Bears’ trade for Chase Claypool signals a belief in Justin Fields and the future
LAKE FOREST, Ill. — As the Bears began their foundational first season led by this new regime, general manager Ryan Poles privately held a belief that second-year quarterback Justin Fields would emerge as a franchise cornerstone. But he wanted to see it come to fruition.
Eight games into this season, Poles is seeing the type of growth from the 23-year-old Fields that offers proof to his personal confidence. On Tuesday, he made a key investment into Fields’ development. The Bears dealt their own second-round pick to the Steelers in exchange for dynamic wide receiver Chase Claypool.
In detailing what led the Bears made their bold move for Claypool, Poles pointed towards what it means for Fields.
“I like the way Justin is trending,” Poles said Tuesday after the NFL’s trade deadline passed. “And I think adding another big body who’s physical, explosive, great leaping ability, can stretch the field but also is violent with the ball in his hand as well as a blocker, I think it enhances everyone around him.”
Since Poles took over as the Bears’ general manager back in January, he has embarked on an ambitious rebuilding process with hopes of sustained success in the years to come. With that, he was not willing to make a considerable investment at wide receiver. Chicago went into this season with one of the most unproven groups at wide receiver. It led to rampant speculation on whether Poles and the Bears believed in Fields — or were even giving him a fair chance at success.
Fields has showcased important growth. The statistics reveal marked progress over the last 4 games, with Fields completing 64.1% of his passes for 728 yards, 5 touchdowns and 2 interceptions, adding 277 rushing yards and 2 scores.
Perhaps more notably is how Fields has found his fit in the Bears’ offense led by first-year coordinator Luke Getsy. Chicago leads the NFL in rushing and has forged an identity. Fields is taking ownership of that.
“I’m getting more comfortable with the offense,” Fields said. “I think our guys are too. I think we’re growing.”
Poles looked towards the 2023 NFL free agency class at wide receiver and realized there wasn’t going to be the opportunity to sign an impact player at that position. It was a key component to seeking talent on the trade market.
Meanwhile, Claypool was an ideal addition for the Bears’ future-focused direction. He’s just 24 years old and immediately would become Chicago’s most talented wide receiver. He has 153 receptions for 2,044 yards and 12 touchdowns over parts of three seasons and has one-and-a-half years remaining on his rookie contract.
The Bears will explore a contract extension for Claypool in due time. But they first want to see if he can continue to ascend with Fields.
Claypool has run the fifth-most go routes since entering the NFL in 2020, according to NFL Next Gen Stats. Standing at 6-foot-4, he’s a mismatch in coverage who can take the top off a defense on a go route — leading to 20 receptions, 616 yards and 5 touchdowns. Fields has targeted a go route on 11% of his career attempts.
Claypool now has the most talented quarterback he’s played with in Fields, facing the chance to prove himself as a top wide receiver for the Bears. Poles is making a wise investment in his growing belief in Fields.
“I’ve really liked the way that our offense is starting to come together and move,” Poles said. “I thought it was important to add another impact player to our offense to go along with the guys that we currently have in the receiver room right now.
“You can never have enough weapons and guys that help your quarterback gain confidence.”