The calendar has turned to February. This is often when rumors start getting more intense. The Senior Bowl has arrived, and most NFL teams are at home preparing for next year. No team has been surrounded by more buzz than the Chicago Bears. It isn’t surprising. They have the most salary cap space to spend for free agency and hold the #1 pick in the 2023 draft. There is no telling what direction they may go, and that uncertainty has people alive with excitement and nerves. GM Ryan Poles has kept avenues wide open. He may utilize the #1 pick or trade it. He’s committed to quarterback Justin Fields but admitted his mind could change.
The man is utilizing the off-season playbook to perfect. The more he can keep other teams in the dark, the more nervous they’ll become about his intentions. Jeremy Fowler of ESPN has an interesting update regarding both topics. He seems to confirm the widespread belief Poles is open to trading the #1 pick. He just needs a strong enough offer.
He also had some notes on Fields.
Teams are keeping close tabs on the Bears, who own the No. 1 pick in April’s draft, and the prevailing theme is Poles is very high on value. Despite in-season trades of linebacker Roquan Smith and edge rusher Robert Quinn, Chicago has just eight picks in the draft and only one in the top 50. Poles will most likely aim to change that.
“They still have so many needs, and a trade back — even if only one spot or a few spots — would help them,” an NFC exec said. Having Justin Fields helps Chicago pass on the quarterbacks if it chooses, as the majority believe Chicago will build around Fields in Year 3. But those who expect the Bears to at least consider an alternative over the next two months punctuate this point, via an NFC scout: “Fields proved he’s a weapon but has a ways to go as a quarterback. The Bears must figure out if they can marry those two.”
Chicago Bears will likely view 2023 as do-or-die for Fields.
He will remain the starter. That much seems obvious now. It is the right decision. He showed enough progress this past year to earn the opportunity. Fields handled himself well on and off the field despite tough circumstances. However, there are understandable concerns. His elite running ability masked his frankly mediocre progress as a passer. He still has trouble processing defenses and throwing into tight coverage. There are also the 16 fumbles. Matt Eberflus likely isn’t happy about that. He and Poles know they have to see more progress.
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That is why this off-season will be spent looking to upgrade the offense. Both the offensive line and wide receivers will get lots of attention. More star power and more depth. They want to help Justin Fields as much as possible. If he still struggles as a passer in 2023 despite these efforts, the Bears will have enough evidence to make an informed decision about moving on. If he has a breakout year, they’ll know he’s the guy and can get started on extension plans.
It also feeds into the narrative of trading down. Poles can stockpile picks, including a possible 1st rounder in 2024. If Fields does flop, the Bears would have the ammunition to go after a QB of their preference.