The NFL playoffs are still going on, but fans of the Chicago Bears are already looking ahead. For the second year in a row, their team holds the #1 overall pick in the NFL Draft, and with tantalizing prospects Caleb Williams and Drake Maye available as potential franchise-changing players, Bears general manager Ryan Poles has quite the decision on his hands.
Poles will certainly be intrigued by the talented arms available, but he also has another option that has garnered support from a large swath of the fanbase: trade the pick for a massive haul and build around incumbent quarterback Justin Fields.
The conversation surrounding Poles' decision is more complex than meets the eye. What seems on the surface to be a binary choice between a rookie quarterback and Fields actually has many more facets that need to be factored in, which is what makes the Bears' situation so fascinating.
Three factors are working in favor of those who advocate for keeping Fields: 1) he has undoubtedly improved over his three-year career, and a simple extrapolation dictates that he will only continue to get better. 2) Embattled offensive coordinator Luke Getsy has been fired, and whoever replaces him will be better for Fields by default. 3) The package of draft picks and players that the Bears could get by trading the #1 pick could dwarf what they received from the Panthers for the first selection last year, allowing Chicago to put together one of the best young rosters in the NFL.
The prevailing wisdom has been that the Bears could expect to get something in the neighborhood of a second-round pick if they decide to move on from Fields, but ESPN draft analyst Mel Kiper, Jr. thinks that price is too low.
If Kiper is right and the Bears could extract the eighth pick from Atlanta, it would put a major dent in the third argument for Fields. Poles could draft Williams or Maye at No. 1 and still have two picks in the top ten to stock the roster with dynamic players on either side of the ball, such as Rome Odunze, Jared Verse, or Laiatu Latu. If the Bears believe that Williams or Maye are true franchise quarterbacks, it could be difficult to pass on that chance and keep Fields, especially when considering that doing so would reset the quarterback contract.
After suffering through a full season from Desmond Ridder and Taylor Heinicke, the Falcons are likely to be desperate to upgrade at quarterback, especially after firing head coach Arthur Smith. Atlanta has already interviewed former New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick for the position, and Belichick, who was plagued by poor quarterback play of his own with Mac Jones, could jump at the chance to build a team around Fields and all of the Falcons' other young playmakers.
Fields played well down the stretch for the Bears, but it remains to be seen if the Falcons or anyone else would be willing to part with such a valuable pick for him. If they are, of course, it begs the question: if Fields is that valuable, shouldn't the Bears keep him, trade #1, and build around him?
On second thought, maybe this isn't such an easy decision after all. Good thing Ryan Poles has three months to think about it.
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