1MM dead-money sum on the books.

Regarding Fields and the Falcons, a DraftKings Sportsbook update places this as the runaway lead fit by slotting Atlanta as a minus-250 favorite for the Chicago QB. The Bears hope to finalize a Fields decision before free agency, with GM Ryan Poles indicating he wants to do right by the three-year starter. Chicago is on track to draft Caleb Williams with its Carolina-obtained No. 1 pick, and while that is not yet final, Fields is widely expected to be wearing a different uniform in 2024.

If the Falcons do not end up with the Georgia native — whom they passed on in 2021 — a Mayfield push could become intense for a team that has wanted to upgrade on Desmond Ridder since the season ended.

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 ESPN.com’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.

Latest On Steelers’ QB Situation, Possible Justin Fields Pursuit

Last week, we heard that the Steelers were interested in re-signing quarterback Mason Rudolph and having him compete with 2022 first-rounder Kenny Pickett to be the club’s starting signal-caller. Gerry Dulac of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported that, even if the Steelers are unsuccessful in their pursuit of a Rudolph re-up, the club will not consider an external addition who is eyeing a QB1 role. Naturally, that would rule out a passer like Justin Fields, who is widely expected to be traded by the Bears.

On the same day that Dulac’s piece was published, however, Jeremy Fowler of ESPN.com (subscription required) wrote that Pittsburgh will, in fact, acquire via trade or free agency a quarterback who can push Pickett for the starting job, and that such a quarterback would be “more than a stopgap.” Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin is reportedly a fan of Fields, and Fowler said that the rumblings connecting Fields to Pittsburgh are intensifying.

For a team like Pittsburgh that, as Fowler observes, could be just a quarterback away from championship contention, adding a clear upgrade over Pickett would make plenty of sense. But Mark Kaboly of The Athletic is aligned with Dulac, his fellow Steelers beat writer (subscription required). Kaboly confidently avers that the team is not going to go after Fields, and that while there may be a competition between Rudolph and Pickett if Rudolph is re-signed, Pickett will get one last chance to prove his worth before Pittsburgh looks outside the organization.

While these starkly contrasting reports between a national writer and two beats add to the uncertainty of the Steelers’ quarterback situation, it continues to look like there is no uncertainty concerning Fields’ future in Chicago. Though the Ohio State product recently said he would like to remain with the Bears — as relayed by Jason Lieser of the Chicago Sun-TimesBrad Biggs of the Chicago Tribune does not believe there is any internal debate as to whether the club should keep Fields in lieu of using its No. 1 overall draft choice (or a slightly lower choice in the event of a small trade down) on a top collegiate prospect. Rather, the real question is simply which passer in the 2024 draft class the Bears like the best.

Per Biggs, it is at least conceivable that the Bears retain Fields if they do not find a trade offer to their liking, but a trade is their preference. Previous reports have indicated that the team would finalize its QB plan one way or another by the start of the scouting combine (which opens tomorrow), and it sounds as if that plan is indeed to seek a suitor for Fields. Biggs says there is no disconnect on that point between GM Ryan Poles and team president Kevin Warren.

Expect plenty more Chicago-related rumors this week as team brass discusses its incumbent passer — and perhaps the No. 1 selection in the upcoming draft — with rival clubs.

Raiders “Very Unlikely” To Pursue Justin Fields?

The Raiders are one of the few QB-needy teams that don’t possess a top-three pick and don’t have exclusive negotiating rights with a starting-caliber option. As a result, they’ve been mentioned as a natural suitor for Bears QB Justin Fields. However, The Athletic’s Vic Tafur dismisses that notion, stating that it’s “very unlikely” the Raiders pursue Fields.

[RELATED: Raiders Interested In Acquiring No. 1 Pick]

Tafur’s logic mostly surrounds the presence of new Raiders offensive coordinator Luke Getsy, who guided the Bears’ offense for the past two years. Following disappointing results between 2022 and 2023, Getsy was let go by Chicago, but that didn’t stop Antonio Pierce from bringing him on the Raiders staff.

As Tafur notes, the Raiders hired Getsy because of his previous pass-game work in Green Bay and his creative “run-game concepts” in Chicago, with Pierce and the organization chalking up the Bears’ offensive struggles to the player under center. The team has apparently already made up their mind about who was to blame in Chicago, and it doesn’t sound like they have any interest in replicating that arrangement in Las Vegas.

Jimmy Garoppolo isn’t expected to be back with the Raiders next season, and despite Aidan O’Connell’s solid showing as a starter, the 2023 fourth-round pick won’t just be handed the reins in 2024. While a few signs point to the Raiders pursuing a veteran QB via free agency, it sounds like the organization will be more aggressive in moving up in the draft.

We heard recently that the Raiders were eyeing a move for the first-overall pick, although the Bears are expected to require a historic haul for the selection. Pierce’s connections to Jayden Daniels, who was at Arizona State during the new Raiders HC’s time with the Sun Devils, have also emerged. With Caleb Williams likely going No. 1, the Raiders wouldn’t have to deal with Chicago’s trade demands in that scenario. Still, if the Raiders are truly interested in the LSU product, they’d have to find a way to move up from their current No. 13 draft position.

Bears Gauging Justin Fields’ Trade Value, Expected To Finalize QB Plan By Combine

Ryan Poles broke with tradition by moving the No. 1 overall pick before free agency last year. The Bears and Panthers finalized their swap involving the 2023 top selection on March 10. It does not look like Chicago will delay its latest decision involving a No. 1 choice much longer.

Both Poles and president Kevin Warren have described this as a unique situation, and while the Bears have offered praise for their three-year starting quarterback, the likelihood of a reset around Caleb Williams remains. The Bears are meeting about their QB situation, and SI.com’s Albert Breer indicates the expectation is a plan is expected to emerge by the time clubs gather at the Combine next week.

[RELATED: Bears Would Seek ‘Historic Haul’ For No. 1 Pick]

The Bears received inquiries on Justin Fields at the Senior Bowl last month, Breer adds, and while the team has not shopped its three-year starter, those discussions in Mobile helped shape the Chicago incumbent QB’s trade value. A late-season report pegged Fields as being worth at least a Day 2 pick, probably more.

A handful of teams will send reps to Indianapolis knowing a quarterback pickup resides as the centerpiece of their respective offseason plans. It is likely one such club — presumably a team that does not hold a top-three draft choice that could address a deficiency without trading up — will end up with Fields. That team will, then, need to make a decision on the 2021 No. 11 overall pick’s fifth-year option by May 2. An acquiring team could still have Fields tied to a $6MM cap number in 2024, providing some additional evaluation time.

This situation still reminds of a higher-profile version of the Jets’ 2021 outlook. The Jets did not, however, pull the trigger on moving Sam Darnold until April 5, 2021. While some in the organization backed a plan in which the team would keep Darnold, Zach Wilson became the team’s eventual preference. That swap involved a No. 2 overall pick, as the Jaguars held the top choice that year (Trevor Lawrence). The Bears having the No. 1 pick and Williams access further decreases the likelihood they will stick with a QB that still carries significant questions regarding his future as a passer.

Moving Fields before free agency would stand to boost the trade return, as more teams will need passers by then compared to the Bears following the Jets’ 2021 timetable. New York’s plan obviously backfired, though Darnold has not shown himself to be a long-term starter option elsewhere. But Chicago has the rare opportunity to add an impact talent at No. 1, pick up assets for its starter and use the No. 9 overall pick to bolster its roster around Williams. The 2022 Heisman winner will be tied to a rookie contract until at least 2026, giving the Bears some interesting opportunities — should they go this route as expected. Poles passing on the 2023 and ’24 QB classes to stick with Fields could certainly threaten his job security, should the Ryan Pace-era draftee fail to match the likes of Williams and C.J. Stroud.

Customary in situations involving uncertainty about a player’s future with a team, Fields has unfollowed the Bears on Instagram (h/t the New York Post). Such developments barely qualify as newsworthy anymore, given the rate at which disgruntled players go to this well. But it is certainly possible Fields is dealt before the legal tampering period begins March 11. That will give at least one team QB clarity ahead of a market that may well feature Kirk Cousins and Baker Mayfield respectively re-sign with the Vikings and Buccaneers.

The Falcons, Raiders and Steelers profile as teams who would make sense as Fields suitors. Atlanta has already been connected to the Georgia native, despite passing on him for Kyle Pitts at No. 4 overall three years ago. Mike Tomlin has been mentioned as a Fields fan, though a recent report indicated Pittsburgh is not likely to target a passer who would displace Kenny Pickett atop the depth chart. The team is eyeing a competition between Pickett and a veteran. The Raiders now have Luke Getsy in place as OC, and the two-year Bears play-caller has praised Fields. But Antonio Pierce‘s team also has been closely tied to Jayden Daniels, due to the new Las Vegas HC’s past at Arizona State with the 2023 Heisman winner.

With concerns about the 2025 QB draft class emerging, a team removing itself from that future pursuit — via a Fields trade — makes sense. So long as the acquiring club is convinced Fields’ 2023 development is a sign he can be a long-term option. That mystery team may reveal itself soon.

Kevin Warren Addresses Justin Fields’ Status

The Bears’ journey to determining their 2024 starting quarterback continues. After the team reached an agreement to trade the No. 1 overall pick to the Panthers before free agency started last year, fans should be on the lookout for a Justin Fields move soon. The Bears trading their three-year starter and keeping the pick remains the likely path, but they have not yet committed one way or another here.

It would surprise to see Chicago trade the top pick for a second straight year, given the buzz Caleb Williams has generated as a prospect. The team could, however, fetch more in a trade for that draft pick than it could obtain in a Fields swap. That adds intrigue to the team’s decision, with contractual matters a key factor as well.

I’m a supporter of Justin because I got a chance to work with him when I was commissioner of the Big Ten conference,” Bears president Kevin Warren said during a WGN interview (via NBC Sports Chicago). “He is incredibly talented. He is smart. He works hard. And he wants to be a great NFL football player. And now he just needs to make sure he has the support around him. 

… Justin has a rare combination of intelligence, of size, of strength and speed. You forget how big of a man he is until you’re up on him. He’s not a small man. I just think every year he’s going to continually get better.”

Warren, who initially observed Fields during his two-year run as Ohio State’s starter, represents an important part of this process. Although GM Ryan Poles runs the Bears’ front office, Warren serves as the bridge between ownership and the team’s football ops. Poles said last month the Bears were in a unique situation with regards to their quarterback decision. It is not known how much input Warren will provide the third-year GM on this front. Given Poles’ job description, any pushback from the second-year president would be notable.

One of the things about Ryan and I’s working relationship is the fact that we’re in this together,” Warren said. “I know he’s spending every single day thinking about not only that decision but also who to draft at No. 9 and our current roster and what we’re gonna do in free agency, what we’re doing from a contract negotiation standpoint. I’m sure he’s already starting to play out the draft in his mind.

I look forward to going to the Combine here later this month and then getting the chance to spend some time together because we’re in a very, very unique space in time in the Bears.”

The Bears hired Warren in January 2023, bringing him in a year after hiring Poles and HC Matt Eberflus. While Warren was initially described as a strictly business-side addition, rumblings about the former Lions and Vikings exec playing a part on the football side emerged. Warren did not shake up the Poles-Eberflus partnership this offseason, and the former Big Ten commissioner is believed to have a good relationship with the team’s GM. It would be fascinating if the two power brokers disagreed regarding this seminal decision, but nothing on that front has surfaced during the Bears’ latest will-they/won’t-they saga associated with trading a No. 1 overall pick.

This franchise has not made a No. 1 overall draft choice since 1947, and a weekend report indicated it would take a “historic haul” for a team to pry this year’s top choice from the Bears. Chicago punted on drafting Bryce Young, C.J. Stroud or Anthony Richardson last year. Poles made Fields his offseason centerpiece. Though Poles did not draft Fields, his 2023 offseason choice will matter. With the Bears having secured the top pick once again — thanks to the Panthers’ 2-15 season — Poles has another chance.

A few teams are in need at quarterback but lack a top-three pick. The Falcons (No. 8), Broncos (No. 12) and Raiders (No. 13) are the three that do not currently have exclusive negotiating rights with a starter-caliber option (Russell Wilson‘s status notwithstanding; he remains on track to be released); the Vikings (No. 11) and Buccaneers (No. 26) do. Leading up to last year’s free agency, Poles engaged in talks with a few teams — most notably discussing a three-team deal with Houston and Carolina — before dealing the pick to the Panthers.

The Bears are weighing Fields’ trajectory and upcoming fifth-year option price against what a future with Williams — the 2022 Heisman winner who has been the clubhouse leader to go No. 1 overall for over a year — would bring. The USC product being on a rookie contract for at least three years would naturally appeal to the Bears, who could fetch at least one Day 2 pick — perhaps more, given the needs of the above-referenced teams — for Fields.

A scenario in which the Bears draft a quarterback at 1 and keep Fields also surfaced as an option recently, but this has long looked like an either/or situation. Warren’s pro-Fields comments should be expected at this juncture, but this remains a central 2024 NFL storyline to follow.

Bears Discussed Pairing Justin Fields With Rookie QB; Falcons On Trade Radar?

When discussing the Bears’ upcoming draft plans, much of the discourse has surrounded two scenarios: they trade the No. 1 pick and continue building around Justin Fields or they trade Fields and select a rookie quarterback with the first-overall selection. There could now be a third scenario: the team keeps Fields and they still select a QB with the first pick.

[RELATED: Bears Seeking “Historic Haul” For No. 1 Pick]

As Albert Breer of SI.com writes, the idea of keeping Fields and selecting a rookie QB is “an intriguing idea that the team has discussed.” While this could simply be a smokescreen by the Bears as they look to pry a “historic haul” for the first-overall pick, there is some merit to the strategy.

As Breer notes, Fields is only due $3.2MM in cash for 2024. Couple that with the hypothetical number-one pick’s rookie salary, and the Bears would still be eyeing one of the least expensive QB corps in the NFL. Further, plenty of teams have redshirted their rookie quarterbacks as they learned the system.

Of course, this tactic has come with varying success, and most teams look to pair a rookie QB with a veteran. Fields, who will be 25 in March, just completed his third NFL season, and you could make an argument that his NFL future is just as bright as any of the top quarterback prospects in this year’s draft.

In other words, it would be a bit surprising if the Bears actively sought a QB competition, especially with the context of Fields’ next contract. In this scenario, the front office would surely lose leverage on both assets, and while they would technically control the process, the team wouldn’t have an infinite amount of time to draw out the process.

While there were some rumblings of a pro-Fields direction, the most recent reports point to the Bears keeping the first-overall pick and trading Fields. The team probably won’t lack for suitors, especially if they only manage to garner offers that are headlined by a Day 2 pick. One team that could emerge in the sweepstakes is the Falcons. NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport, Tom Pelissero, and Mike Garafolo note that Fields is a “name many around the NFL connect to Atlanta.”

The team’s Desmond Ridder experiment in 2023 likely cost Arthur Smith his job, and there’s a good chance Raheem Morris will look for a new face to lead his QB room. The Falcons could also be an option for a rookie QB, although they’d likely have to trade up from No. 8 if they hope to get any of the top prospects at the position.

Bears Seeking “Historic Haul” For No. 1 Pick

Considering the presence of Justin Fields, there’s been some speculation that the Bears could look to move the first-overall pick to a quarterback-needy squad. While the organization isn’t completely shutting the door on a trade, it sounds like it would take a massive haul to pry the pick from Chicago.

[RELATED: Latest On Bears’ Quarterback Decision]

According to NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport, the Bears would require a “historic haul” if they were to consider moving the No. 1 pick. One source told Rapoport that the offer would need to be “crazy,” and the compensation would presumably need to be too good to refuse.

While it’s seeming increasingly likely that the Bears would select USC’s Caleb Williams first-overall and trade their former first-round QB, there was some merit to the opposite route. As Rapoport notes, many within the organization support Fields, and the Bears have been especially pleased with the QB’s development over the past year (one source described Fields’ makeup as “rare”).

Further, the Bears certainly aren’t strangers to trading the top-overall pick. They did so last year in a trade with the Panthers that netted them this year’s first-overall selection. The Bears could theoretically keep adding to their collection of future draft picks, and those rookie salaries would be especially useful as the team navigates a potential Fields extension.

Of course, it’s that contract that will likely play a role in Chicago favoring a rookie QB. Assuming the organization picks up Fields’ fifth-year option, they’d still have their young QB on an affordable salary through the 2025 season. Then, Fields could command one of the most lucrative contracts in the NFL, a deal that might not be palatable for a squad that doesn’t seem all that close to contention.

Further, the Bears aren’t in desperate need of high draft picks following last year’s trade. They’re already armed with both the No. 1 pick and the No. 9 pick in this year’s draft, and they would surely add some draft compensation if they decide to move on from Fields (although the QB isn’t expected to fetch a first-round pick).

General manager Ryan Poles was asked about his tough decision last month. The executive was naturally noncommittal regarding any specific direction, although he did go out of his way to praise Fields.

“We are going to turn every stone to make sure that we are going to make a sound decision for our organization,” Poles said (via Rapoport). “I did think Justin got better. I think he can lead this team. But at the same time, there is a unique situation.”

So what would a historic haul look like? The first-overall pick has been dealt 13 times since 1967, and the last two trades (Bears/Panthers in 2023 that saw Bryce Young go to Carolina and Titans/Rams in 2016 that saw Jared Goff go to Los Angeles) involved at least two first-round picks and two second-round picks in compensation. If a potential suitor doesn’t have any additional first-round selections besides their own, they’d be allowed to trade up to four first-round picks during the actual draft (their current selection plus three future picks).

Latest On Bears’ Quarterback Decision

The Bears would fetch far more by trading the No. 1 overall pick than by trading Justin Fields. Though, other advantages — the prospect value of Caleb Williams and having at least three more years of a rookie contract to build around — still look to be pointing the Bears in the direction of starting over.

While headlines did surface in the pro-Fields direction, they have largely been blunted by the other QB route Chicago can take. Views around the NFL still lend toward Fields being on the move. The consensus at the Senior Bowl centered on the Bears trading Fields, according to the Boston Sports Journal’s Mike Giardi.

After trading the No. 1 pick last year — for a bounty that included D.J. Moore and what turned out to be this year’s top choice — the Bears should not be expected, barring an extraordinary development, to move out of the top slot again, the Chicago Tribune’s Brad Biggs notes. This would almost definitely mean drafting Williams at No. 1.

Kliff Kingsbury‘s Commanders OC hire has invited speculation about a reunion between the recent USC quarterbacks coach and his prized pupil, though the parties only worked together for several months. This would only be relevant if the Bears show a willingness to pass on Williams and take the next-best quarterback at 2. This would be an obvious risk given Williams’ prospect profile.

The concept of the Bears trading down and still grabbing a quarterback represents a farfetched scenario, Biggs adds, though if the team place near-equal grades on the top two prospects, it is conceivable it would entertain a trade-down maneuver. Still, Biggs classifies the prospect of Chicago moving down as “remote.” The team that passed on Patrick Mahomes and Deshaun Watson for Mitch Trubisky will naturally face pressure to nail its upcoming QB decision and find the franchise-level option that has eluded the organization since at least Jim McMahon.

Moving down and being comfortable enough with Drake Maye or Jayden Daniels would be a fascinating call by the Bears, who would then have assets from a Fields trade and from moving down one spot on the board. Then again, Ryan Poles did not draft Fields. Passing on the likes of Bryce Young and C.J. Stroud and then punting on the Williams draft slot would invite scrutiny on Poles, despite his shrewd move to pick up assets from the Panthers. How the Commanders grade the top QB prospects will naturally determine their interest level in moving up to 1. Williams, per The Athletic’s Kevin Fishbain, should still be expected to go first overall — as he has for months.

Fields’ marginal improvement, which led to a lukewarm Poles postseason endorsement (after the GM built his 2023 offseason around Fields developing), and the Commanders’ Kingsbury hire may be tertiary matters regarding the upcoming draft. The Bears’ access to Williams remains the lead story. Fields has shown generational gifts as a runner but has not developed into a passer that would, in the eyes of most, make it a genuine debate between a path with him or Williams as Chicago’s QB1. Fields’ penchant for bailing on plays early frustrated some with the Bears, Giardi adds. He finished this season 23rd in QBR.

After Fields did not move the Bears into playoff contention during his rookie contract, the Bears — or, in all likelihood, another team — must decide on the 2021 first-rounder’s fifth-year option by May. As Fields is set to become more expensive soon, the Bears would have the luxury of keeping Williams on a rookie deal through at least 2026. Williams can be tied to his rookie pact through 2028 via his own fifth-year option.

A December breakdown pegged Fields’ trade value modestly, indicating the Bears would be likely to receive proposals headlined by a Day 2 pick. It would be interesting to see if the Raiders showed interest in the three-year vet, given Fields’ up-and-down tenure alongside Luke Getsy. But Las Vegas is a team in need at the position; that need has since brought the Daniels-Antonio Pierce connection back to the surface. While the Vikings and Broncos also carry needs and reside in similar draft territory (Nos. 11 and 12), Fields would not seem a fit for either Sean Payton or Kevin O’Connell‘s offenses. Now that the Falcons have hired Sean McVay disciple Zac Robinson as OC, Fields’ Atlanta fit may not be optimal. Then again, teams holding picks outside the top three may need to get creative — especially those that do not land Kirk Cousins or Baker Mayfield.

Arthur Smith revamped his offense for Marcus Mariota in 2022, and although the Steelers have Kenny Pickett tentatively installed back atop their depth chart, how Pittsburgh goes about adding competition will be worth monitoring. A Fields trade would not seemingly be competition-focused but rather a move aimed at landing a surefire starter.

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?