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Bears’ pivotal offseason set around hopes for Justin Fields’ future

1 year agoChris Emma

In the days leading to training camp on the back fields of Halas Hall, rookie general manager Ryan Poles stood confident in what was to come for his first year leading the Bears. It stemmed from a genuine optimism in the young quarterback he inherited, Justin Fields, and the hopes for his future.

At the end of Year 1 for Poles’ calculated rebuilding plan for the Bears, his belief in the 23-year-old Fields was only strengthened – the strengths of his game becoming clear, the shortcomings representing untapped potential, and the grasp on this franchise now unquestioned.

“I feel like it’s already mine,” Fields said of his future leading the Bears.

Poles seems set on that, too. As the Bears head into a pivotal offseason with flexibility for their future, all the resources necessary to significantly improve and hopes to sustain success ahead, Poles is ready to build around Fields as a rising quarterback.

The Bears simply aren’t seeking a change at quarterback this offseason, not with the No. 1 overall pick in the 2023 NFL Draft or with the league-leading $98.7 million in available salary cap space. Rather, Poles hopes to follow what the Super Bowl-bound Eagles formed around Jalen Hurts and the Dolphins developed with Tua Tagovailoa – promising young quarterbacks who enjoyed breakthroughs because of what their teams provided in them.

The Eagles and Dolphins carefully flipped draft capital over the last two years to bring in stars around their quarterbacks. Hurts thrived in his third season with A.J. Brown and DeVonta Smith, while Tagovailoa was excellent when healthy throwing to Tyreek Hill and Jaylen Waddle. Brown and Hill were each acquired last offseason in trades for first-round picks, while Smith and Waddle were stars at Alabama selected in the first round.

With that belief in Fields, Poles and the Bears can hope to receive a haul in a trade down from the No. 1 overall pick and use those returns to invest around the quarterback as the Eagles and Dolphins each pulled off.

The Bears are hopeful in what improvements Fields can make as a passer. He was one of the most prolific quarterbacks in college football over two seasons at Ohio State, a Heisman Trophy finalist in 2019 who shattered several Buckeyes passing records. Fields threw for 385 yards and six touchdowns in the College Football Playoff semifinal as a junior at Ohio State – doing so while playing through broken ribs. 

Fields completed 68.4% of his passes in college for 5,701 yards, 67 touchdowns and just nine interceptions over two seasons with the Buckeyes. The Bears know well Fields can throw the football. 

Even though Fields’ passing numbers are lacking through two seasons, the Bears believe he can enjoy his own breakthroughs in 2023.

“I’m excited for the direction he’s going,” Poles said. “He knows where he has to improve. We’re excited about his development and where he goes next. He showed ability to be impactful with his legs. There are flashes with his arm. Now if we can put that together, I think we have something really good.”

Fields completed 60.4% of his passes in 2022 for 2,242 yards, 17 touchdowns and 11 interceptions over 15 games, adding 160 carries for 1,143 yards and eight rushing scores. Fields finished second in single-season rushing yards by a quarterback, trailing only Ravens star Lamar Jackson and the 1,206 rushing yards he posted as an MVP in 2019.

Poles said candidly he would have to be “absolutely blown away” to consider a top quarterback prospect with the No. 1 overall pick. He didn’t entirely slam the door on that possibility, which has left national narratives to spin ever since with wonders for Chicago’s offseason.

Truth be told, the Bears will do their due diligence on prized quarterback prospects like Bryce Young (Alabama), C.J. Stroud (Ohio State), Anthony Richardson (Florida) and Will Levis (Kentucky). It would be foolish not to explore each quarterback in the draft, even just for scouting purposes to cover the potential of facing these players every year.

But the Bears never have intended to start over at quarterback this offseason. They aren’t looking to deal Fields away and begin anew with a rookie quarterback – not with the promise Poles sees in his quarterback.

This is now an opportunity for the Bears to invest in Fields and the future he could have – the type of offseason that could be transformational for the quarterback and this entire franchise. 

It’s an offseason set on the hopes for Fields becoming a franchise quarterback.

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