NFL Rumors: Bears try to save face after terrible return in Justin Fields trade

Chicago Bears general manager Ryan Poles attempted to quell the unrest by explaining why the team received such poor compensation for quarterback Justin Fields.

San Francisco 49ers v Chicago Bears
San Francisco 49ers v Chicago Bears / Michael Reaves/GettyImages

The Chicago Bears have traded quarterback Justin Fields. That statement was expected — perhaps even inevitable — since Chicago clinched the No. 1 overall pick in the 2024 NFL Draft.

The details of the trade, however, have been jarring. The Bears traded their beloved quarterback to the Pittsburgh Steelers for a conditional sixth-round draft pick in 2025. The pick will convert to a fourth-round selection if Fields plays more than half of Pittsburgh's offensive snaps during the 2024 regular season. Still, the compensation pales in comparison to the expected value. In February, ESPN's Adam Schefter said Chicago could "definitely" receive a second-round draft pick in return for Fields. A panel of coaches and executives agreed, according to The Athletic.

Bears GM Ryan Poles attempts to explain trade value for Justin Fields

Bears general manager Ryan Poles attempted to quell the unrest by explaining the decision.

"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," Poles said in a statement. "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."

There were five teams interested in acquiring Justin Fields, according to ESPN. At the NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis, Poles said he wanted to "do right" by Fields, which meant finding a destination where he could develop and compete for playing time. The Bears had additional offers with better draft capital, but those teams had established starting quarterbacks. The Bears elected to send Fields to Pittsburgh with the hope of putting the 25-year-old in a position to continue his development as Russell Wilson's backup and eventual successor.

While Poles may have genuinely wanted to do what was best for Fields, his job is to do what's in the best interest of the team. While being considerate of Fields will go a long way with players, it's hard to believe that Chicago would pass on a second- or third-round pick due to kindness. The Bears didn't anticipate the market well enough to maximize Fields' value. The number of interested teams rapidly dwindled as quarterbacks Kirk Cousins, Russell Wilson, and Sam Darnold quickly filled quarterback vacancies across the league.

The Bears selected Fields with the 11th overall in the 2022 NFL Draft. He finished his three-year tenure in Chicago with a 10-28 record as a starter.

Fields is entering the final year of his rookie contract but Pittsburgh has until May 2 to exercise the fifth-year option attached to his deal. Although Fields has a low cap hit of $6 million for the 2024 NFL season, the fully guaranteed fifth-year option is projected to be worth roughly $22 million. Fields' projected market value is a six-year contract worth up to $283.1 million, per Spotrac. That would be a lot to invest in a quarterback that hasn't done much to instill confidence during his time in the league. 

For three years, Fields tantalized Chicago's fans with electrifying performances that often suggested that he was on the brink of a breakthrough. The breakthrough never came, and his struggles with processing the field overshadowed his playmaking talent. Fields' inability to process the field led to him holding onto the ball for an average of 3.18 seconds after the snap, which is the longest time to throw over the past three years, per NFL Next Gen Stats. Only Russell Wilson (100) and Fields (99) have been sacked more than 80 times since the start of 2022, according to ESPN Stats & Info.

"He still leaves too many throws on the field," Greg Cosell said on the Ross Tucker Podcast. "He doesn't consistently see it or process it with the needed clarity and speed, but obviously he gives you a designed run game dimension, he gives you the scramble dimension, and he's arguably the fastest straight-line quarterback in the league right now. ... He's got a little bit of an elongated delivery that at times makes him a beat late with throws that demand precise timing. So he's an interesting quarterback because the special plays are special, but too many routine ones are missed."

Chicago has not experienced quarterback stability since Sid Luckman helped head coach George Halas revolutionize the passing game in the 1940s. Once again, the Bears will look to take another shot as finding their savior. Next up to the plate is USC quarterback Caleb Williams.

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