Bears Projected to Extend Playmaker on NFL’s Richest Deal If He Breaks Out

Ryan Poles

Getty Bears general manager Ryan Poles will be paying up in a big way if Justin Fields breaks out in 2023.

In many ways, this season will be a make-or-break one for Chicago Bears quarterback Justin Fields.

If he breaks out, Fields could be in line for a five-year deal worth $265 million, with $195 in guaranteed money, according to Bill Zimmerman of SB Nation’s Windy City Gridiron. A contract of that magnitude would put Fields at around $53 million annually, making him the NFL’s highest-paid quarterback.

But to cash in big-time — and place himself in the company of quarterbacks like Justin Herbert ($52.5 million a year) and Jalen Hurts ($51 million a year) — Fields would have to elevate his play in his third season in the league.

Heading into 2023, the 24-year-old QB was ranked by Pro Football Focus as the 18th best quarterback in the NFL. Herbert, of the Los Angeles Chargers, and Jalen Hurts, of the Philadelphia Eagles, were ranked fourth and seventh by PFF, respectively).

After breaking out in the running game last season, he will need to have a similar breakthrough in the passing game in his third year in the league. Last season in 15 starts, Fields finished with 2,242 passing yards, (60.4 completion percentage), 17 passing touchdowns and 11 interceptions to go with 1,143 yards and eight scores on the ground.

The Bears Could Also Wait & See by Picking Up Justin Fields’ Option

Zimmerman laid out other paths that Fields could take toward his next contract (he becomes extension-eligible in 2024) and what it would take to sign the kinds of extensions Herbert and Hurts got.

If a breakout doesn’t come to pass and Fields struggles this season, the idea of a contract extension is probably moot, Zimmerman wrote in a story published August 5. But there’s also a middle-ground scenario — “Fields plays pretty well in 2023 but leaves some doubt” — the Bears would surely pick up Fields’ fifth-year option for 2025 and let his 2024 campaign determine what they think he’s worth, he wrote.

Zimmerman noted that the Cincinnati Bengals are likely to extend their quarterback, Joe Burrow, before Fields would get his. Burrow, 26, is PFF’s third best quarterback, behind only Patrick Mahomes of the Kansas City Chiefs and Josh Allen of the Buffalo Bills. A Burrows extension would likely reset the quarterback market yet again, which could raise Zimmerman’s projected contract for Fields if he does indeed break out this season.

Guaranteed Money Will Be Huge on Any Potential Fields Extension

Another huge aspect of all this will be guaranteed money.

“Let’s say that Fields is right in line with the rest of them (Herbert, Hurts, etc.) and hits $53 million per season. The guarantee will be interesting because with Fields having the propensity of being banged up later in the year, the Bears may have some hesitation to guarantee as much as some of the other QBs have received,” Zimmerman added.

This is why it’s so important for Fields to take that next step as a passer. If he can improve his anticipation while relying more on his arm than his legs, he’ll become a complete quarterback headed for one stellar payday.

Staying healthy will be key, too, of course, but the Bears want Fields to be the guy. If he shows he’s the leader they’ve been waiting decades as a franchise for, general manager Ryan Poles and company should have no problem shelling out major ducats to retain his services.

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