The Justin Fields Paradox and the Sean Payton Gambit

Bears QB Justin Fields
Bears QB Justin Fields
Photo: USA Today Sports Images

NFL Super Bowl - MOBILE, ALABAMA -- Chicago Bears offensive coordinator Luke Getsy does not sound like someone eager to trade Justin Fields to the highest bidder.

“I have great confidence in Justin," said Getsy, who is coaching one of the squads at the Senior Bowl college all-star game. "I just saw the growth that he had from a year ago to where he is now.”

Getsy acknowledged that Fields has a long way to go, but the coach said that he was most impressed with Fields' growth as a leader. “He came out of his shell and really took command of the team. His confidence grew, and all that stuff that’s important in terms of taking a team where you want to go."

"He put the team on his back for a few weeks there, and showed that he was really able to do it."

Getsy no-doubt came to Mobile braced to answer Fields questions: trade speculation surrounding the Bears quarterback -- and the first-overall pick in the 2023 draft, which the Bears possess -- will be a favorite rumor-mill league topic for the next two months.

Getsy is also three rungs on the org chart removed from making any hard decisions about Fields: major trades are the purview of coach Matt Eberflus, general manager Ryan Poles and new team CEO Kevin Warren, representing the interests of the McCaskey ownership family. A lowly coordinator must toe the company line when discussing potential blockbuster trades.

But this is the era when team websites and social media accounts feel free to take sideswipes at their own quarterbacks, so Getsy's endorsement was much more enlightening than the "I'm only here to talk Senior Bowl" type of no-comment that he could have delivered.

Furthermore, even if Getsy and the Bears want to trade Fields, they have probably figured out by now that it's a terrible idea.

Fields presents the Bears with an almost subatomic paradox: the very act of trading him lowers his trade value. The Bears' potential suitors are not the Madden AI: they will immediately question why the Bears are willing to part with a talented, low-salaried quarterback. If the woeful Bears are eager to restart the rookie quarterback cycle instead of committing to Fields, why should some other team commit to him? The Bears would be lucky to get Sam Darnold-level compensation -- second-and-fourth round picks in 2024, plus change -- in exchange for Fields, because the Bears (like the Jets with Darnold) are tipping their hands through their sheer desire to move on.

There's also the catastrophic failure scenario: the Bears trade Fields and he blossoms, while the Bryce Young, C.J. Stroud or (punch me into the sun) Will Levis they choose with top pick goes bust. Every team that trades a young quarterback faces this possibility, which is why coaches and general managers usually wait to make sure that the former prospect fails as thoroughly as possible before moving on. 

Fields has not failed thoroughly enough; he's downright historic as a rusher, and his miserable passing DVOA over his first two seasons comes with some obvious caveats about what may have been the league's worst supporting cast.

Fields doesn't need a Josh Allen leap to leave Poles with career-defining egg on his face: if he were to scramble some other rebuilding team to a wild-card berth in 2023 by just becoming slightly more efficient as a passer -- think Daniel Jones -- Bears fans and the Magnificent McCaskeys alike would wonder why they were forced to start over again.

Word on the streets here at the Senior Bowl is that the Bears will wait on offers for the first overall pick -- the hot stove league won't heat up until next month's scouting combine -- and use 2023 as Fields' make-or-break year. There are no quarterbacks of note for Getsy to scout here in Mobile, but there are plenty of receivers, linemen and running backs (more on the prospects themselves later in the week) to gobble up in middle rounds so Fields doesn't spend another year in a bullet-hell video-game level. If Fields does not improve as a passer, Poles and Eberflus can part ways with him from a safer harbor in 2024. If he succeeds, hooray! If the jury is still out, trade suitors will at least be less likely to lowball a less-motivated seller. 

Success or failure will start with the Bears building even a serviceable playmaker corps and offensive line. "I think that’s the biggest question mark: Who do we have?" Getsy said. "It all gets put on Justin, and it involves Justin. But it involves all eleven. So we’ve gotta figure out who those eleven are gonna be."

Whether they trade the first overall pick or Fields, the next move belongs to the Bears. So don't assume that common sense will automatically prevail. 

Notes On the Sean Payton/Denver Broncos Marriage

Walkthrough discussed the Denver Broncos' hiring of Sean Payton as their head coach when it looked like a done deal two weeks ago. There were then some snags -- apparently the Walmart ownership group is, well, a WALMART ownership group -- but all is well that end's well. So here are some final thoughts on the blockbuster trade/hiring.

The New Orleans Saints are the big winners. A first-round pick in 2023, plus change, will improve Mickey Loomis’ chances of turning the Saints Cap Apocalypse into merely a Cap Series of Mediocre and Meandering Seasons. Loomis will still be drafting over the next two years to replace departing or aging players on a roster that couldn’t compete in the NFL’s worst division in 2022, but that’s far better than NOT being able to add cheap potential impact players because the Eagles have all your draft picks.

The Saints could be relevant again by 2025; sooner if Loomis actually swallows his cap medicine instead of opening up even more credit card accounts to pay off his credit cards.

Remember Mike Shanahan in Washington?  Papa Shanahan took over the Washington football team in 2011, and they traded for Donovan McNabb soon after; how much input Shanahan had over the acquisition immediately became a matter of much speculation.

The Shanahan/McNabb era was brief and bonkers, with Shanahan benching and publicly ripping McNabb and the team giving the quarterback a $78-million “financial apology” extension just a few weeks later. There was an obvious power struggle afoot between Shanahan and then-new general manager Bruce Allen, and Shanahan excelled at power struggles. McNabb was traded away before the 2011 season, and Shanahan noodled with Rex Grossman and the legendary John Beck for a year just to prove that he could before unleashing the Robert Griffin/Kirk Cousins saga upon an unsuspecting multiverse.

There are obvious parallels in Denver: a franchise quarterback crumbling like a vampire once removed from the soil of his ancestral land, an ownership group seeking a solution and legitimacy at the same time, a big-name coach who enjoys throwing his weight around. In case it wasn’t obvious: buckle up for a bumpy ride. 

Bottom Line. Payton will either use his prestige and power to build a bridge between Team Walmart and Planet Russ or become one more powerful faction in a very complicated and violent MMORPG. The latter is more likely, but Mike Kafka or Shane Steichen would merely have been ground into powder by the tectonic plates on either side rubbing against each other.

The only way out for the Broncos right now is through. If he cannot succeed, Payton should at least bring about a very compelling and dramatically satisfying disaster.

Around the League

We wrap with a quick spin on the news cycle.

Tom Brady retires, probably for real.

RIP to the Pro Football Talk offseason engagement model of linking Brady four teams per week for eight consecutive weeks through the sheer power of speculation and wishcasting. Wait ... that was Walkthrough's engagement model, too! 

Houston Texans hire DeMeco Ryans to a six-year contract as their head coach.

Congratulations to the Texans for acting like a professional NFL organization, not some combination brainwashing cult/sheriff's auction, for the first time in about three years.

Los Angeles Chargers hire Kellen Moore as offensive coordinator

Moore will get Justin Herbert to fully unlock his stratospheric potential and silence any doubts that quarterback may be a little bit overhyped, just as he did for Dak Prescott. 

Tyler Huntley named to Pro Bowl roster.

Now that it’s a flag football game, they are selecting the players best suited to flag football. Never play four-dimensional chess with a Manning brother.

NFL announces that the 2023 salary cap will rise to $224.8 million, on the high end of expectations.

Great news: the Vikings won’t have to cut as many of their over-the-hill defenders! Awful news: the Vikings won’t have to cut as many of their over-the-hill defenders!

Franchise tag figures released.

Waiting and seeing for one year on Geno Smith, Daniel Jones and (yes) gimpy/grumpy Lamar Jackson will cost around $30 million. Overpaying any of them could cost four to five years of headaches, and probably a job or two. 

Brock Purdy to miss six offseason months with an elbow injury.

He’s on pace to return just after Trey Lance’s first three-interception 7-on-7 drill.

Trevor Lawrence plans to “make his voice heard” about the Jaguars’ offensive direction.

Tired: Lawrence getting a job at Baskin Robbins to make sure Doug Pederson hears what he has to say. Wired: Lawrence downloaded the Rosetta Stone “Learn to Speak Baalke” app. 

New Panthers head coach Frank Reich discusses his quarterback philosophy.

“I’ve had to work with the young, the old, the pocket passer, the guy who moves,” Reich said, via Darin Gantt of the team’s website. And let's not forget the tired, the poor and the huddled Wentzes yearning to set the football free. 

Later This Week: The Running Backs are Coming! The Running Backs are Coming! A Senior Bowl scouting notebook. 


79 comments, Last at 05 Feb 2023, 1:35pm

#1 by theslothook // Feb 01, 2023 - 12:48pm

Based on what I've seen, I would suspect that Fields isn't the type of QB you can credibly commit long term dollars to. At worst, he's a super valuable backup who can electrify. He is an offense almost unto himself and he doesn't even need to improve at all as a passer to carry real value to a team.

But the injury concerns I have with Lamar are tiny in comparison to Fields; who runs much more and takes way more brutal hits. Simply put, the way he plays, I don't think he can last a whole season and as a career, I don't think it has a shelf life above 4 years. Of course, as many times before, I could be wrong.

I would trade him if I were the Bears. 

Points: 4

#2 by BigRichie // Feb 01, 2023 - 12:53pm

Agreed. Even if you concede he had nothing to work with, that's exactly what he accomplished with it passing-wise. And also looks to me that Fields takes way more hits than does Lamar or Hurts or Josh.

Points: 0

#14 by KnotMe // Feb 01, 2023 - 1:40pm

Yeah,'s tough to trade him as Mike said (which applies to any rookie QB honestly).  Keeping him as a backup while he's cheap and hoping he improves is probably the best course of action.  Trading a QB on their rookie deal will tank their value no matter what, so might as well get the cheap years out first. 

Points: 2

#26 by Steve in WI // Feb 01, 2023 - 3:38pm

I can't help but notice you didn't say one word about any of the QBs you're suggesting the Bears should take at #1. If you believe that one of them projects as an equal or better prospect to Fields, then I see your point. But the object for the Bears isn't to come to an objective valuation of Fields; it's to decide whether to keep Fields or draft one of the top rookies.

As far as injury concerns, Fields averaged about 1 more rush attempt per game than Lamar in 2022 and Fields only missed 2 games in 2022, 1 of which was the finale where it was pretty widely reported that he could have played if the game was meaningful. I wasn't able to see all of the games but quite frankly most of the brutal hits I saw Fields take were sacks. In theory, if he improves as a passer and relies less on his legs, and the majority of the runs he does make end with a slide, out of bounds, or the end zone, I don't think he's at a radically higher risk of injury than any other QB. Also, it's the NFL! It's brutal and tons of QBs get hurt for all kinds of reasons.

Points: 6

#29 by theslothook // Feb 01, 2023 - 4:04pm

I can't help but notice you didn't say one word about any of the QBs you're suggesting the Bears should take at #1. If you believe that one of them projects as an equal or better prospect to Fields, then I see your point. But the object for the Bears isn't to come to an objective valuation of Fields; it's to decide whether to keep Fields or draft one of the top rookies.

I don't watch college football, so I am totally agnostic about them. I sort of just slot qbs into tiers based on their predraft hype. From what I can tell, there are several "worthy" top prospects, which puts them in the same bucket as typical Stafford, Fields, Sanchez type QBs.

Fields only missed 2 games in 2022, 1 of which was the finale where it was pretty widely reported that he could have played if the game was meaningful. I wasn't able to see all of the games but quite frankly most of the brutal hits I saw Fields take were sacks. In theory, if he improves as a passer and relies less on his legs, and the majority of the runs he does make end with a slide, out of bounds, or the end zone, I don't think he's at a radically higher risk of injury than any other QB. Also, it's the NFL! It's brutal and tons of QBs get hurt for all kinds of reasons.

This is true, but I am mostly thinking that the rushing will never be excised from his game and while some rushers do learn to protect themselves, that hasn't been historically the case and a lot of these rush first Qbs tend to have pretty short careers. 

Points: 4

#37 by Steve in WI // Feb 01, 2023 - 4:52pm

I similarly don't watch college football so I am totally reliant on opinions of others when it comes to the actual prospects. From what I have heard from the experts who've been asked the question directly, most of them think that Fields would be the #1 QB in this class if he was part of it...or, if they feel like it's better to draft one, they cite the extra two years of the rookie contract are the primary reason and that they don't necessarily value the player higher than Fields. I'll admit my bias in that Fields is the most exciting Bears QB I've ever watched and I don't want them to move on from him, but in general I would argue that the only reason to move on from a QB like Fields is because you believe that the one you're going to take is a clear upgrade.

If the Bears had to decide right now whether to give him $200M guaranteed or something like that, it would be different, but they don't. They potentially have two more really cheap seasons, one reasonable season at the 5th year option price, and up to 3 more seasons after that at a high per-year price but no long term commitment.

Points: 3

#43 by Tracy // Feb 01, 2023 - 5:29pm

From what I have heard from the experts who've been asked the question directly, most of them think that Fields would be the #1 QB in this class if he was part of it

I've heard the opposite, that both Stroud and Young look like better prospects than Fields. Honestly, though, the only question the Bears should be trying to answer is whether one of those guys constitutes an improvement over Fields. The rest of it is an exercise in CYA, which I guess matters if your name's not Belichick and you were part of the decision to pick the last guy. But since Poles/Eberflus weren't around when Fields was picked, it shouldn't be too hard to move on from him if they want to.

Points: 0

#55 by BigRichie // Feb 01, 2023 - 9:25pm

"Most" of whom??

He was nowhere near the #1 pick in his own class. So Stroud and Young are that mediocre of prospects? Just no way.

Points: 3

#65 by mehllageman56 // Feb 02, 2023 - 9:58am

Don't know if Fields would be considered a better prospect than Stroud or Young, but he was generally considered 2nd best to Trevor Lawrence until Zach Wilson's last season, with Trey Lance being an outlier.  Not sure whether I would consider Stroud or Young better prospects than Fields, but a reboot would give the Bears two more years on a rookie contract. 

Another thing to keep in mind is how slight Young's frame is; wikipedia has his height and weight as 5 feet 10 inches and 194 pounds.  You don't jettison Fields over injury concerns and then draft Young.

Points: 4

#51 by rh1no // Feb 01, 2023 - 9:07pm

Kinda surprised the Ravens haven't been linked to any Justin Fields trade rumors, even if those rumors are just "wishcasting." The Ravens' roster is built to wring every ounce of success from a rushing QB, and Harbaugh would have as much of a chance as anyone at developing Fields into a capable passer.

Sure, nobody wants to get rid of an MVP quarterback in his prime, but if Baltimore isn't willing to pay his (arguably) outrageous demands for guaranteed money, plugging Fields into the system seems like about as good of a soft reboot as they could manage.

Points: 7

#81 by timtones // Feb 05, 2023 - 1:35pm

I agree with the short shelf life point, but disagree they should trade him.

It is cheap and ease to make an offense for Fields.

You do´t need the things that are hard to get aka good pass protective offensive tackles, a true number one receiver, a TE that can stretch the seam and have good hands, and a RB thar can catch passes.

You need guards, good run blocking OTs, blocking TEs, a reliable WR and a pure runner RB. And that is cheap and plentifull

They already have a legit field Mooney.

Playing they cards correctly they can have a competitive offense by next year. They can hope Fields will be available most of the games next 2 years.

Then they shoud not give him a contract and move away.

Points: 0

#3 by Pat // Feb 01, 2023 - 12:57pm

The New Orleans Saints are the big winners. A first-round pick in 2023, plus change, will improve Mickey Loomis’ chances of turning the Saints Cap Apocalypse into merely a Cap Series of Mediocre and Meandering Seasons. 

I've seen it suggested that part of the reason the Saints were willing to trade their '23 pick to the Eagles was that Loomis knew they'd likely be getting back a first for Payton. Which... isn't really that nuts. I still wouldn't have done it in their situation because I thought they had zero chance of making any waves last year, but, y'know. Hard to blame a guy for having confidence in his own team.


NFL announces that the 2023 salary cap will rise to $224.8 million, on the high end of expectations.

Uh. No. It is literally exactly what OTC was using for '23, rounded to the nearest million. They were using $225M. Anyone who thought it was going to be significantly lower was out of their mind.

After '23, cap growth should be close to ~9-10%/yr for a few years, which (probably unsurprisingly!) is roughly what quarterback contracts have been escalating at, and slightly above historical norms. What they settle to after that pretty much depends on gambling revenue.

Points: 1

#4 by BigRichie // Feb 01, 2023 - 12:58pm

Hanging onto Fields actually strikes me as the bigger career gamble for Poles. If either Stroud or Young clearly outplay Justin over these next 2 years, Poles will be blamed for letting a highest-level QB get away when Poles was lucky enough to have him right there in his hands.

Points: 5

#27 by Steve in WI // Feb 01, 2023 - 3:55pm

I don't doubt that self-preservation plays a role in a GM's decision-making, nor do I feel confident that Poles is a good GM, but man, "which of these options will look worse for me if it fails?" strikes me as a really bad way for a GM to build his team.

Points: 4

#72 by JonesJon // Feb 02, 2023 - 1:08pm

If Fields is bad next year, Poles is going to get to draft a new QB and reset his timeframe as a GM

Points: 1

#5 by mansteel // Feb 01, 2023 - 1:02pm

Yeah, it seems like the prudent thing to do is to trade the pick and give Fields another year to determine whether he is the guy. There's a pretty good chance you get either a clear yes or a clear no, either of which outcomes makes their game plan clear: sign him long-term in the first case, jettison him and use your high 1st round pick in 2024 on the next QB (using the draft capital you get from trading this year's pick to trade up if necessary).

Of course, there's a scary middle ground where Fields doesn't improve much as a passer and the Bears nonetheless scrape their way to about .500, but that's probably a chance worth taking.

Points: 2

#11 by JoelBarlow // Feb 01, 2023 - 1:23pm

amazing upside! but we've also decided Daniel Jones is good now, for.. reasons

Points: 1

#15 by mansteel // Feb 01, 2023 - 1:43pm

Not a bad comp, really. As a Giants fan who spent a lot of time parsing the all-22 this year, I'm hopeful that Jones' improvement will continue (if we write off years 2-3 of his career as Judge/Garrett sabotage, his career arc looks great!), but paying someone of his current caliber $35 million, if that's what it takes, isn't especially appealing. 

Points: 1

#73 by JonesJon // Feb 02, 2023 - 1:14pm

Major difference that he's a year ahead of that timeframe. So if he only has a Daniel Jones type development as a passer they won't have to pony up a long term extension for him yet. They can pick up his 5th year option which will be in the low 20s if he isn't a pro bowler. 

Points: 0

#9 by theslothook // Feb 01, 2023 - 1:16pm

You can't guarantee you will end up with the top overall pick again. Even if the Bears are still bad, that could just mean they finish with the 5th pick or worse. That will mean, in a typical QB class, those top qbs will be gone by the time you are ready to pick. Sometimes; you can't just bank on timing your QB of the future. 

Points: 5

#12 by mansteel // Feb 01, 2023 - 1:25pm

That's fair. There's definitely a case to be made for drafting Stroud or Young and trading Fields. But if the earn the 5th pick, they should be able to to trade up assuming they have a second first-rounder from trading down this year.

Points: 1

#46 by Tracy // Feb 01, 2023 - 5:50pm

SF gave up 2 future firsts and a future second to go from 12 to 3 in 2021. If the Bears get a similar haul for No 1 this year, they'd theoretically have the ammo to move up from anywhere in the 5-12 slots to the top 3. Every team drafting between 4 and 9 needs a new qb; if they trade to 6 or lower, they'd get enough back for your theoretical 2024 trade up, but if they make a trade for 4 or 5, they probably don't guarantee having the ammo to get back into the top 3 next year. That's risky. As long as they think Young/Stroud is better than Fields, I think it's better to for them pull the trigger now than to hope to get back there.

Points: 1

#62 by Noahrk // Feb 02, 2023 - 9:24am

If none of this year's QBs are considered can't miss, then they can use the picks they get this year to get a similar prospect next year -probably. The problem is there might not be anyone willing to trade down. Then again, sometimes the lesser first round prospects do better. So, provided there isn't a can't pass on prospect this year, I'd take the pick haul and stick with Fields. Worst case is not too bad and the best case -Fields works out and you have a ton of future picks- is fantastic.

Points: 0

#20 by Mike B. In Va // Feb 01, 2023 - 2:41pm

Yeah, I think you draft the QB you want and then trade Fields *during* the draft, if you can find a taker. It's easy enough to say the GM wants his own QB pick, and I don't think Fields is ever going to be in the top tier. He's a nice flier for, say, Tampa, who need someone cheap.

Points: 1

#10 by JoelBarlow // Feb 01, 2023 - 1:22pm

isn't the middle ground actually extremely likely?

Fields seems likely to progress up to the murky tier of 10 or so QBs between 12-22 and that you probably can't win with we'll debate the hell out of

also I love the "he put the team on his back" narrative - to where? 

the bears lost 10 straight games to end the year, had a bad offense overall (25th DVOA) even WITH historic QB running, and in the end Fields was injured


Points: 2

#21 by Aaron Brooks G… // Feb 01, 2023 - 2:44pm

Even Manning wasn’t MANNING in his second season on a bad roster.

I don’t know what you expected to get from that roster.

Points: 0

#42 by RevBackjoy // Feb 01, 2023 - 5:29pm

1999 Manning was 2nd in DVOA and DYAR (5 behind MVP Warner, 1581 vs 1586). So pretty close to MANNING. Slightly ahead of Year 2 Fields, at any rate.

Points: 10

#50 by Cythammer // Feb 01, 2023 - 7:26pm

I don't think there's many players outside of Josh Allen (maybe Vinny Testaverde) who were as bad as Fields was (as a passer) this year and ever become good. His running ability complicates matters a little, but still.

Points: 4

#76 by RevBackjoy // Feb 02, 2023 - 4:03pm

Troy Aikman, Steve Young. Also Alex Smith. Then again, including the 1980s Buccaneers in the set known as "professional American football teams" is debatable.

Points: 0

#6 by BigRichie // Feb 01, 2023 - 1:03pm

Assuming they get a king's ransom for Pick #1, I can see the sense in giving Justin another season or two. One thing is, though, those draft choices probably won't help all that much in Year 1. (other than cap-wise) So this coming season Fields will still be very dependent on the Bears' other young guys taking a major step forward.

Points: 0

#8 by IlluminatusUIUC // Feb 01, 2023 - 1:15pm

So this coming season Fields will still be very dependent on the Bears' other young guys taking a major step forward.

In addition to the picks, the Bears are also #1 in available cap space by a mile. The list of free agent wideouts is uninspiring (and that's before teams start re-signing their own), but the extra picks would allow them to deal for someone like Deandre Hopkins or take a flier on Michael Thomas.

Points: 1

#13 by Cythammer // Feb 01, 2023 - 1:29pm

"by just becoming slightly more efficient as a passer -- think Daniel Jones"

Uh, that would not be a slight change at all! It would, in fact, be an enormous leap by DVOA's numbers. Fields was the worst QB in the league with a -34.5% DVOA. Daniel Jones was a little above average at 1.1%. By DVOA Daniel Jones was closer to Patrick Mahomes than he was to Fields.

If you had to bet right now, you would bet that Fields will never be as 'good' (that is, mediocre) of a passer as Daniel Jones was this past season.

Rather amusingly, Fields is even behind Jones in rushing value (by both the rate state, DVOA, and the counting stat, DYAR).

Points: 7

#16 by mansteel // Feb 01, 2023 - 1:45pm

But Fields has no weapons! Jones had...ummm...Darius Slayton...and...Daniel Bellinger...never mind.

Points: 5

#33 by KnotMe // Feb 01, 2023 - 4:22pm

Well, I think it's easier to improve when your bad as there are so many things you can fix. 

Zach Wilson went from -32.3% DVOA last year to -15.2% this year. Which is a big improvement but not enough to save him. 

That said, Fields had -28.4% DVOA  last year and -35.4% this year...It's within normal fluctuations I think but those are both really bad.  Still, Fields probably gains a year by not saying something dumb to the press


Points: 1

#63 by Noahrk // Feb 02, 2023 - 9:31am

Lest we forget, it was a forgone conclusion he was going to be bad before the season started and it wouldn't be fair to judge him based on that. Which is... really hard to do. But I think he's shown enough to remain hopeful. Somewhat hopeful.

Points: 0

#17 by Steve in WI // Feb 01, 2023 - 1:51pm

(Peter Griffin voice) "Sure, Justin Fields is Justin Fields, but CJ Stroud and Bryce Young could turn into anything. Even Justin Fields!"

Seriously, though, if someone is arguing for drafting a QB and getting rid of Fields on the basis that they genuinely believe Stroud or Young or whoever is a markedly better prospect with a higher ceiling, that's one thing. But most of the arguments seem to hinge on either a) Fields having "failed" in some way that suggests he can't continue to improve, and/or b) the idiotic notion that resetting the rookie contract clock is the most important priority rather than the actual QB you're choosing.

If the Bears draft a QB at #1, they won't pick again until the back half of the 2nd round, which suggests that said rookie QB will not have a markedly more talented team around him in 2023 than Fields did. Granted, he won't spend his rookie year with a coach who actively does not want to play him like Fields did, but he would have to be pretty special to elevate the supporting cast in 2023 and probably 2024, too. If he's not, and we're sitting here in two years wondering if Stroud or Young or whoever is truly bad or just stuck on a bad team, then what? Move on yet again (almost certainly not with the #1 overall pick, and maybe not even a top 5-10 pick)?

Points: 3

#47 by Tracy // Feb 01, 2023 - 5:56pm

The Bears are sitting on $90m in cap space. If they know what they're doing, that's money has a much greater chance to improve the team than any player drafted between #1 and the back of round 2.

What it won't buy is a veteran qb, because those are rarely available in free agency (and there don't appear to be any good ones this year unless Derek Carr gets cut)

Points: 1

#56 by BigRichie // Feb 01, 2023 - 9:28pm

Derek Carr is getting cut. At minimum traded fairly cheap (for an established starting QB).

Points: 0

#18 by carlosla // Feb 01, 2023 - 2:03pm

Good-to-great QBs are FAR FAR FAR and away the most valuable and most rare asset in the league. QBs on a rookie deal are that times 10. 

I would act in accordance with this obvious and empirical fact.

The Bears should keep Fields, keep the pick AND draft the top QB prospect. That is far and away the highest expected value play. 

Points: 5

#19 by theslothook // Feb 01, 2023 - 2:25pm

The problem with that choice is it kind of leaves you in no man's land. If Justin Fields plays well, what do you do with your unplayed, Highly drafted rookie? Then you're ending up in a Aaron Rodgers Jordan love situation which looks like a disastrous decision 

If Justin Fields plays poorly, what then? His trade value becomes even lower in those circumstances that it is now. 

Really the choice of not making a real choice is one of opportunity cost.

Points: 1

#22 by Mike B. In Va // Feb 01, 2023 - 2:45pm

If you think one of the rooks has a better chance to pan out, eat the draft picks, trade Fields for what you can get for him after you draft your new QB, then move on. Don't worry about the draft costs, *you* didn't pay them, your predecessor did.

Points: 3

#52 by rh1no // Feb 01, 2023 - 9:19pm

This is the correct approach. Sunk costs are sunk. Certainly there's nothing wrong with a bit of gamesmanship, positioning your team as committed to developing Fields in order to command the highest possible trade value, but you don't hold onto a bad QB just because you spent a lot on him ... especially if you are sitting on the #1 pick in the draft.

Or maybe you do if you're the Bears!

Points: 3

#24 by takeleavebelieve // Feb 01, 2023 - 3:09pm

If the Bears draft a QB #1 and Fields outplays him, you’ve got two starting-caliber QBs for less than what most teams are spending to have one. If that seems like a disaster to you, maybe have a quick check-in with the 49ers or Ravens fan bases and see what they think.

It also gives the team considerably more options in 2-3 years when Fields needs a long term deal. Again, if that seems like a disaster, maybe ask some Giants fans how they feel about Daniel Jones at a 30+ million AAV. 

Points: 2

#64 by Noahrk // Feb 02, 2023 - 9:39am

The risk in that situation is that you won't get a chance to properly develop whichever QB you start as he goes through some bumps, as there will be a lot of pressure to yank him immediately. It's hard to develop two QBs at the same time unless the expectations for one of them are low.

Points: 3

#66 by mehllageman56 // Feb 02, 2023 - 10:12am

The 49ers basically just did this, and ended up getting their season ruined when prospect #3 got hurt in the NFC championship game.  The Eagles drafted Hurts in the 2nd round to a chorus of complaints (they were set with Wentz, apparently).  Wonder how things would have gone if they hadn't drafted him.

Teams always need quarterbacks.  If teams can only develop or help one QB at a time, perhaps they should hire more or better coaches.  I want the Jets to draft Hendon Hooker this year and keep Zach Wilson while signing a vet.

Points: 1

#77 by apocalipstick // Feb 03, 2023 - 9:57am

The Eagles drafted Hurts in round #2, not overall #2. Huge difference. 

Your proposition is faulty for many reasons, including limited time/resources, locker room atmosphere, and any and all human factors. If the Chiefs had Patrick Mahomes and then, assuming they were in a position to do so, drafted Trevor Lawrence, that would be managerial malpractice. 

Points: 2

#78 by apocalipstick // Feb 03, 2023 - 11:34am

Or... you blew a #1 pick and have no starting-caliber QBs. The assumption that the first QB selected will be a guaranteed NFL starter... well, let's meet Sam Darnold, Mitchell Trubisky, Josh Rosen, Trey Lance, and Zach Wilson, and that's before we get into the truly epic busts.

Points: 0

#28 by carlosla // Feb 01, 2023 - 4:03pm

Yeah, I feel like the two prior responses cover the bases well, but I’d add one more thought: I think your critique is overly focused on trade value of draft picks. The end game is to find a franchise QB. Unless the rules of the NFL change in some dramatic way, finding one of those pretty much assures you of being in the playoffs and competing for the SB for a decade plus. The value of a franchise QB, even one that you have to pay “market” for, far exceeds the actual cap hit of a franchise QB. And it far exceeds the value of any of several other stars you might assemble at other positions. Said another way, the end game isn’t draft picks per se, it’s using those draft picks to find that franchise QB. Teams ought to allocate much more draft and developmental capital to finding those.

Points: 2

#30 by carlosla // Feb 01, 2023 - 4:10pm

Sorry if this is piling on. 

“No Man’s Land” is precisely where ~22-26 teams are, in perpetuity. If you don’t have a QB that is actually worth building around, you are fighting to make the playoffs but with no real chance (absent a fluke) of winning it all. 

My idea is actually to minimize the odds you end up forever stuck in No Man’s Land, by maximizing your chances of finding a franchise QB.

It’s arguing about anecdotes, but, first, the Packers have been an awesome and enviable team for most of the last decade, not stuck in No Man’s Land. Second, their problem isn’t the drafting of Love, but rather their unwillingness to get a WR, even after trading away their star WR. 

Points: 0

#38 by Scott P. // Feb 01, 2023 - 4:57pm

No Man's Land is a fine place to be, as a fan -- your teams are generally competitive, you have a decent shot to make the playoffs, and who knows, you can get lucky.  It's vastly underrated territory.


And you use the Packers as counterexample -- your non-No Man's Land team won precisely one Super Bowl over the past 12 years. Not knocking that, but unless you are a starved franchise, is that really worth multiple cycles of sucking and rebuilding?



Points: -1

#40 by KnotMe // Feb 01, 2023 - 5:15pm

There is different types of no-mans land. Being say, the 90's Bills is painful for fans but at least you have a realistic chance to win it all. Being the Vikings and getting one more game a year where you know how it's gonna not as fun. Even if you get 1 flukey game the odds of that happening 4 times in a row are tiny. 

Points: 3

#41 by Aaron Brooks G… // Feb 01, 2023 - 5:17pm

Remember, Carolina exited mediocrity by descending to wretchedness. Exiting out the back door happens, too.

Points: 5

#31 by theslothook // Feb 01, 2023 - 4:15pm

Replying to everyone here.

The opportunity costs can best be seen in this way:

Option 1: Draft the QB. Well, now this choice precludes the ability to draft a top flight prospect for a team largely bereft of talent to begin with. Barring some massive coup in free agency, the same caveats about the supporting cast limiting Fields are true next year as well. If he plays slightly better but still badly; can we really say now with certainty the issues are on him? Rome wasn't built in a day, tis true, but some players provide instant offense even as rookies - Jamar Chase, Kyle Pitts, Chris Olave. Dont we think the Bears sure could use a player like that; especially when you have the Bills GM bitching about it?

Option 2: Trade Fields. I think this one has a smaller opportunity cost than Option 1; but it still manifests in subtle and not so subtle ways. Unless these prospects play similarly to Fields, the scheme and personnel are going to be different for Fields than the first round rookie. I also think the longer the QB isn't playing, the smaller your sample size is. Remember, it has been 2 years into Zach Wilson's career and apparently thats enough to provide clarity about what he is. But if instead Wilson had sat most of year 1 and played exactly the same as year 2, the jets would be snookered into another year of Zach Wilson and another lost season. If Fields plays just well enough to last 2 more seasons; thats 2 fewer years of sample size and 2 years further into his rookie contract. You could be forced into a Broncos situation with Brock Osweiler - forced to overpay based on limited starts and practice performances(or get lucky that another foolish team signs him instead). 

In revisiting history, the only time this situation kind of materialized in a best case scenario was the Chargers with Drew Brees. Even here; it came with some sad drawbacks. Brees ended up walking for nothing, the Chargers gambled and won that Rivers wouldn't stink and unfortunately, he was in line for a contract extension immediately. 


Points: 0

#32 by JoelBarlow // Feb 01, 2023 - 4:15pm

yes the most rational thing is to bail quickly on QBs who obviously are never going to be truly great, but teams almost NEVER do this - they waste years with Darnolds Daniel Joneses Tuas etc 

Points: 0

#39 by KnotMe // Feb 01, 2023 - 5:10pm

Agree. Even #1 picks fail a decent amount.  I would take who they think is best and then do the standard competition thing. Let Fields start, and you can swap over after few games if he still can't pass. Best case one is just better and you trade the other. Fields can't really hurt his trade value(it's pretty much all potential at this point)

Points: -1

#68 by Pat // Feb 02, 2023 - 10:33am

QBs on a rookie deal are that times 10. 

Controversial take: I don't think QBs being on a rookie deal matters as much as we think it does. Wait, let me finish. The key isn't having a good-to-great QB on a rookie deal. It's knowing you have a good-to-great QB for years to come. Period.

Yes - if you get so incredibly lucky that a QB is just obviously great from year 1 (rookie year), you might think that's phenomenal. But that's what Dallas got. Prescott's rookie year was insane, by DYAR standards. But... he regressed quite a bit in year 2 and year 3. So Dallas was less certain. But then he has a monster year 4, and Dallas rolls the dice on a franchise tag, Prescott gets injured, and they end up signing him to one of the most expensive QB contracts in the league (again: see Jones talking about being open to a Prescott extension this offseason already).

Having a great QB on a rookie deal definitely helps! But the problem is that if you're not positive, it either just makes the QB's long term contract much more expensive (Dallas, Baltimore) or saddles you with huge dead money when the guy's actually a bust (Wentz, obviously).

And there have been so, so many QBs that we've absolutely thought were "good to great" and turned out to be "not good enough." Cousins. Carr. Prescott, maybe. Who knows with Herbert (although I'm betting he is good enough there). Wentz. Who knows with Goff (betting "not" there).

How does this relate to the Bears? Does drafting a top QB prospect help you know you have a good-to-great QB? If you have any confidence in Fields, I don't think it does. I think it makes a ton more sense to go the Eagles, Dolphins, Vikings, or even Bengals route and try to go for a top-end WR to give Fields weapons. Because you have to know. That's really the key.

You have to know whether or not your QB is good. That's really the most valuable asset in the league - knowing you're set.

Points: 3

#69 by JoelBarlow // Feb 02, 2023 - 11:43am

or just going the Eagles route and not really knowing but having a loaded roster

probably not super replicable

Points: 2

#23 by MJK // Feb 01, 2023 - 3:00pm

If you were the Bears, would you trade Fields for Mac Jones, straight up?

If you were the Patriots, would you do so?


Not saying it's likely (it's not) or a good idea (it's not) for either franchise, but the fact that it's a tough question speaks to the challenge in judging Fields' value.

Points: -1

#25 by takeleavebelieve // Feb 01, 2023 - 3:13pm

I haven’t watched enough Bears games to evaluate Fields. But as a Pats fan, I’ve seen Jones do enough positive things with an actual coaching staff behind him that I’m willing to overlook the bad things he did while operating without one.

As much as I would love to see Belicheck resurrect the 40s-era Navy option offense with Fields, I wouldn’t take that trade straight up. 

Points: -1

#35 by KnotMe // Feb 01, 2023 - 4:35pm

It would be an interesting trade, that is for sure.

I'm reasonably confident Mac Jones can be a "competent" QB but it's super unlikely he's more than above average. I don't think it's possible for the Pats to build a decent team around him either. 

The Pats seem to be reasonably good at training QB (there are tons of backups floating around that they drafted. ) and they arn't the type of team that is gonna have great weapons since Belichick would be better off drafting wide receivers with a dart board. 

I would say do it, but that's mostly bc it make the Pats interesting and they REALLY need some player who is actually exciting. Mac Jones just gets them stuck in fringe playoff team mode for 10 years.  Which could happen with Fields to but you at least have the option of him being good enough to get you out of it or bad enough to get a reroll. 

Points: 0

#48 by Mike B. In Va // Feb 01, 2023 - 6:06pm

Roughly half the teams in the NFL would take being stuck in fringe playoff mode for ten years, since every chance is a chance to be the team that's "good enough".

Points: 1

#54 by anthonytwotimes // Feb 01, 2023 - 9:21pm

Only idiots would want to be stuck in fringe playoff mode. Regardless of how bad they are. 

Points: -6

#57 by rh1no // Feb 01, 2023 - 9:39pm

Eh, Marvin Lewis was the best thing to happen to the Bengals. He took that franchise from a laughing stock to a fringe playoff team for 15 years. We experienced the longest period of sustained success with Andy Dalton at QB. And I really think that the level of success he achieved -- and the change in organizational culture be brought -- made Cincinnati a franchise where talented players and up-and-coming coaches would at least consider. Sure, we "lucked" into the Burrow and Chase tandem, but some people were suggesting Burrow should Eli his way out of Cincy. Without the Marvin Lewis era, maybe Vurrow would have.

Points: 2

#60 by occams_pointed… // Feb 02, 2023 - 1:35am

I don't know.

It certainly was better than the comical wretchedness of the David Shula experience. But that's like the lowest bar in the world.

On the other hand, Lewis couldn't get all-time Bengals great Corey Dillon to want to stay and couldn't overcome whatever it was (Mike Brown, cough cough) that made Carson Palmer bail too. And virtually no good free agents came to Cincy apart from reclamation projects like Ced Benson (RIP).

Two things stand out about the Lewis era:

1. The Bengals continued their ridiculous inability to win in prime time or on the road against playoff caliber teams. Folks who thought Palmer's Bengals had a legit shot to go to a Super Bowl were not paying attention to the fact that the Bengals never earned home field advantage and they had not beaten an AFC division champ on the road since 1994. They did not do so even one time in the interminable Lewis years. In fact in all of Bengals history there have been about ten total road wins against AFC division champs, with three of these achieved in just the last two seasons.

2. The one window of legitimacy they had was when Andy Dalton had his 12-game 2015 peak... and this was completely sabatoged by whoever planned to draft two offensive tackles #1 and #2 whose job was gonna be not to play at all for a year, on a squad that with just one more victory would have enjoyed home field advantage in the playoffs and thereby escape the clause of Lewis not being able to beat a division winner on the road.

I came to hate the Lewis years almost as much as the bad old 1990s. The whole organization ossified.


Points: 1

#70 by rh1no // Feb 02, 2023 - 11:51am

All fair points. And a bonus point for using the word "ossified."

It wasn't JUST Mike Brown who ran Carson out of town, though. Cincy fans were atrocious to that guy's, even going so far as to dump trash on his lawn while his wife and kids were in the home, worried about their safety.

But Palmer has spoken publicly about the organization not investing in winning a Super Bowl, and that's pretty apparent to anyone who watched them during that time. I still credit Lewis for helping turn the franchise into one with a competitive, even winning culture.

Points: 1

#71 by theslothook // Feb 02, 2023 - 12:03pm

I always thought Marvin Lewis got way too much hate.

If you go point by point in his playoff losses, The only one that stares out embarrassingly is the loss to the Chargers at home. They were at full strength against a weaker wild card opponent and Andy Dalton just completely imploded in that game. All the others were either games they were underdogs in or otherwise had severe handicaps. Such as Carson Palmer tearing his ACL early during the Pittsburgh game or Andy Dalton breaking his thumb weeks before and never even making the Pittsburgh game.

I also thought the Bengals were snake bit because Palmer took years to recover from his ACL and then had a chronic issue with the elbow. He went overnight from possibly an elite Hall of Fame quarterback to serviceable to solid. A mostly very good career but one that was far short of where his promise was.

To me, I don't think this Bengals turn around says much about the organization or the culture as it does the fact that a few things have gone their way. Remember, it wasn't THAT long ago that the Bengals were absolutely horrible under Zach Taylor. It's just, sometimes a duo like Borrow and Chase are enough to power a turnaround. Add in Higgins and Boid + a wunderkind defensive coordinator and you get a rapid overnight contender. It's rare, but not a unique set of circumstances in the history of the NFL.

I've argued this endlessly but I've always been leery about crediting culture and organizational turnaround, when sometimes it really is great. Fortunes in the draft. Partly because, I'm watching my favorite team's figurehead essentially pointing to organizational culture and smart acumen for their past success. The "horseshoe" as he and others call it really isn't anything mystical when you get past the flowery language.

Points: 0

#74 by occams_pointed… // Feb 02, 2023 - 1:21pm

Definitely the Bengals and Carson Palmer were snake bit. But during the Palmer years I agreed with Palmer's take that the organization wasn't really using all the tools to get better.

The Bengals stunk during Taylor's first year and that enabled them to get Burrow. But they also signed Hendrickson, Bell, Awuzie, Reader... four of the defenses most valuable players. And made a shrewd trade for BJ Hill. Then added Cappa and Karras who are good players. I don't think Palmer's Bengals had even one such signing, did they?

Points: 0

#75 by rh1no // Feb 02, 2023 - 2:01pm

I agree that Lewis gets too much hate. We definitely had some bad luck we were on the wrong end of dirty plays and poor officiating. But that's just part of the game, too, and Lewis never found a way to overcome those tough circumstances win when it mattered most. 

I also agree that we've had some good fortune under Taylor. I was against his hire originally, and criticized him throughout last season and this season. I think he's grown a lot as a coach and he rarely makes the same mistakes. I also think the organization tanked on purpose in his first year. And it's kind of hard to say good luck got us Ja'marr Chase when in reality, a poor offensive line almost ruined the career of pur franchise quarterback, leading to a wasted year and the #5 pick in the draft.

So I guess if we've had some good luck recently, it's just balancing the scales for the bad luck we've had historically. I see us consistently making better decisions, and we're getting better results ... slowly but surely.

Points: 1

#53 by anthonytwotimes // Feb 01, 2023 - 9:19pm

Lol no. No one wants Mac Noodle Arm Jones. The best thing Mac does is being a dirty player. 

Points: 0

#34 by AMPa // Feb 01, 2023 - 4:31pm

Wait. Everyone is so focused on Justin Fields that we're not going to talk about how colossally stupid Denver's move was?  I don't care how great the coaching is, building a team solely from day 2-3 flotsam seems like it's going to end badly.

Points: 2

#49 by Mike B. In Va // Feb 01, 2023 - 6:07pm

What's to discuss? It's a slow-rolling disaster, although NO survived a long time without any first round picks.

Points: 0

#59 by LionInAZ // Feb 01, 2023 - 10:17pm

This topic is covered in a separate Extra Point discussion. It's colossally stupid not to realize that.

Points: -2

#36 by Tutenkharnage // Feb 01, 2023 - 4:37pm

Whether the Bears would actually trade Fields, their front office isn't doing itself any favors if their coordinators are throwing cold water on the idea that they'd actually draft a quarterback at #1. They need to at least sound as if they're considering it, and if that required them to go to Fields beforehand and say, "Look, we have faith in you, but we want to maximize the value of this trade so that we can build a complete team about you, so we're going to sound as if we're open to picking a quarterback at the top of the draft even though we have no intention of doing so," then they should have done that. But they clearly didn't (or the coordinator didn't get the memo), which isn't going to help them create demand for that top pick, since any team sitting below them knows they're not going to take a quarterback, which knocks all the quarterbacks down a pick.

Points: -1

#44 by BigRichie // Feb 01, 2023 - 5:42pm


Everyone knows the Bears either start over with Stroud or Young, or trade the pick to someone else who then uses it on Stroud or Young. And Da Bears get multiple picks in return.

Either Stroud or Young will go #1, and the other will go #2. Both via trade if need be.

Points: 2

#58 by LionInAZ // Feb 01, 2023 - 10:14pm

All of this yapping assumes that Fields is the main point of failure for the Bears, who somehow had the worst scoring defense in the NFL. 

The problems of a team don't always come down to the QB when the team lacks talent everywhere.

Drafting a QB with the #1 pick won't fix the Bears. 

Points: 5

#67 by mehllageman56 // Feb 02, 2023 - 10:26am

If I were them I'd trade down but only a couple of spots so they got Will Anderson, because he's going to be a monster.  Jalen Carter looks like he will be great as well, but there are slightly more caveats about him (not playing every down being the only one).  It's more likely Anderson becomes Lawrence Taylor than Stroud or Young turn into Drew Brees.

Points: 2

Save 10%
& Support Mike
Support Football Outsiders' independent media and Mike Tanier. Use promo code TANIER to save 10% on any FO+ membership and give half the cost of your membership to tip Mike.