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Justin Fields trade market gives Bears no good options after opening free agency wave

Justin Fields trade market gives Bears no good options after opening free agency wave originally appeared on NBC Sports Chicago

The NFL QB carousel started spinning Monday when the NFL's legal negotiating window opened, and the dominoes didn't fall in the Bears' favor.

Kirk Cousins agreed to a four-year, $180 million deal to join the Atlanta Falcons. Russell Wilson is headed to Pittsburgh to compete with Kenny Pickett, and Baker Mayfield returned to Tampa Bay.

None of that was good news regarding the Bears' chances of trading quarterback Justin Fields.

The second wave of quarterback-needy teams also elected not to dip their toes in the Fields waters Monday. The Las Vegas Raiders reportedly briefly kicked the tired on Fields before agreeing to a deal with Gardner Minshew. The New England Patriots added Jacoby Brissett and plan to draft a quarterback with the No. 3 overall pick.

With Cousins gone, the Minnesota Vikings seemed like a potential landing spot for Fields, but the Vikings agreed to a deal with Sam Darnold late Monday night. Meanwhile, the New York Jets, seen as a potential spot for Fields to be a backup behind Aaron Rodgers, agreed to sign Tyrod Taylor for that role. The Cleveland Browns filled their backup quarterback need by agreeing to terms with Jameis Winston.

That leaves Fields with no clear landing spot and the likelihood that he will either enter the 2024 season in a training camp battle to be the starter or as a clear backup.

It's only March 12, so the market could shake loose. But at the moment, the Fields trade market is stagnant. Teams know the Bears plan to draft a quarterback with the No. 1 overall pick -- likely Caleb Williams -- and also don't value Fields as a surefire starting quarterback.

The Bears don't have to trade Fields. But general manager Ryan Poles said he wanted to "do right by" Fields once the Bears' quarterback plan was crystalized. That involves giving the 25-year-old a fresh start. The Bears also don't want to draft Williams and bring him into a locker room that has been so vocal in support of Fields. The Bears' veterans have said they will be fully behind whoever the starting quarterback is, but keeping Fields around to backup Williams would likely be more trouble than it's worth. Nor are the Bears going to start Fields and ask the No. 1 overall pick to sit behind him for a year.

This wouldn't be an Alex Smith-Patrick Mahomes situation. Fields is young and wants to prove he's a franchise-caliber quarterback in the NFL. He wouldn't be a veteran mentor and placeholder. The Bears also believe their window to start contending is opening now, and they clearly believe that making a chance at quarterback is their best way to kick that window open.

Landing the No. 1 pick in a draft with a potentially generational quarterback is a rare gift. It won't come around again. The Bears must do everything they can to support Williams, assuming he's the pick, and foster positive growth in Year 1. That includes allowing Williams to earn the respect and trust of his teammates without Fields looking over his shoulder.

If the Bears want to prioritize maximizing the trade return value for Fields, they could keep him on the roster into training camp and wait for an injury to create the need to drive up value. But the Bears should prioritize what is best for Williams, their future, and Fields and trade him before mandatory minicamp. It's in the best interest of all parties for this to get done, even if the return is much less than expected.

With more movement expected over the next few days, here are the remaining potential landing spots for Fields:

Seattle Seahawks

Geno Smith is under contract for two more seasons, but new head coach Mike Macdonald was non-committal when asked if he viewed Smith as the team's starting quarterback.

Seattle could acquire Fields to compete with Smith in camp, hoping to find lighting in a bottle with a former first-round pick who has shown flashes but has been inconsistent in three seasons in Chicago.

New York Giants

Editor's note (3/12/24 1:07 p.m.): The Giants agreed to sign QB Drew Lock to a contract, likely removing them from the Fields discussion.

The Giants are looking to get out of the Daniel Jones business. New York would love to find a way to move up in the 2024 NFL Draft and select one of the top quarterbacks, and could potentially entertain drafting J.J. McCarthy at No. 6 if the top three options are gone.

Either way, head coach Brian Daboll and general manager Joe Schoen want options under center.

Fields is a better quarterback than Jones, with a higher upside if the right offense is built around his strengths. His game clearly has limitations, but he could offer the Giants a "Get Out Of Jones Jail Free" card.

Philadelphia Eagles, Baltimore Ravens, Indianapolis Colts, Arizona Cardinals

All three of these teams have mobile starting quarterbacks who have been dinged up in the past.

Given Fields' skill set, any of these teams could bring him as injury insurance for Lamar Jackson, Jalen Hurts, Anthony Richardson, or Kyler Murray.

San Francisco 49ers

The 49ers lost backup Sam Darnold to the Minnesota Vikings. They could take a flier on Fields to sit behind Purdy and come in if he gets dinged up.

The 49ers had a chance to draft Fields in 2021 and opted to select Trey Lance instead. I don't think Fields fits here, but it's worth monitoring.

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