Bears surely could have gotten the same deal, or a better one, for Justin Fields later

In the days preceding the Saturday night surprise that sent quarterback Justin Fields to the Steelers for a 2025 sixth-round pick, we'd been spitballing on Chicago's options, given the weak market for the 2021 first-round pick.

With the first wave of free-agency musical chairs at the quarterback position making it even harder to find a team that would trade for Fields as a potential starter, it seemed as if the Bears would have to let the calendar play out.

Several teams will be looking for quarterbacks in the first round of the draft. After round one, someone might not end up with the player they want. In that 18-hour gap between round one and round two, someone might have offered something more than a 2025 sixth-round pick to fill a need that wasn't.

That same mindset would apply later in the 2024 draft. If, ultimately, the Bears were willing to take a 2025 pick for Fields, why not wait until after the 2024 draft? Once the dust fully settles, one or more teams might have realized they have a weakness at the position.

Then there was the option of keeping Fields into the 2024 season. Look at all the quarterback injuries from last year. If the Bears could have found a way to allow Fields and Caleb Williams to coexist, the Bears could have gotten a better return if/when a starter gets hurt elsewhere and the phone rings.

And if they didn't find a trade partner before the deadline (which could be as late as Week 10 as of this year), they could have kept him for the season, and then once he leaves as a free agent in 2025 they might have gotten a compensatory draft pick better than round six in 2026.

Maybe the Bears felt like doing Fields a favor. Maybe the Bears don't care if they do a second bad trade with the Steelers in less than two years. (They gave up what essentially became a first-round pick for receiver Chase Claypool in 2022.) Maybe the Bears just wanted to end the local debate over Fields vs. Williams; plenty of Bears fans were demanding that Fields stay in place as the starter.

Now, it's over. Fields is gone. And the Bears had better hope that: (1) Caleb Williams plays well in 2024; and (2) Fields doesn't play well — or barely plays at all.