This upcoming Sunday could very well mark the end of Justin Fields’ time with the Chicago Bears. The former No. 11 overall pick has been a controversial topic in regards to his ability to be a franchise quarterback and his on-the-field play has left plenty of room for discussion. Earlier this year, when the Bears were 0-4, it seemed like everybody (including Fields) would be gone by April and Chicago would reset with two top-five picks in the draft. However, with the team going 7-5 since their tough start, it is no longer a sure thing.
At this stage the Bears officially have the No. 1 overall pick thanks to the Bryce Young trade and their own will be somewhere in the top-15. They can either use those picks to build around Fields or trade him and take a QB with one and another foundational piece with the other. With one game left to go the Bears will still have some tape to consider and are in zero rush to make their decision.
To be clear, there is no guarantee the Bears will do this. But it does seem like the most likely option. Fields’ inconsistency as a passer hasn’t improved very much since he came into the NFL and he’s entering the fifth, final year of his rookie deal. If Chicago keeps him and he somehow puts it all together, they have to pay him a lot more starting in 2025 as opposed to restarting the rookie contract clock with a QB in this draft. And both Caleb Williams and Drake Maye are better prospects than Fields as pocket passers. Those factors combined with the question marks surrounding Fields means the Bears will definitely explore a trade at the very least, even if they don’t do it.
So who may be interested in the former Ohio State quarterback’s services? Here are a few options.
Perhaps the most intriguing option out there for Fields. Sean Payton might rub everybody the wrong way but the man can clearly coach up a quarterback and knows how to scheme around a player’s strengths and weaknesses. The Broncos are 100 percent dumping Russell Wilson as soon as possible and have no direct path to replacing him with someone of a similar talent level because they are projected to pick in the middle of the draft. They also have no cap space thanks to Wilson, and Jarrett Stidham is not blowing anybody away.
Taking a flyer on Fields is exactly the sort of thing Denver should do for next season. Wilson’s dead cap hit is going to make life quite difficult on the salary cap front so it’s unlikely they’ll be competing for much anyway. If Fields ends up being really good in a non-Chicago environment then they’ll have the ability to pay him without hamstringing the team because it’ll happen post-Wilson dead cap. If the Broncos can come to an agreement with the Bears on compensation, which may be tricky because they owe their second-rounder to Seattle, then this is a great option where both sides need each other to capitalize on next season.
Fields would be an extremely fun candidate for quarterback of the Falcons, an open position because the guys currently on the roster cannot get the job done. Arthur Smith does not seem like a very good coach but he is probably sticking around for one more season so forcing him to play someone other than Desmond Ridder or Taylor Heinicke appears to be the only path forward. The skill positions in Atlanta are loaded and a running attack featuring Fields and Bijan Robinson could be a horrifying proposition for opposing defenses. The Falcons have other problems but this roster is ready to compete in a bad NFC South with someone who can get the ball to their best players.
The flaw in this plan, of course, is that Fields isn’t very good at doing so. Nobody doubts his ability to run but at times it felt like he could have prime Randy Moss on his team and still figure out a way to miss him if forced to drop back and stay in the pocket. Atlanta knows he wouldn’t solve their primary problem, which might make it tough to land Fields if they get into a bidding war.
The Patriots selected a quarterback four picks after Fields in the 2021 NFL Draft and he ended up not working out. Going back to the guy they could’ve had instead would be poetic if anything. The motivation for New England here is simple– they do not have a quarterback of the future and must explore every avenue in pursuit of finding one. Whether or not they’d spring for Fields in particular is largely dependent on what happens with the coaching staff and front office once the season ends. If Bill Belichick is calling the shots he’s almost definitely not trading for Fields unless Chicago is trying to give him away, and even then it might be a tough sell. But if literally anyone else is in charge, it’s a possibility because the Pats could outbid anyone else with a pick at the very top of the second and third rounds.
Of course, if the Patriots end up with a top-three pick they might just decide to take a quarterback for the same reasons the Bears are considering doing. But a prolonged rebuild in New England does not seem likely no matter what happens after Week 18. Trading for Fields and using their top pick on a receiver or lineman would speed things up a bit, and if it doesn’t work out the Patriots can hit the free agent QB market after next season. Not the most likely outcome on this list but one that cannot be ruled out just yet.