CHICAGO, ILLINOIS - DECEMBER 31: Justin Fields #1 of the Chicago Bears runs the ball during the first quarter against the Atlanta Falcons at Soldier Field on December 31, 2023 in Chicago, Illinois.
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The Bears Should Keep (And Build Around) Justin Fields

Justin Fields is playing the Chicago Bears into a real dilemma.

When the 2024 NFL Draft begins, general manager Ryan Poles and the Bears will be selecting No. 1 overall, the dividends of trading back last season with the Carolina Panthers.

Armed with the No. 1 overall pick, in prime position to select his choice of top quarterbacks Caleb Williams and Drake Maye come April, Poles also has upwards of $61 million in cap space to build around his choice of quarterback, whether that's Fields, Williams, Maye, or some other high-riser during the pre-draft process.

"They have some hard work ahead of them," an AFC offensive coach tells FanBuzz, on the condition of anonymity to speak freely about another team. "The good thing is, the Bears have lots of great options. They can trade back and still get Marvin Harrison Jr., take Caleb and stand pat, or even add to their assets by trading Fields."

If the past month has shown anything, it is that Poles' quickest path to positioning the Bears to compete for the NFC North — and more, is retaining Fields and building around him.

Since returning in Week 11 from a dislocated thumb, Fields has completed 60.42 percent of his passes for 1,213 yards with five touchdowns to three interceptions while adding 393 rushing yards and three more scores.

Perhaps most importantly, the Bears are 4-2 since Fields' return, with victories over the division-leading Detroit Lions, Minnesota Vikings, and potential NFC South champion Atlanta Falcons over that span.

"Unless the Bears think Caleb Williams, Drake Maye, or any other first-round quarterback are future All-Pro or MVP types," former NFL Executive of The Year Jeff Diamond told FanBuzz. "I think Fields has played well enough during this recent stretch where they should keep him."

Fields credits his renewed success to a new mentality seeded by head coach Matt Eberflus.

"He gave me a thing that said, '200,' which is two touchdowns, no sacks, no turnovers," Fields recently told reporters. "That's pretty much my goal every game. Sacks, they put us behind the sticks of course, and you never want to turn the ball over to give the other team a short field. So definitely trying to avoid the turnovers and sacks."

One current NFC Personnel Executive tells FanBuzz he believes Fields could fetch the Bears a starting caliber player and a third-round pick in this year's draft.

It is fair to wonder if that would be enough to take another bite at the quarterback apple while passing on the opportunity to select a generational pass-catcher like Ohio State's Marvin Harrison Jr.

Harrison Jr. enters the NFL on the heels of catching 67 passes for 1,211 yards with 14 touchdowns, while averaging 18.1 yards per reception. In one of his biggest tests of the season, against arguably the nation's top defense, Harrison Jr. put the Buckeyes on his back with 11 catches for 162 yards and a touchdown fueling an Ohio State win over Penn State.

Pro Football Focus gave the 6'4", 205-pound game-breaker an 89.9 overall grade for the 2023 season.

With Harrison Jr. headlining a receiving corps that already includes deep-threat speedster D.J. Moore and veteran Darnell Mooney, the pieces for a prolific passing game would be in place for years to come in Chicago.

Diamond suggests the Bears move forward with Fields and accumulate draft capital to acquire as many top prospects as possible.

"They should trade down a couple of spots and add more draft picks," Diamond adds. "And select Marvin Harrison Jr., which would create one of the top wide receiver duos in the entire league with Harrison and D.J. Moore."

Not everyone agrees, though.

"I would think long and hard about taking Williams," the coach says. "You always upgrade that spot when you have the chance to."

The Bears' decision may come down to deciding which path is riskier, compared to each quarterback's potential for the next five to ten years.

Poles has already taken tangible steps toward setting 2024 up to be a season that the Bears take the next step towards making a playoff run, by trading a second-round pick for edge rusher Montez Sweat, who has produced five sacks in eight games since arriving in the Windy City.

Trading Fields, passing on Harrison, and continuing a rebuild around a rookie quarterback would seem to run counter to trading draft capital for a veteran pass-rusher.

Besides, with the eighth-most cap space in the league, the Bears are positioned to make real runs at the likes of veteran offensive tackles Tyron Smith, Mike Onwenu, or defensive tackle Chris Jones at the top of the free agent market that could position Chicago to take the next step.

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Whatever course Poles and the Bears front office opts to plot for the quarterback position will shape the organization's trajectory and potentially set a timer on each of the decision-makers' time with the organization. There is no position more important in sports than quarterback, and Chicago must decide if as Fields turns 25, he has enough upside to guide them into a bright future.

There is certainly too much uncertainty around Williams' and Mayes' upside in the NFL for the Bears to move on from Fields, who seems to be ascending, and not live to regret it.

Especially given Poles' posture in terms of building the roster primarily around veteran additions over the past year. As Fields turns a corner in his career, adding weapons around him appears to be Chicago's surest path to success.

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