Chicago Bears quarterback Justin Fields’ stock has never been higher than it is right now, and if the Bears don’t see him as the long-term answer under center, as the saying goes, it is best to strike (a deal) when the iron’s hot.
Fields is coming off his second straight four touchdown performance after Chicago dismantled the Washington Commanders, 40-20, in their own house Thursday night. Waking up Friday morning, Fields was tied for the NFL-lead in touchdown passes with fellow NFC North quarterback Kirk Cousins (11) and stood sixth overall in passing yards on the season (1,143) — ahead of folks like Patrick Mahomes, Josh Allen and Justin Herbert in both categories.
Quarterback play is king in today’s NFL, and Fields’ meteoric rise over the last two weeks puts the Bears in a precarious position, one where they are poised to trade, quite possibly, the first player in the history of their franchise that possesses multi-pro bowl caliber talent at the quarterback position.
Chicago sports fans will surely bemoan this take, but it makes too much sense to not — at least — consider the possibilities.
Besides their own first round selection in next year’s draft, the Bears also own the rights to the Carolina Panthers first round pick after their deal last off-season that sent the Panthers the no. 1 overall selection in exchange for a bevy of picks and star wide receiver D.J. Moore.
If Chicago moved on from Fields right now — at the height of him proving he’s not only an elite running quarterback, but also one who can stand in the pocket and deliver the football — there are several teams that could offer them a first round pick (and more) over the next two drafts.
Those teams — in no particular order — are the Atlanta Falcons, New England Patriots and New York Jets.
Each team still has controlling rights to their first round picks over the next two drafts, and are in less-than-desirable situations when it comes to who’s calling plays under center.
There has already been some trade destination buzz around the Falcons pursuing Fields, in light of their 1-3 start and Desmond Ridder playing like a bottom five quarterback in the NFL.
ESPN’s Mike Greenberg said on Get Up earlier this week that, “If Justin Fields was the quarterback of the Atlanta Falcons right this minute, they would be a thousand times better off.”
Like New York, Atlanta is another team loaded with premium young talent, boasting the likes of Bijan Robinson, Kyle Pitts, Drake London and Cordarrelle Patterson on offense, which if Fields was thrown in the mix, would unlock Pandora’s box for Atlanta offensive coordinator Dave Ragone.
The diversity of play-calling in the run game Ragone would have with Fields’ foot speed in the picture would increase ten-fold, but players like Pitts, London and Patterson would stand to gain the most in what Fields offers as a downfield passer.
According to PFF, Fields has the second highest passing grade on throws of 20-plus yards (96.3) in the NFL this year, trailing only Trevor Lawrence (97.4), and is first in the NFL in completions of 20-plus yards with 13 — the next closest quarterback has only nine.
By comparison, Ridder’s passing grade on throws of 20-plus yards ranks dead last among 20 qualified quarterbacks (46.7), and he has less than half as many completions of 20-plus yards compared to Fields (6), which is why a trade makes sense.
Fields would immediately bring two new dimensions to the Falcons offense — his game breaking speed, and ability to attack defenses through the air downfield, something that is no where to be seen with Ridder as their starting quarterback.
New England Patriots
The Patriots are in an equitable boat to Atlanta’s, 1-3, with a quarterback who hasn’t been particularly adept at attacking defenses deep downfield.
While Mac Jones hasn’t been as bad as Ridder on deep throws to this point in the year, he’s not too far behind.
Jones’ passing grade on throws of 20-plus yards downfield ranks 15th out of those 20 qualified quarterbacks (61.3) and he is tied for dead last in completions of 20-plus yards with the Seattle Seahawks’ Geno Smith (4).
Essentially, it’s a case of rinse and repeat for what Fields would offer Bill Belichick and his coaching staff — a deep-ball throwing quarterback that’s also extremely mobile that isn’t already in their system.
The difference between New England and Atlanta lies in roster construction between the two.
The Patriots have a talented backfield with Rhamondre Stevenson and Ezekiel Elliott, but their perimeter weapons (Kendrick Bourne, Devante Parker) leave a bit to be desired in comparison to what the Falcons have to offer.
According to PFF, New England had the fourth-worst wide receivers room in the NFL heading into the 2023 season, and their top wide receiver (Bourne) is averaging a meager 43.8 receiving yards per game four weeks in.
New York Jets
According to OptaSTATS, Zach Wilson became the first quarterback to have more completions, passing yards, touchdown passes and fewer interceptions than Patrick Mahomes in a head-to-head matchup across the superstar quarterback’s entire career, regular or postseason.
Crazy stats aside, the Jets still lost that game, and the jury is still out on Wilson as a competent answer down the road once Aaron Rodgers is finally taken out to pasture, making New York an ideal landing spot for Fields.
Head-to-head, Fields has outclassed Wilson statistically so far this year, throwing for more yards and touchdowns, as well as earning a higher overall player grade, according to Pro Football Focus.
The Jets are a roster that’s built to win now and into the future with young, pro bowl caliber talents like Sauce Gardner and Quinnen Williams on defense, and Garrett Wilson and Breece Hall on offense, not to mention Fields would have immediate chemistry with his former Ohio State teammate in Garrett Wilson.
All three of these teams are in position to strike a deal for Justin Fields — and based on where his stock currently stands — the Bears will have no better opportunity to deal him away than they have right now.
This piece is a weekly column that will be published following each Bears game for the rest of the NFL season. For more on the Bears and other Chicago sports from WGN News, you can follow Eli Ong, Larry Hawley and Jarrett Payton on X.