The Chicago Bears have a serious decision to make in the next few months — stick with the franchise QB they have now, or trade him for a treasure trove of assets and take a chance on another one with top overall pick in the 2023 NFL Draft.
The possibility that Justin Fields plays his third professional season with a different team sounds almost preposterous upon suggestion, but gains some logical steam with further examination. For the Bears to pull the trigger on such a move, two things would have to be true:
- Chicago must possess a strong conviction that the highest-graded QB on their draft board (most likely Bryce Young of Alabama) will prove out as at least as good of a player as Fields in the long-term.
- The Bears must be able to find the appropriate trade partner that is both in need of a player like Fields and wants him enough to pay the appropriate price.
How Chicago’s front office truly values this quarterback class probably won’t be known outside of the organization until draft night, but a handful of competing franchises make for compatible trade partners.
Perhaps chief among them is the Baltimore Ravens — a perennial playoff contender with an offense built around a rushing quarterback and looks potentially on the precipice of losing former MVP Lamar Jackson.
Bears Can Entice Ravens Into Fields Trade Over Jackson Questions
Jarrett Bailey of USA Today’s Bears Wire laid out the case for Baltimore as one of the premier destinations for Fields, should Chicago decide to deal him.
“Baltimore is the most interesting poker chip in all of this. It seems imminent that the Ravens and Lamar Jackson will part ways this offseason,” Bailey wrote. “The most likely path to that taking place will be Baltimore placing the franchise tag on Jackson before shipping him to another team, and getting a lot of draft capital in the process.”
“Who’s to say that Eric DeCosta and John Harbaugh don’t look at Fields the same way they looked at a younger Lamar Jackson?” he continued.
Bears Could Extract Big Draft Assets From Ravens in Fields Trade
The main rift between Jackson and his current franchise is that he is looking for a massive contract extension with substantial financial guarantees, even despite injury issues over the last couple of seasons that have hurt the Ravens down the stretch of both campaigns.
It wouldn’t make sense for the Bears to take Jackson back in trade, as all they would be doing is flipping the younger and cheaper Fields for a more expensive, older model with recent maintenance issues. The key behind the strategy of dealing Fields is to keep the quarterback position productive and affordable for an extra couple of years with a player like Young who one could argue has a considerably higher ceiling as an NFL passer. The leftover money can then be used in free agency to supplement other areas of the roster.
Chicago will want draft capital instead of Jackson, and ESPN’s Mike Tannenbaum suggested the asking price for Fields would probably be somewhere in the range of a first-round and third-round picks. It will be higher than that for a team like the Ravens if they are forced to deal with only their own picks. As a playoff team in 2022, Baltimore is likely to pick somewhere in the low-20s range in the first round.
If that’s where the Ravens are starting, they’ll need to send the Bears more than two draft choices to get a deal done. However, if Baltimore can flip Jackson to a QB-needy team picking in the top 10 this year — and there are at least five or six franchises who fit that bill — the picks they get back in trade could serve as centerpieces to get a deal for Fields done.