Chicago Bears quarterback Justin Fields has a new backup. On Wednesday, the team agreed to sign quarterback P.J. Walker to a two-year deal, giving the Bears a new option behind Fields. They also said goodbye to Trevor Siemian, who was released on Thursday following the acquisition.
Walker comes to the Bears after spending three seasons with the Carolina Panthers. He saw limited game action in 2020 and 2021, but played in five contests this past season, throwing for 731 yards with three touchdowns and three interceptions in the middle of the year. He came into the league as an undrafted free agent in 2017 with the Indianapolis Colts, but made his mark with the XFL’s Houston Roughnecks as the leader in passing yards and touchdowns in 2020 prior to the league folding due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
With the acquisition of Walker, the Bears decided to find a player that has similar skills to Fields. Here is our initial grade of the signing.
Nov 10, 2022; Charlotte, North Carolina, USA; Carolina Panthers quarterback PJ Walker (11) drops back to pass during the first quarter against the Atlanta Falcons at Bank of America Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jim Dedmon-USA TODAY Sports
2 years, reportedly worth up to $5 million
Initial grade: A
Nov 10, 2022; Charlotte, North Carolina, USA; Carolina Panthers quarterback PJ Walker (11) on the field in the third quarter at Bank of America Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports
When the Bears signed Siemian to be their backup last offseason, it provided a stable presence at the position but it was obvious from the start that he and Fields didn’t match up from a skillset standpoint. That’s all changed with Walker supplanting Siemian and signing to be the new backup to Fields. Walker has a pretty big arm, can extend plays with his legs, and can make something out of nothing if needed. He’s the perfect understudy to Fields and can run the offense with minimal changes needed. That wasn’t the case with Siemian and other backup quarterbacks Nathan Peterman and Tim Boyle in 2022.
Walker also brings a sense of familiarity for new Bears wide receiver D.J. Moore, who arrived via trade last week. The two created a solid connection since Walker came to the Panthers in 2020 and now he can help the newest Bears receiver adjust to a new team while helping Fields understand his tendencies. In a way, it’s like a baseball pitcher who brings their own personal catcher to a new team. That familiarity can help the transition and speed up the learning curve.
This move makes a ton of sense and it doesn’t hurt that it’s easy to root for Walker. A former undrafted free agent who became a star in the XFL, giving him a second chance in the NFL? It doesn’t get much better than that. The Bears made a smart decision bringing Walker in. Let’s just hope he’s only needed in blowout victories, though.