Bears president Kevin Warren speaks glowingly about Justin Fields with the NFL draft approaching

Bears president Kevin Warren speaks glowingly about Justin Fields with the NFL draft approaching originally appeared on NBC Sports Chicago

The 2024 NFL draft, as well as the new league year, are rapidly approaching. That means the Bears will soon have to decide whether or not they'd prefer to retain Justin Fields or find a new signal caller.

In an interview with WGN News, Bears CEO/President Kevin Warren shared his thoughts on Justin Fields. He offered a glowing report of the quarterback, citing his time spent with him in the Big Ten when Warren was commissioner and Fields was at Ohio State.

"I'm a supporter of Justin because I got a chance to work with him when I was commissioner of the Big Ten conference," Warren said. "He is incredibly talented. He is smart. He works hard. And he wants to be a great NFL football player. And now he just needs to make sure he has the support around him. He's working hard. I would love to see him this offseason and make sure he's totally healthy going into the season next year."

Warren raved about Fields' physical and mental abilities on the field, too.

"Justin has a rare combination of intelligence, of size, of strength and speed. You forget how big of a man he is until you're up on him. He's not a small man. I just think every year he's going to continually get better."

That's quite the review. What does it all mean? Does the needle now point towards the Bears keeping Fields and trading down the No. 1 pick for a second straight season?

The short answer is no. Don't read too far into the tea leaves.

At this moment, Fields is still a Chicago Bear and works directly under Warren. They're teammates at this juncture and it would be appalling if Warren said anything less about his team's current quarterback. It's a respectful move and it helps keep the Bears' competitive advantage in the draft, too.

That being said, keeping Fields is a viable option. While he didn't make drastic improvements in 2023, he certainly improved. By the eye test, he appeared more comfortable at the position, while creating a feasible mix of his running and throwing abilities to help balance the offense.

By keeping Fields, the Bears could, in theory, collect more draft capital and/or veteran contracts by trading down the No. 1 pick. Also, they would certainly aim to draft Ohio State receiver Marvin Harrison Jr., who is widely believed to be a guaranteed success in the NFL. The Bears could continue building around Fields by taking that route.

On the other hand, it's a results-driven league. Fields hasn't necessarily posted the best, or even expected, results as the team's quarterback. He's 10-28 as a starter for the Bears. This past season, his QBR dropped below his sophomore year rating, while his passer rating only ticked up marginally.

It's an unbelievably difficult decision to make. By taking a quarterback with the No. 1 pick, the Bears could reset the quarterback contract clock. It also provides the organization another chance to nail down the position they've failed to succeed in virtually its 100+ year history.

It's Ryan Poles' job as general manager to make the crucial decision, that will inevitably define his tenure and the Bears' future, whichever path he decides to go down. But Warren mentioned his role in the process, which sounds more hands-on than some would've guessed.

It's a well-known fact Warren's experience constructing U.S. Bank Stadium was a key reason the Bears hired him to lead their stadium project. But it's unknown how much weight his word holds in a conversation about football operations and roster construction. Warren says he and Poles are "in this together."

"One of the things about Ryan and I's working relationship is the fact that we're in this together," Warren said. "I know he's spending every single day thinking about not only that decision but also who to draft at No. 9 and our current roster and what we're gonna do in free agency, what we're doing from a contract negotiation standpoint. I'm sure he's already starting to play out the draft in his mind.

"I look forward to going to the [NFL] combine here later this month and then getting the chance to spend some time together because we're in a very, very unique space in time in the Bears."

At the combine, Warren will watch possibly the next Bears signal caller. USC's Caleb Williams, North Carolina's Drake Maye and LSU's Jayden Daniels are all projected to be in play at the opt of the draft, especially Williams.

But Warren made his feelings about Fields clear, at this point in the offseason.

"I'm glad he's [Fields] on the Chicago Bears," Warren said.

Will Warren and the Bears be saying that in April? Stay tuned.

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