Bears GM Ryan Poles Sends Message After Trading Justin Fields

Ryan Poles Message Justin Fields Trade Steelers Chicago Bears News

Getty Bears general manager Ryan Poles.

The Chicago Bears finally pulled the trigger on a much-anticipated Justin Fields trade on March 16, a move that general manager Ryan Poles deemed to be “what is best for both Justin and the Bears” after making things official.

The Bears officially announced Saturday that they have traded Fields — their 2021 first-round pick — to the Pittsburgh Steelers in exchange for a 2025 sixth-round pick that could convert to a fourth-rounder based on playing time. According to ESPN’s Courtney Cronin, the pick upgrades if Fields plays 51% of snaps during the 2024 season.

The Bears trading Fields has felt like an inevitability for the past several weeks with reports and rumors about the team engaging in trade talks dominating the headlines. Following Saturday’s trade, Poles confirmed that to be true, saying they had “multiple” trade conversations about Fields recently and feel they found one that suits both ends.

“We have engaged in multiple trade conversations in recent weeks and believe trading Justin at this time to Pittsburgh is what is best for both Justin and the Bears,” Poles said in a statement. “Today we spoke to Justin to inform him of the trade and the rationale behind it for us as a club. We want to thank him for his tireless dedication, leadership and all he poured into our franchise and community the last three years and wish him the best towards a long and successful NFL career.”

Fields now heads to Pittsburgh, where he is expected to be the backup for newly-signed veteran quarterback Russell Wilson. The Bears will save about $3.23 million against the 2024 salary cap with the move, providing a small amount of relief. They also no longer have a looming fifth-year option decision (about $25.6 million) to make before May 2.

Bears Made Mistake With Justin Fields’ Trade Market

The Bears are doing right by themselves and Fields trading him now. Keeping him on the roster alongside his top-selected rookie replacement could have created a volatile environment in Chicago, even if both quarterbacks were consummate professionals. Fields also now gets clarity about his future and can dive in with his new team instead of being forced to wait things out past the draft and potentially into training camp.

But let’s not avoid the bigger truth: The Bears seriously misplayed Fields’ trade market.

The Bears took a major risk by not finding a trade partner for Fields before the start of NFL free agency last week. According to Cronin, the Bears had “hoped to model its Fields trade after” what the New York Jets did with Sam Darnold in 2021 — receiving a second-, fourth- and sixth-round pick from the Carolina Panthers. But when Chicago held firm on the desired value, teams with needs began to seek other solutions.

The Atlanta Falcons, a popular landing spot for Fields earlier in the offseason, signed Kirk Cousins to a long-term deal. The Steelers added Wilson on a veteran-minimum deal at the expense of the Broncos. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers recommitted to Baker Mayfield. Even the Las Vegas Raiders signed Gardner Minshew to a two-year deal.

Eventually, the backup quarterback market started to dry up, too. The Washington Commanders and New England Patriots both saw the signs. With eyes on drafting a top quarterback in the 2024 draft, they each worked quickly to find trade partners for their former starters — Sam Howell and Mac Jones — and did not get stingy about the value.

If the Steelers had not wanted Fields, the Bears might have been completely out of luck.

Bears’ Attention Now Shifts to Caleb Williams & Draft

The domino that is Fields’ future has now fallen, which means the Bears’ attention at the quarterback position can now shift completely to the 2024 NFL draft — and, more specifically, presumptive No. 1 overall pick and Heisman Trophy winner Caleb Wiliams.

The Bears will understandably send a heavy contingent to observe Williams at USC’s Pro Day on March 20. Afterward, according to Sports Illustrated’s Albert Breer, they are planning to host him for a top-30 visit in Chicago to get to know him better as a person. By the time they are done with both the pro day and the visit, they should have a clear picture of whether they believe Williams is their man for the No. 1 overall selection.

Williams landing in Chicago is not a done deal. He did not undergo medical testing at the 2024 NFL Combine, so it is always possible the Bears discover something that is not to their liking when they conduct their own evaluations; although, that seems unlikely. They must also make sure he is the type of person that fits their vision at quarterback.

Even if Williams checks all the boxes, though, the Bears are likely to still attend the pro days of the other top quarterbacks in the 2024 draft class. Matt Eberflus was already the only head coach in attendance for Bo Nix’s pro day at Oregon on March 12. Here are several of the other important quarterback pro days where the Bears could send scouts:

  • Notre Dame’s Sam Hartman (March 21)
  • Michigan’s J.J. McCarthy (March 22)
  • Florida State’s Jordan Travis (March 22)
  • LSU’s Jayden Daniels (March 27)
  • Tulane’s Michael Pratt (March 27)
  • North Carolina’s Drake Maye (March 28)
Read More