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While it’s not said publicly, the Chicago Bears are in a rebuild. New general manager Ryan Poles and head coach Matt Eberflus took the job knowing it would be challenging and it would take time.
But what if they succeed quickly? And what if they restore the prestige of the franchise without Justin Fields as the franchise quarterback?
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. Every other team is hopeful, playing an old veteran with no one behind them or playing a rookie.
So, assuming the Bears are not one of the few teams that found their franchise quarterback, here are some options to pursue if they need to move on from Fields in the future.
Make a trade for a veteran quarterback stuck behind a younger player
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Poles will be familiar with this idea. In 2013, while working as a college scouting coordinator, the Chiefs traded a second round and future conditional pick to the San Francisco 49ers for Alex Smith.
The Chiefs were 2-14 in 2012 with Matt Cassel at quarterback and Romeo Crennel as the head coach. After trading for Smith, the Chiefs went 11-5 and were second in the AFC West.
While these guys might not be available in 2024, Baker Mayfield, Jacoby Brissett, Teddy Bridgewater, and Jimmy Garoppolo all fit the description.
Sure, a franchise quarterback is great. But plenty of teams have benefitted from an older quarterback finding a few good years left in the tank (Kerry Collins, Jake Delhomme, and Trent Dilfer to name a few).
Sign a proven veteran in free agency and draft a rookie who can sit and learn
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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.
Two way-too-early names to think about in the NFL draft are Jaxon Dart from Ole Miss and Sam Huard from Washington.
Dart won the starting job at USC as a freshman before transferring to Ole Miss after Lincoln Riley brought his quarterback Caleb Williams with him from Oklahoma.
Huard has an NFL pedigree (dad and uncle) and broke former pro quarterback Brett Rypien’s high school passing yards record in Washington state. In only 35 games, Huard threw for 13,226 yards and 153 touchdowns.
Trade Fields to a franchise in need of a quarterback
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Assuming the Bears do either of these moves, trading Justin Fields becomes necessary. Based on the Sam Darnold trade (another starting quarterback traded after year three), the Bears should be able to get value for Fields. The Jets received a 6th rounder and two future picks (2nd and 4th round) from Carolina.
Justin Fields might be the quarterback of the Bears franchise for the next 18 years like Ben Roethlisberger. Or he might be another guy, as so many quarterbacks often are. If he is, but the team continues to improve, there are always options.