Current NFC North QB Floated as Option to Eventually Replace Justin Fields

Justin Fields

Getty Bears QB Justin Fields had an up and down rookie season in 2021.

The contract of Minnesota Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins should keep him with the team through the 2023 season after he inked an extension in March, but his future after that remains a mystery.

One analyst thinks the veteran signal-caller could wind up being a bridge QB of sorts for the Chicago Bears.

Nate Atkins of USA Today’s Bears Wire wrote about how the Bears can “rebuild” in the event that Justin Fields, Chicago’s 11th overall draft pick a year ago in 2021, doesn’t pan out.

“I’m not implying Fields isn’t the quarterback of the future, but there are four teams with a franchise quarterback in the NFL — the Cincinnati Bengals, Buffalo Bills, Baltimore Ravens, and Kansas City Chiefs,” Atkins wrote on June 22, adding: “Every other team is hopeful, playing an old veteran with no one behind them or playing a rookie.”

He then suggested one potential avenue should Fields not become the guy for Chicago: “sign a proven veteran in free agency and draft a rookie who can sit and learn.” He also named names, with Cousins, a three-time Pro Bowl selection, standing out.

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Cousins, Ryan Tannehill Listed as Future Veteran Options for Bears

“Assuming no extensions are signed, Kirk Cousins and Ryan Tannehill will be unrestricted free agents in 2024. They will each be 35 years old and hopefully able to play for a couple of years while a rookie sits and learns the NFL system,” Atkins noted. He then threw out two possible young collegiate standouts who could be future draft options for Chicago at QB.

“Two way-too-early names to think about in the NFL draft are Jaxon Dart from Ole Miss and Sam Huard from Washington,” he wrote.

Atkins acknowledges it’s far too early in Fields’ NFL career to write him off, and he admits it’s entirely possible the 23-year-old QB lights it up and gives the team the franchise quarterback it has been missing for decades.

Fields completed 159 of 270 passes (58.9%) for 1,870 yards, seven touchdowns and 10 interceptions, also rushing for 420 yards and two TDs on 72 carries (stats courtesy of Pro Football Reference). He should do better in Year 2 under the guidance of new offensive coordinator Luke Getsy, but it remains to be seen what kind of progress he’ll make over the next few years.

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Cousins Currently Has Significant Connection to Bears’ Coaching Staff

Ben Goessling of the Minneapolis Star Tribune reported in March of 2022 that after the 2023 season, the Vikings have an out in Cousins’ contract — and they will likely take it. They may keep him around through 2024, but it’s fiscally feasible to let him go next year.

“Cousins should count for $36.25 million against the Vikings’ salary cap in 2023,” Goessling wrote. “If he is not on the roster in 2024, he will carry a $12.5 million cap charge, when a pair of $6.25 million signing bonus prorations from Cousins’ two void years hit the cap. With the salary cap expected to spike in coming years thanks to the league’s new TV deals, though, the dead money represents a relatively minuscule charge, especially if the Vikings find a young quarterback on a rookie deal to succeed Cousins.”

If the Vikings do move on and Fields does falter, Cousins would certainly be an option for Chicago, particularly if the Bears’ current QBs coach, Andrew Janocko, is still on staff. Cousins and Janocko worked together in Minnesota from 2018 to 2021, when Janocko served as Vikings’ offensive line/wide receivers/QBs coach.

While many Bears fans may scoff at the idea of the current Vikings quarterback eventually leading their team, the Bears haven’t had a 4,000-yard passer in their 100+ year history. Cousins has six 4,000-yard seasons over his 10-year career, including three over the last four seasons when he has worked with Janocko.

It’s a big hypothetical, of course, but if Fields doesn’t work out — and again, that’s a big if — the Bears could do worse than Cousins.

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