The Chicago Bears have endured a frustrating past decade, which has only recently started to transform into some semblance of hope that the Illinois franchise may be able to obtain long-lasting success in the National Football League.
A New Quarterback Heading To Chicago?
Having traded away the first overall pick in 2023, only to eventually receive the first overall pick, once again, in 2024 from the trade package, the Bears are in a strong position to select both their quarterback of the future and bolster their rapidly improving roster, with Chicago’s own draft pick a top 10 selection this year.
And despite initial reports of Caleb Williams, the prospect primed to be taken first overall, being hesitant to play for the Chicago Bears, at this point it seems likely that Williams will be a Bear come this May.
— Bears Wire (@TheBearsWire) February 5, 2024
What Is The Future For Justin Fields?
This leaves a small issue of the Chicago Bears’ incumbent QB, former 11th overall pick, Justin Fields, who showed improvement – along with the entire Bears team, over the course of the second half of the season.
However, Fields’ performance over the year still left much to be desired, accumulating just 2,562 passing yards to go alongside his impressive 657 yards rushing, 16 touchdowns and 9 interceptions for a mediocre 86.3 passer rating. The Bears ranked 27th in passing yards, despite GM Ryan Poles putting a premium on Fields’ improvement in the passing game prior to the season.
So it seems like Fields will have to find pastures anew to get an opportunity to once again be the starter for an NFL franchise, which many still believe he is capable of doing, and the latest potential destination for Fields is the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, per NBC Sports Chicago’s Alex Shapiro.
Chicago Bears Trading Justin Fields To The Tampa Bay Buccaneers?
In his latest mock trade, he projects that Chicago could trade Justin Fields to Tampa Bay, replacing newly minted Pro Bowl MVP, Baker Mayfield. In this scenario both teams would receive the following:
Chicago Bears: 26th overall pick in 2023 NFL Draft
Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Justin Fields, 122 overall pick in 2023 NFL Draft (4th round)
In his explanation for why the Bucs would be keen to acquire Fields and not re-sign the Comeback Player of the Year finalist, Baker Mayfield, Shapiro writes:
“The Bucs exceeded expectations with Baker Mayfield in 2023, and that helped Mayfield bump up his value for 2024. But the Bucs would rather pay a more dynamic QB in this mock draft universe and make a deal for Fields. The Bears send a fourth-round pick to Tampa Bay to sweeten the deal.”
Shapiro’s reasoning is not entirely off: Baker has earned a contract that will, in all likelihood, be in excess of $30-35 million dollars at the very minimum, and quite possibly something more similar to what Daniel Jones and Geno Smith signed around this time last year.
Fields, however, has two remaining years on his rookie deal – if whichever team he is on come the summer decides to pick up his 5th year option, which is projected to be around $22 million fully guaranteed, still markedly lower than Mayfield’s likely future deal.
Baker Mayfield Or Justin Fields?
So, if the option remains either an up-and-down quarterback, owed a large-ish contract after a good year, or a quarterback with two discounted years remaining, who has shown upside despite being surrounded by a dysfunctional organization, a poor pass protecting offensive line (ranked 26th in adjusted sack rate DVOA) and a poor scheme fit with Luke Getsy, the Bucs could well choose upside and potential over a potentially limited ceiling with Mayfield.
However, that does beg the question; is Fields really worth a 1st round pick? A late second, maybe. A third to take a flyer, sure. But to give up your premium pick in the draft for a mostly unproven, inconsistent passer, especially whilst letting go of someone who has shown they can perform to high levels on the biggest stages, such was the Bucs’ demolishing of last year’s NFC champions, the Philadelphia Eagles.
It will be interesting to see how this saga eventually plays out; will Chicago actually trade Fields, what compensation they receive for him, and which team will be willing to part with reasonable draft capital in order to land him.