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What Bears' Keenan Allen trade means for Justin Fields' future, QB decision

The Bears stunned the NFL late Thursday night, trading a 2024 fourth-round pick to the Los Angeles Chargers for six-time Pro-Bowl wide receiver Keenan Allen.

In Allen, the Bears get a 31-year-old receiver who is a sharp route runner with great hands who will perfectly complement DJ Moore.

As has been the case with almost every Bears transaction this offseason, the conversation immediately turned to what it means for the pending quarterback decision and Justin Fields’s future.

The easiest way to view the Allen transaction regarding the quarterback question is that general manager Ryan Poles found a low-cost way to acquire another blue-chip receiver to get presumptive No. 1 overall pick Caleb Williams the softest possible landing spot.

The acquisition of Allen is unlikely to change the Bears’ perceived plans at No. 1 overall.

Landing Allen shows that the Bears plan to surround Williams with as much talent as possible to ensure he has a soft landing in the NFL and that they can maximize his rookie contract window.

Allen has one year left on his deal, but it would make sense for the Bears to try to extend Allen this offseason to lock him for the next few seasons while he’s still in the backend of his prime. A deal similar to the two-year, $52 million deal the Bucs just gave Mike Evans could serve as a guidepost for an extension.

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Montez Sweat, Tremaine Edmunds, Jaylon Johnson, and DJ Moore already have sizeable cap numbers, and Moore will likely be due for a raise and an extension next offseason. Add in $20-plus million a year for Allen, and the Bears will have a lot of money on the books over the next few seasons. Those high cap numbers for several blue-chippers make drafting Williams at No. 1 and resetting the quarterback clock more likely.

The prospect of keeping Fields, locking in the $25 million fifth-year option for 2025, and then agreeing to an extension worth between $40 million and $50 million a year would start to make the cap situation dicey.

Fields’ contract will be cheaper than Williams’ in 2024, but the fifth-year option and future extension for a franchise quarterback will see Fields’ number rise exponentially if the Bears were to hang on to him.

The Bears are signaling that their window to contend will open in 2024. Their job is to ensure that they can keep it open for the rest of the decade. With his rare talent and rookie contract, Williams will give the Bears the best opportunity to do that.

Allen’s arrival in Chicago says a lot about the Bears’ future, but it’s almost certainly a future that doesn’t involve Fields.

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