Ryan Poles

Steelers, Russell Wilson Plan To Discuss New Contract After 2024 Season; More On Justin Fields Trade

Despite yesterday’s stunning trade that sent Justin Fields from the Bears to the Steelers, the recently-signed Russell Wilson will remain in place as Pittsburgh’s starting quarterback. Per Ian Rapoport of NFL.com, head coach Mike Tomlin reached out to Wilson before the trade was finalized to let the nine-time Pro Bowler know that his job is safe.

And, according to Gerry Dulac of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Wilson and the Steelers are interested in a multiyear arrangement. While Pittsburgh is paying Wilson the veteran minimum on his one-year deal for 2024 — the Broncos are picking up the rest of Wilson’s $39MM tab — player and team are already planning to explore a “longer deal” at the the end of the season.

It would seem a bit premature to make those types of plans. After all, while Wilson’s second year in Denver was much better than his first, his brief stint with the Broncos was generally a disappointing one. And even if the Steelers do not exercise Fields’ fifth-year option for 2025, it is certainly possible that he impresses enough over the course of the upcoming year to convince Tomlin — long rumored to be a Fields fan — that his newest acquisition is worthy of a new contract and a starting role. Plus, Wilson will be 36 by the end of the 2024 campaign, while Fields just turned 25.

Nonetheless, the fact that these reports are even circulating is evidence of the Steelers’ faith in Wilson. And considering that the club is committing so little salary to him and was able to acquire Fields for a sixth-round draft choice — which will only become a fourth-rounder if Fields plays 51% of Pittsburgh’s offensive snaps in 2024 — the Fields trade will have been worth it even if he simply plays out the season as a high-end insurance policy for Wilson and heads elsewhere next year.

It was not too long ago that Dulac and other Steelers beats unequivocally wrote that the team would not pursue an external addition (like Wilson and Fields) who was eyeing a QB1 role. Per Pro Football Talk, those reports were correct when they were published, but the club has dramatically changed how its views the quarterback position over the past month. During that time, Pittsburgh saw Mason Rudolph sign with the Titans in free agency and subsequently traded Kenny Pickett to the Eagles. Whether Rudolph’s departure is what triggered the shift in organizational philosophy — Dulac et al. had suggested that Rudolph and Pickett could compete for the starting quarterback job in 2024 — is unclear, but one way or another, the Steelers have overhauled their QB room in a short amount of time, and for minimal cost.

Meanwhile, Chicago fans have Caleb Williams to look forward to in the near future, but the club is doubtlessly disappointed that it was unable to fetch a larger return for Fields, the No. 11 overall pick of the 2021 draft. We heard just last week that the Bears were not panicking even when the market for Fields did not develop as hoped, and as Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk opines, the club should have continued exercising patience. If GM Ryan Poles was willing to accept a 2025 draft choice in exchange for Fields, he might have waited until the 2024 draft was over to see which teams were left without a passer. He might even have kept Fields on the roster, at least as a backup, and waited to collect a compensatory draft pick if and when Fields signed with a different club as a free agent next March.

Perhaps, as Florio suggests, Poles felt that he was doing the right thing for Fields by trading him sooner rather than later. Regardless of his rationale, Poles did confirm in a statement after the trade was announced that he had been exploring a deal for weeks.

The statement, issued by the club’s official X feed, reads, “We have engaged in multiple trade conversations in recent weeks and believe trading Justin at this time to Pittsburgh is what is best for both Justin and the Bears. Today we spoke to Justin to inform him of the trade and the rationale behind it for us as a Club. We want to thank him for his tireless dedication, leadership and all he poured into our franchise and community the last three years and wish him the best towards a long and successful NFL career.”

Per ESPN’s Courtney Cronin, five teams contacted the Bears to dicuss a Fields trade, though all of those clubs viewed Fields as a backup. Poles had hoped that the 2021 trade that sent Sam Darnold from the Jets to the Panthers in exchange for a 2021 sixth-rounder, a 2022 second-rounder, and a 2022 fourth-rounder would provide a framework for a Fields deal, but at the time, Carolina clearly viewed Darnold as a starter. Since rival teams did not feel the same way about Fields, Poles elected to resolve the matter quickly and to start the Williams era with a clean slate.

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.

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).

Staff Rumors: Commanders, Smith, Falcons, Bears, Pierce, Raiders, Giants

Among head coaches, Ron Rivera resides as the only true lock to be fired following Week 18. The Commanders‘ new ownership injects mystery into the upcoming search. Josh Harris has been rumored to be intrigued by a setup in which a football operations president-type figure oversees a GM and head coach, and SI.com’s Albert Breer further points to the owner being unlikely to hand the keys to a high-powered HC. Like Bill Belichick, Breer considers Jim Harbaugh an unlikely candidate in Washington. It is not known if Belichick would require personnel control if he ends up elsewhere, but Harbaugh having the leverage of more Michigan extension offers, it is expected the hard-edged HC would need significant input on the personnel front if he were to return to the NFL. So far, the Chargers have been the team most closely linked to luring him back.

Additionally, Breer notes Harris is intrigued by how the Eagles and Ravens’ power structures are set up. The Commanders hired ex-Ravens analytics staffer Eugene Shen as senior VP of football strategy in the fall. While the Eagles lost four staffers to assistant GM roles in 2022, the Ravens have a GM candidate in player personnel director Joe Hortiz. Baltimore’s OC-DC tandem — Todd Monken and Mike Macdonald — is expected to generate HC interest as well.

Going into Week 18, here is the latest from staffs around the NFL:

  • With the Falcons on the doorstep of a third straight 7-10 season, Arthur Smith‘s job status has come up frequently. Vacillating back and forth between being fired or becoming the rare HC to be given a fourth year despite three straight losing seasons, Smith was not exactly given a vote of confidence by Arthur Blank. But the longtime Falcons owner is not believed to be actively seeking changes, per Breer, making it sound like the hope is for Smith and GM Terry Fontenot to show enough to stay on. A one-sided loss to the Saints may well change Blank’s mind. The Falcons can win the NFC South by beating the Saints and the Buccaneers — who also have a coach on the hot seat — losing to the Panthers.
  • Ryan Poles is believed to have a good relationship with new Bears president Kevin Warren, being expected to stay on for a third year as GM. Prior to the Bears‘ rout of the Falcons, Matt Eberflus was linked to being in good standing for a third HC season. While expecting both to stay, Breer notes neither Bears power broker has been assured of a return. Warren has been a wild card in this scenario since he was hired, and the former Big Ten commissioner did not confirm publicly when asked Friday (via the Chicago Sun-Times’ Patrick Finley) if Eberflus would be retained. Eberflus is 10-23 as Bears HC, but the team — which has a rather important quarterback decision to make soon — is 7-5 over its past 12.
  • Raiders leaders Davante Adams, Maxx Crosby and Josh Jacobs would back the retention of interim HC Antonio Pierce, but Mark Davis is believed to be aiming higher. After all, Pierce — who resigned his two-year post as Arizona State DC in 2022 — has far less experience than Raiders DC Patrick Graham. But Pierce’s knowledge of the Raiders’ culture and history does appeal to Davis, Paul Gutierrez of ESPN.com writes, noting these factors matter considerably to the second-generation owner. No team has bumped an interim leader to the full-time post since the Jaguars elevated Doug Marrone in 2017.
  • Giants running backs coach Jeff Nixon is set for a responsibility jump; it will come at the college level. Syracuse hired Nixon as its offensive coordinator Friday. Nixon was in his first season as Giants RBs coach; he had served under Matt Rhule at Baylor and with the Panthers. The Giants hired Nixon last year to replace DeAndre Smith, who left to take the same position with the Colts.

Justin Fields Making Bears’ Decision Difficult; Team Setting Higher Trade Price For 2024 No. 1 Pick?

Barring an unexpected development, Ryan Poles will have the opportunity to consider another trade involving a No. 1 overall pick. The second-year Bears GM is unlikely to be fired, per ESPN.com’s Jeremy Fowler and Courtney Cronin. But a similar decision awaits him once the season ends.

Poles’ 2023 choice equipped the Bears with a haul of draft choices, including a Panthers pick now guaranteed to check in at No. 1 overall, but the young GM has not seen Justin Fields submit an open-and-shut case to stay on for a fourth season. Recommitting to Fields would now require the Bears to trade a No. 1 overall pick for a second straight year. Considering Poles was not with the team when it traded up for Fields in 2021, the stakes attached to the GM’s next decision are even higher.

Since coming back from an early-season injury, Fields has impressed in spurts. The third-year QB is believed to have made the Bears’ decision more difficult, Fowler and Cronin note, but two anonymous GMs said (via the Washington Post’s Jason La Canfora) Chicago should still be expected to draft Caleb Williams — who has not yet officially declared — first overall and trade Fields. A panel of NFL staffers said the same last month, indicating the Ohio State alum would be highly unlikely to fetch the Bears a first-round pick in a 2024 trade.

Fields’ recent spurt aside, his overall body of work would make passing on a prospect like Williams difficult. Chicago’s dual-threat passer is 8-19 as a starter and has struggled in fourth quarters this season. Per ESPN, Fields ranks last out of qualified passers with a 51.8% fourth-stanza completion rate while sitting 30th in QBR in final periods. Since 2021, Fields’ 16 fourth-quarter INTs lead the league. Fields’ run-game brilliance and superior work earlier in games (No. 4 in TD-INT ratio through games’ first three quarters this season) works in his favor, but thus far, more expect the Bears to start over rather than stick here.

If Fields can win what was previously described as an uphill battle and keep his job for 2024 — something that would require the Bears to pick up his fifth-year option by May — Poles will likely view this as a hotter ticket compared to the 2023 top pick. It cost the Panthers D.J. Moore, their Nos. 9 and 61 picks last year, their 2024 first and a 2025 second to move up for Young. Williams’ prospect status topping those of Young or C.J. Stroud points to the Bears setting a higher price, with ESPN.com adding several execs view the USC talent as being worth two future first-rounders and either a Day 2 pick or a veteran on a reasonable contract.

It cost the 49ers two future first-rounders and a third to climb nine spots for Trey Lance. The Eagles gave up a first-rounder, two seconds and two thirds for Jared Goff in 2016. Washington’s price to climb from No. 6 to No. 2 for Robert Griffin III was two future firsts and a second in 2012. It will, then, be worth debating if the Bears are better off continuing to build around Fields and the haul they could receive for the presumptive Williams draft slot or starting over with the 2022 Heisman winner (on rookie-deal money through at least 2026) and whatever they receive in a trade for Fields. Chicago’s incumbent QB would be worth a second- or third-rounder in a pre-draft swap, per Fowler.

The Bears giving up on Fields after three years would match the timeline Mitch Trubisky received. A three-and-done Fields stay would also show how the league has changed since the 2011 CBA reshaped rookie contracts. Rex Grossman was in Chicago for six years, though he did not finish out his tenure as the team’s starter. Despite leading the Bears to just one playoff berth, Jay Cutler stayed as the Bears’ QB1 for eight seasons. With Cutler checking in perhaps just south of the franchise-QB bar, Chicago has been in search of its next such piece since at least Jim McMahon, whose injury troubles shortened his Windy City stay.

These factors complicate Poles’ decision, but he is expected to be the one making it. Fowler and Cronin add Poles has cultivated a good relationship with new president Kevin Warren. A Sunday report indicated Matt Eberflus was more likely than not to stay on, but La Canfora notes the prospect of Warren — who arrived in Chicago after both Eberflus and Poles — firing the two-year HC and starting with a more offensively oriented leader (in the event Williams is drafted) should not be dismissed.

This would represent a tough ending for Eberflus, who has the Bears at 7-5 over their past 12 games. With complications surrounding their front office, coaching staff and quarterback, the upcoming offseason promises to be a seminal stretch for the Bears. Should they give Fields a fourth season or turn to Williams? Is Eberflus capable of becoming a long-term HC answer?

Latest On Justin Fields, Bears’ HC/GM Plans

Upon returning from a dislocated thumb, Justin Fields faced a seven-game audition that would likely determine his post-2023 future in Chicago. Thus far, the 2021 first-round pick has impressed. The Bears have won two straight against division rivals, and Fields put together a solid game in the team’s upset win over the Lions in Week 14.

Before Fields began this final audition of sorts, reports pointed the Bears in different directions regarding their QB future. Multiple mid-November reports indicated the team was more likely to trade Fields and go with a top prospect in the 2024 draft. With the Panthers continuing to struggle and now two games behind the NFL’s second-worst record with four to play, the Bears are closer to having another opportunity to make their choice atop a draft. While Ryan Poles passed on that chance this year, trading the top pick to Carolina, it would represent a bigger risk move another No. 1 choice.

Although a subsequent report pegged the Bears as needing to be “blown away” by a QB prospect to move on from Fields, Yahoo.com’s Charles Robinson spoke with a number of GMs who suggest the Bears’ decision should not be that difficult. Reasons ranging from Caleb Williams‘ prospect profile to cost certainty to the risk of trading No. 1 overall picks in back-to-back years to Poles not being in Chicago when Fields was drafted pointed to the anonymous GMs expecting the team to trade its current quarterback and prepare for the future.

This scenario would remind of the Jets’ 2021 call, which now doubles as a warning to other teams. While some in the Jets’ building advocated for keeping Sam Darnold and passing on drafting Zach Wilson at No. 2 overall two years ago, the Jets centered their future around Wilson by trading Darnold to the Panthers for a three-pick package.

The key difference here being that Williams is a former Heisman winner who has resided as a top-tier prospect for multiple seasons; Wilson, conversely, rocketed toward the top of the ’21 draft board because he impressed against lower-level competition. The COVID-19-altered 2020 season, featuring independent BYU needing to schedule lesser competition, created this scenario. No such variables exist with Williams, though he could not match his dominant 2022 Heisman campaign this year.

Should the Bears follow that Jets plan, the anonymous execs told Robinson that the team should not be expected to fetch a first-round pick in a Fields trade. None of the seven trade proposals featured a first-rounder, though a few included a second. This partially hinges on Fields finishing this season strong. That would undoubtedly increase the run-oriented QB’s trade value while also making Poles’ decision more difficult.

It is still not a lock the Bears have Poles and Matt Eberflus in place to make these decisions. President Kevin Warren, whom the Bears hired in January, represents a wild card. Even if the Panthers provide the Bears with the No. 1 pick, the Washington Post’s Jason La Canfora notes Warren will be expected to seriously consider changes to the coaching staff and front office. We heard this in September, but the Bears have performed better as of late. They are now only one game out of another mediocre NFC pursuit for the No. 7 seed, and La Canfora offers the caveat of a surprise playoff surge taking 2024 HC-GM changes off the table.

Warren is primarily running the Bears’ efforts to secure a new stadium, but the former Big Ten commissioner is expected to weigh in on football matters — like how the team should proceed with the No. 1 pick. Formerly a Lions, Vikings and Rams staffer, Warren is set to evaluate Poles and Eberflus in the offseason. The subject of wanting his own HC will likely come up, according to ProFootballNetwork.com’s Adam Caplan. How that potential motivation would affect Poles remains to be seen, but Eberflus probably joins Fields in needing to prove himself to close out this season.

This is not especially uncommon. New Commanders owner Josh Harris is expected to fire Ron Rivera, while the Broncos both changed HCs a year after hiring a new GM (going from Vic Fangio to Nathaniel Hackett) and then a year after having new ownership (Hackett to Sean Payton). The Panthers fired Rivera during David Tepper‘s second year in charge. The Bears do not have a new owner, but it is clear Warren will be a key decision-maker when it comes time to make a call on staffers. While the Bears are a long shot to extend this late-season recovery to the playoffs, the 2023 squad’s homestretch will be important through a long-term lens.

Bears To Evaluate HC Matt Eberflus During Offseason; Team Interested In Eric Bieniemy?

The Bears have had an up-and-down season in Year 2 under head coach Matt Eberflus. As a result, his name has been floated as a candidate to be replaced this offseason, but it remains to be seen if the team’s front office will authorize a change.

Both Eberflus and general manager Ryan Poles will be evaluated after the 2023 season, Dianna Russini of The Athletic reports (subscription required). New president Kevin Warren has signficant sway in the team’s direction, and Russini notes he has spent his time in Chicago “getting a feel for the organization.” Warren will have a major say with respect to changes on the sidelines and in the front office, but the Eberflus-Poles pairing still has time to make a positive impression.

The Bears currently sit at 4-8 on the season, one in which improvement from last season’s tear-down campaign was expected. Chicago began the year with five losses out of the first six games, but a 3-3 record since then has likely helped the cause for Eberflus, Poles and quarterback Justin Fields to remain in their current positions. The latter could easily be replaced this spring given the Bears’ strong chance of owning the No. 1 pick in the 2024 draft, but he appears to still have the backing of the team at this point.

Nevertheless, it would not come as a shock if Eberflus were to be let go after the campaign. In that event, a number of candidates would no doubt be on the team’s radar. One of those is Eric Bieniemy, Josina Anderson of CBS Sports reports. The longtime Chiefs offensive coordinator took the OC position in Washington this offseason in a move which granted him play-calling duties and the added title of assistant head coach.

In the eyes of many, it also set Bieniemy up for his first NFL head coaching position in the event he were to remain with the Commanders in 2024 and beyond. Current head coach Ron Rivera is widely believed to be on the way out at the conclusion of this season, and Bieniemy’s work with respect to developing second-year passer Sam Howell has drawn praise. The Commanders rank 10th in the league in total offense despite a mediocre ground game, but the team’s defense has floundered in recent weeks in particular and resulted in a 4-9 record.

The Bears are in a similar position in the win-loss column, but improved play on defense – Eberflus’ familiarity dating back to his coordinator days – has been evident at times in recent games. Chicago ranks 11th in yards allowed per game this season (319) and first against the run (79). Eberflus has served as the defensive play-caller since the sudden resignation of DC Alan Williams in September. That move, along with the acquisition and extension of defensive end Montez Sweat, has not yielded a strong performance in the pass-rush department, however.

Eberflus and Poles were mentioned in a September report as being on the hot seat, but the former later expressed the support he had received from the organization. Plenty is still to be determined over the closing weeks of the season, but the Bears’ organizational direction will be a major storyline to watch upon the conclusion of the campaign. With the prospect of two top-10 picks in April’s draft, the team’s HC position could be an attractive one for Bieniemy if he were to find himself in consideration for the job, though he could also receive interest from other teams this offseason.

Bears Will Have To Be “Blown Away” By Top QB Prospect To Move On From Justin Fields; Latest On GM Ryan Poles, HC Matt Eberflus

Recent reports have suggested that the Bears, who seem like a sure bet to have two top-10 picks in the 2024 draft, will select a quarterback in the first round. However, Ian Rapoport of NFL.com writes that Chicago will have to be “blown away” by a quarterback prospect to pull the trigger and move on from incumbent Justin Fields.

That is the same mindset that general manager Ryan Poles and head coach Matt Eberflus had when embarking on their first offseason with the Bears in 2022. The duo inherited Fields from Chicago’s prior regime, but at the time, the Ohio State product had just finished his rookie campaign, and it made sense to give him some time to live up to his own lofty draft status (Fields was the No. 11 overall pick of the 2021 draft).

Since then, Fields has firmly cemented himself as a tremendous weapon when carrying the ball while proving to be more of a mixed bag as a passer. He has missed the Bears’ last four contests due to a dislocated thumb, and he will have the final seven games of the season to convince the organization to use its draft assets on non-quarterback talent. Eberflus believes that represents enough of an audition opportunity to determine Fields’ future with the franchise.

“I think seven weeks is enough time to show consistency and for him to be the high performer that we expect him to be,” Eberflus said (h/t Courtney Cronin of ESPN.com). “I know he’s had some good performances this year, certainly the last few have been solid.”

Of course, even if Fields performs well down the stretch, he may not stick in Chicago. By virtue of their 2023 trade with the Panthers, who presently have a 1-8 record, the Bears could find themselves in position to draft a collegiate QB like USC’s Caleb Williams or UNC’s Drake Maye without even having to trade up the board. Those players are widely believed to be generational talents, and assuming that the club agrees with the prevailing industry assessment — in other words, if Poles and Eberflus are “blown away” by at least one of Williams and Maye — Fields’ upcoming audition could really be a showcase for other teams.

A September report, which surfaced when the Bears were mired in a 13-game losing streak, suggested that both Eberflus and Poles were on the hot seat, and if ownership moves on from them at the end of the year, it obviously does not matter what they think of Fields or the top quarterbacks in the 2024 class. Fortunately for the power brokers, the Bears have gone 3-3 over their last six games, and Brad Biggs of the Chicago Tribune makes it sounds as if Poles will return in 2024 and will be using the remainder of the season not only to evaluate Fields, but to evaluate Eberflus. Indeed, Biggs says Poles will need to determine if he wants a more offensive-minded coach — which could be especially relevant if he drafts Williams or Maye — and will want to see if the team remains competitive under Eberflus’ watch.

New team president Kevin Warren will obviously have considerable input as to the futures of both Eberflus and Poles.

NFC North Notes: Lions, Bears, Poles, Gary

Graham Glasgow became a cap casualty this offseason, seeing the now-Sean Payton-run Broncos dump his four-year, $44MM contract. The veteran interior lineman had taken a pay cut in 2022, after losing his job (to Quinn Meinerz) following an injury absence. Glasgow returned to the Lions, who had drafted him in 2016, on a one-year deal worth $2.75MM deal. Given backup money, Glasgow indeed began the season as a utility man. But the Lions have needed to use the eighth-year veteran at three positions this season, with injuries sidelining Jonah Jackson, Frank Ragnow and Halapoulivaati Vaitai. Glasgow has done enough to remain a starter when the unit is at full strength, Dan Campbell said (via the Detroit Free Press’ Dave Birkett).

Glasgow, 30, has started the past six games and done so at left guard, right guard and center. Moving forward, Glasgow will be Detroit’s RG starter. Vaitai won that job out of training camp but needed time off after an early-season injury. While Vaitai is back after knee and back maladies, the 2020 free agency pickup has not showed top form upon returning. Pro Football Focus grades Glasgow as the No. 5 overall guard. The former third-round pick now has the opportunity to use this season to fetch a nice contract in free agency once again, though the Lions could also have interest in retaining him. The team removed a year from Vaitai’s contract, amid a pay cut that followed his missed 2022, and has Jackson in a contract year. The Lions have some questions at guard moving forward.

Here is the latest from the NFC North:

  • Although the Bears have since extended Montez Sweat, executives took issue with GM Ryan Poles‘ pre-deadline strategy. One anonymous GM said (via the Washington Post’s Jason La Canfora) the move of indicating Jaylon Johnson was available barely 12 hours before the deadline did not give teams enough time to gauge his trade value, assess the player’s future or negotiate a contract. A report indicating the Bears would let Johnson’s camp seek a trade — after Bears extension talks were not progressing — came out just after midnight CT on Oct. 31. The Bears ended up keeping Johnson, and Poles has said the team wants to keep the contract-year cornerback. No team has franchise-tagged a corner since the Rams cuffed Trumaine Johnson in 2017, but Chicago does have the tag available with Sweat signed days after that trade.
  • The Bears obtained Sweat from the Commanders for a second-round pick. The above-referenced GM said the Falcons were on track to land Sweat for a third-round pick before Poles put the Bears’ second-rounder on the table. Atlanta is believed to have increased its offer twice in response. Another anonymous GM told La Canfora the Bears should have been selling at the deadline. While execs did not agree with the Bears giving up a pick likely to land in the 30s for Sweat, the team proceeded this way for Chase Claypool last year and now has an upper-echelon edge defender signed long term.
  • Weeks after seeing DC Alan Williams step away, the Bears fired running backs coach David Walker, per The Athletic’s Kevin Fishbain and Adam Jahns. Workplace behavior led to Walker’s dismissal, ESPN.com’s Courtney Cronin adds. The Bears’ HR department had previously disciplined Walker, according to Cronin, with the second infraction leading to the firing. Matt Eberflus hired Walker, 53, last year. HR was also involved in Williams’ exit; the two matters are unrelated. Omar Young is now coaching Chicago’s RBs.
  • Rashan Gary‘s four-year, $96MM Packers extension calls for a $34.6MM signing bonus, which represents the fifth-year outside linebacker’s guarantee. Additionally, Gary will collect a $6.2MM roster bonus on Day 3 of the 2024 league year, according to OverTheCap. On Day 3 of the 2025 league year, Gary will earn an $8.7MM roster bonus.
  • The Lions bumped linebacker Trevor Nowaske up to their active roster due to another team’s effort to poach him off the practice squad, Campbell said. A rookie UDFA out of Saginaw Valley State (Mich.), Nowaske joined Detroit’s active roster last week.

Bears Eyeing Major Staff Changes?

While the Matt NagyRyan Pace regime showed early issues, the Bears did not produce a losing season until the fourth and final year of that partnership. Although circumstances are a bit different for Matt Eberflus and Ryan Poles, the team is in a worse spot than it was during the previous duo’s run.

The Bears have now lost 13 straight games, and their defense has cratered under Eberflus, a defensive-oriented head coach. Alan Williams, the defensive coordinator who followed Eberflus from Indianapolis, lasted only 18 games with the team. Inappropriate conduct on Williams’ part is believed to have occurred, and the Bears’ defense has taken significant steps back since Eberflus arrived. While the Bears have gutted the nucleus that helped Mitch Trubisky pilot the team to two playoff berths, it finished last in points allowed in 2022 and ranks 31st this season.

Following Williams’ exit and Justin Fields making comments about the coaching staff’s role in his struggles — a point the third-year QB attempted to walk back — Poles addressed the state of the team. The Bears are early in the Poles-run rebuild, but a new president — ex-Big Ten commissioner Kevin Warren — is in place. A growing suspicion exists in league circles Warren is already considering rebooting the operation, Jason La Canfora of the Washington Post notes.

Fields ranks last in QBR, sitting nearly six points behind Zach Wilson, through three games. The Poles regime did not draft Fields, who threatened to break Lamar Jackson‘s single-season QB rushing record last season, but has a clear stake in his future. The Bears traded away the No. 1 overall pick, showing a belief in Fields over an investment in the likes of Bryce Young or C.J. Stroud. Chicago should be well-positioned for the 2024 draft, holding their own pick and Carolina’s. Another QB investment may be necessary, but it will be worth wondering if this regime will be in place to make the picks by then.

One GM told La Canfora that Warren has seen enough to know change needs to take place. The Bears do not fire coaches in-season, and it would represent a quick trigger to dump Poles so early in his rebuild effort. But two-and-done coaches are standard practice in the NFL. Quick GM hooks are less common, though these moves have taken place in the recent past. The Jets dropped John Idzik after his second season, while the Texans canned Brian Gaine midway through his second offseason.

Warren arrived in January, succeeding longtime team president Ted Phillips. The latter was in his final months on the job when Poles and Eberflus were hired, and La Canfora notes Bill Polian played a lead role in the hires. The Bears have kept their organizational workflow in place from the Phillips era, with Warren stationed as the buffer between ownership and the football ops department. Warren would have the power to fire the second-year GM-HC duo and lead the next search. Not directly in charge of the Bears’ football ops, Warren is believed to have a role on that side.

The Bears have not had a two-and-done HC since Marc Trestman, who was fired after the 2014 season. Trestman also stands as the Bears’ only two-and-done period since the 1970 merger. Trestman went 13-19. Poles should be considered on safer ground, but Eberflus — now in place as the Bears’ defensive play-caller — should certainly be viewed as a hot-seat occupant given recent developments.