Why Bears drafting Caleb Williams, keeping Justin Fields is a bad idea originally appeared on NBC Sports Chicago
Could the Bears draft quarterback Caleb Williams with the No. 1 overall pick in the 2024 NFL Draft and keep Justin Fields on the roster? It seems extremely unlikely, but according to NFL insider Adam Schefter the team has at least considered it.
“Will they get to that? It’s hard to imagine that,” Schefter said on ESPN on Sunday. “But that is a conversation that has come up within the organization.”
It must be noted that we’re about to enter the heart of lying season in the NFL. Teams and agents alike will “leak” information for their own benefits. In this case it would be easy to imagine the Bears saying they’d be open to having both Williams and Fields on the roster in order to drive up the price on a potential Fields trade.
Schefter insisted that’s not the case here, though.
“It’s not smoke screen. They’ve talked about it. I’m not telling you they do it, but they’ve talked about it.”
Talking about something and deciding to do something are obviously two very different things. In fact the Bears would be doing themselves a disservice if they didn’t at least explore the scenario of keeping Fields and Williams. After all, recent examples show that young QBs can benefit from sitting on the bench and learning from a veteran. Patrick Mahomes did it with Alex Smith and Jordan Love learned from Aaron Rodgers. But at this point in his career, Fields doesn’t have anywhere near the same level of experience that Smith or Rodgers had when they mentored Mahomes and Love. It’s not a fair comparison.
Since Fields doesn’t have that same experience to draw from as a mentor for Williams, it doesn’t seem likely that Williams would ride the bench behind Fields. And since the Bears need to decide on Fields’ fifth year option later this spring, it doesn’t make sense to keep him as a backup. It makes even less sense when you consider that Tyson Bagent proved over the course of the 2023 season that he can operate as a reliable backup and developmental quarterback.
The Bears still have several holes on their roster that they need to fill to support whatever quarterback leads their offense moving forward. The best way to do that is to either trade away the No. 1 overall pick or Fields to accrue more draft capital.
The worst way to support the next QB is by creating a controversy with another QB on the roster. Imagine what would happen if the Bears select Williams, make him the starter ahead of Fields, then Williams struggles. There would be a cacophony of fans calling for Fields to take the job back. The same would be true if Fields remained the starter and struggled in the early goings. In that scenario, it would be harder to sell Fields as a future starter with teams around the league. That would hurt both the Bears and Fields.
It’s not hard to imagine the Bears discussing a world in which they keep both Williams and Fields. That’s part of their pre-draft due diligence process. But imagining a world in which they land on that as the best course of action is a different story.