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What’s behind all this talk about the Bears trading Justin Fields?

By newadmin / Published on Friday, 13 Jan 2023 05:44 AM / No Comments / 3 views


The Chicago Bears have the No. 1 pick and their franchise quarterback … or do they?

In his season wrap-up press conference this week, Bears general manager Ryan Poles was, predictably, pressed about his passer predicament.

He, in fact, brought up quarterback Justin Fields in his introductory remarks unprompted, giving a generic evaluation of the developing player.

“I thought Justin did a good job,” said Poles. “I thought we changed a lot. We adapted. We tried to put him in a position to be successful. He showed the ability to be a playmaker, be impactful. He can change games quickly.”

It’s all true. Fields finished his second NFL season with 1,143 rushing yards, just 63 yards shy of Lamar Jackson‘s single-season record for a quarterback. It was good for the seventh-highest rushing total of any player — yes, even running backs — in the league in 2022. Fields was the Bears’ offense, just not in the traditional way a quarterback normally is.

“I think I talked about when I first got here: I wasn’t fired up how we protected the quarterback in terms of getting him off the ground and that attitude and that physicality,” Poles said. “He’s a reason why we ran the ball so well. We finished. We had an attitude. We had an identity. That’s a lot because of guys like him.”

What should Bears do with No. 1 pick?

This is the first time the Bears own the No. 1 pick since 1947. Colin Cowherd suggests what Chicago should do with it, including trading down in the draft.

But, as the old saying goes, “You can’t have it all,” and Fields was no exception. While he broke multiple rushing records both league-wide and within the Bears franchise, his passing stats also set records, and not the good kind.

Fields had just 2,242 passing yards, completing 192 of 318 pass attempts for 17 touchdowns and 11 interceptions through 15 games. The Bears had the league’s worst passing offense by a wide margin and scored an average of just 19.2 points per game.

“Does he have room to grow?” Poles asked rhetorically. “He does. He has to get better as a passer, and I’m excited to see him take those steps as we move forward.”

Poles went on to specify he’s looking for things to slow down for Fields and for him to be able to react and anticipate more quickly.

“Obviously with that, we also have to continue to build around him so that he can do that consistently, as well,” he said.

Therein lies the key to Fields’ position with the club. Are they willing to continue to be patient and invest more resources to help him reach his potential? Don’t forget: Poles didn’t draft Fields. He was inherited. And while Poles is more than acquainted with Fields at this point, is his performance this season enough to have “sold” him that the GM is willing to put his own neck on the line for the QB? Because that’s what’s at stake here. If general managers are going to die on a hill, they more often than not want to die on their own hills.

Now, add the fact that Poles has every resource at his disposal to acquire as many hills as he wants and the additional capital he could get in a trade of Fields, and it’s no wonder that speculation is starting to swirl that the Bears may be in the market for a quarterback with the No. 1 pick after all.

“We’re going to do the same as we’ve always done,” said a noncommittal Poles. “We’re going to evaluate the draft class, and I would say this: I would have to be absolutely blown away to make that type of decision.”

That’s not shutting the door. And for all we know, he could be blown away by Alabama‘s Bryce Young or Ohio State‘s C.J. Stroud.

Or … Poles is slyly planting the seed that the Bears might take a quarterback in order to bolster the return for trading the No. 1 pick.

It’s simple. There are two quarterback-needy teams in the top four picks. The Bears aren’t supposed to be one, but the Texans are. The Cardinals have already committed a ton of money to Kyler Murray in his new contract (and he’s about the most consistent thing left in Arizona after the team fired the head coach and general manager), so they’re out of the quarterback race. Then there’s the Indianapolis Colts, who could very much use a quarterback after the Matt Ryan disaster and probably don’t want to (and can’t) commit a large salary to the position.

The fact that Houston needs a quarterback could already be enough incentive for the Colts or another team to jump ahead of the Texans and trade with the Bears. But if you think you also have to convince Chicago not to take a quarterback, meaning they wouldn’t trade Fields for extra capital, then maybe you throw in an extra pick or a player to sweeten the deal. 

Poles could very well drive home that any team wanting a quarterback has to come up and get one, and can’t wait around until pick three with the Cardinals. Ideally for Chicago, the Colts are the trade partner and the Bears end up with a defensive cornerstone like Alabama edge rusher Will Anderson or Georgia DL Jalen Carter with the No. 4 pick and a pretty hefty haul of other picks to plug some of their many other holes.

However this goes will be a defining moment for Poles and his staff, and he could already be showing he’s three steps ahead by trading three spots down.

Carmen Vitali covers the NFC North for FOX Sports. Carmen had previous stops with The Draft Network and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. She spent six seasons with the Bucs, including 2020, which added the title of Super Bowl Champion (and boat-parade participant) to her résumé. You can follow Carmen on Twitter at @CarmieV.

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