Mailbag: What a Justin Fields Trade Could Look Like for the Bears

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Our first offseason mailbag. Let’s roll …

From Samuel Fleming (@nashman92): Bears come for you advice on the QB position, what do you tell them?

I probably like Justin Fields more than most, and I’d still trade him.

Caleb Williams isn’t the type of prospect that comes around every year. And if the Patrick Mahomes comps are legit—Chicago Bears GM Ryan Poles would know, having spent five years in Kansas City with Mahomes—then this one should be pretty simple. It’s either Fields for a year on a rookie contract, and then on a pricy fifth-year option or new contract, or Williams on a rookie deal for the next four years. So, yes, you take Williams.

Fields was drafted with the No. 11 pick in 2021.

Mike Dinovo/USA TODAY Sports

Ideally a Fields trade would happen, if things play out this way, way before then. And, if I’m Chicago, and I can get a second- or third-rounder packaged with a Day 3 pick, I probably do that. Though, because of the person Fields has been, the idea of having him back with Williams aboard is something that’s been discussed, and could actually work.


From EFB (@efb33_): What is Justin Fields price tag in draft pick compensation? If Trey Lance goes for a 4th, does Fields realistically cost. 3rd even if you have to pay him in a year? Asking as a Patriots fan.

EFB, Fields, like I said earlier, would probably be a Day 2 pick and a Day 3 pick. Then, you have to make a decision on whether or not to pick up his fifth-year option, which would give you two years of runway to figure out whether or not he’s your guy at a price of about $25 million ($3.2 million for next year, and around $21 million or so for the fifth-year option).


From marc (@mcmarc25): Could Arthur Smith and Justin Fields cook in Pittsburgh?

Marc, yes. In his time as an offensive coach with the Tennessee Titans, Smith was with Jake Locker, Marcus Mariota, and Ryan Tannehill. With the Atlanta Falcons, the coach had Matt Ryan, Mariota and Desmond Ridder. So he’s built an offense, over the years, that’s adaptable to whatever type of quarterback he happens to have.

Then, there’s this: Mike Tomlin is as wired into Ohio State as any coach in the NFL, save for the guys, like Mike Vrabel, that actually played there. So he’s gonna get the goods on Fields, and know what needs to be done to get the most out of him.

Add it up, and I actually think the Pittsburgh Steelers are the ideal landing spot for Fields, where he’d enter into a competition with Kenny Pickett, plus have an improving offensive line and talented group of skill players around him. I think it’d work for the Steelers, too, in giving them two shots at finding a long-term answer, rather than just one, at the position. That said, there’s merit too to going with someone who Smith knows, like Tannehill.

We’ll see what happens.


From JLK7299 (@JLK7299): Kyle Shanahan admitted that when he got the 49ers job, he did not do his due diligence on the QBs in the draft (which included Mahomes) because he was just going to sign Cousins the next offseason. Was his eventual fate sealed with that decision?

JLK, with all due respect, I don’t know what the problem is here. In 2017, he and John Lynch took over a stripped-down roster full of players set to play for their fourth coach in as many years. The San Francisco 49ers had gone from 12–4 and the NFC title game in 2013 to 8–8 in Jim Harbaugh’s last year to 5–11 under Jim Tomsula then 2–14 under Chip Kelly.

They then underwent a ground-up rebuild. The 49ers started 0–9, traded for Jimmy Garoppolo, won five straight at the end of that year, lost Garoppolo and went 4–12 in 2018. They have made the playoffs four times, won the division three times and made the Super Bowl twice in the five years since (injuries to Garoppolo, again, wrecked the one outlier season, ’20, over that stretch). They’ve built the NFL’s best roster and strong identity and schemes. They’ve become a breeding ground for coaches and scouts. They’ve survived mistakes.

Shanahan has built a talented 49ers team.

Kirby Lee/USA TODAY Sports

Right now, it’s clearly one of the two or three best run organizations in the league.

So I’m not sure what eventual fate you’re even talking about. I think as it is they’ve got a really good young quarterback, and a shot or two left with the current group of players before they have to reset things a bit. Unless things change, or Shanahan himself decides eventually that he needs a change or a break, I don’t know why there’d be any sort of change in the foreseeable future. The Niners have the right people running things.

And that starts with Shanahan himself. If you ask me which head coach I’d take for the next decade, if I was starting a team, he’d be among the five or so I’d look at taking first.


From Will Chitty (@chitty_will): Albert, if you could pick one superstar player that could be traded, who would it be?. Massive fan of your work from the UK

Will, I’d look at the Niners as a team that could wind up moving a star or two, just because of their looming cap crunch. Four years ago, coming off Super Bowl LIV, they dealt DeForest Buckner, faced with a similar circumstance.

And, sure, the alternative would be to kick the can down the road again. But the fact is, they have 10 players on their roster set to account for $212 million of their salary cap in 2024, and another already-top-heavy ledger for ’25 (top nine figures for that season sit at $194 million, as of today). All of which is to say the problem won’t be going away.

The 10 players we cited: Trent Williams, Deebo Samuel, Arik Armstead, Fred Warner, George Kittle, Charvarius Ward, Javon Hargrave, Nick Bosa, Christian McCaffrey and Brandon Aiyuk. And for Warner, Armstead and Ward, 2025 is void—meaning they’ll be up then, and leave a big cap number behind. So that’s the basic list of players you might be looking to trade. And remember, the idea has to be an attractive one for the other team in the trade equation, too.

Really, it’s hard not to look at it, then, and consider whether San Francisco would deal one of its receivers, either Samuel or Aiyuk. The rest are either older, or expiring too soon, or play too key a role for the Niners (such as Williams) to deal off.

We’ll see what happens.


From Luke Pietrzak (@lpzak44): Any chance Mayo gives Mac Jones another chance as starter?

Yeah, Luke, I’d be surprised.

It’s not that I think Jones is a lost cause. It’s that his cause in New England is lost.

It’s really hard to live down your history with an NFL team, and Jones’ with the New England Patriots is not good. He was drafted 15th and hasn’t come close to living up to his slot. He was good as a rookie, and regressed badly since. He was well-liked early on, but, over time, lost support in the building. And the quarterback room he was in the last two years got toxic, to the point where Bailey Zappe, as a rookie, sometimes watched tape in the receiver room.

That’s a lot of wounds, some self-inflicted, some not, to try and heal—and wounds that Jerod Mayo saw surface with his own eyes as a Patriots assistant. You can’t snap your fingers and make that history disappear with coaches and staff. What happens if Jones comes back and has some bumps in the offseason, in camp or in an early game? Everyone will point right back to the history. Which makes for a tough environment for Jones to try and move forward in, and potentially a tough spot for Mayo to dig his first team out of.

Jones started 11 games for New England this season.

Nathan Ray Seebeck-USA TODAY Sports

That’s also before we even get to the possibility that Drake Maye or Jayden Daniels are part of this equation, in which case you’d almost have to get rid of Jones.

I think the ideal for Jones is that he lands somewhere like San Francisco as a backup, gets a year to learn, play if there’s an injury, and rebuild his name and reputation in the league. I actually really have enjoyed my interactions with him personally, and I think there’s a good quarterback—like a Chad Pennington type—in there somewhere. Someone can probably get that out of him. I don’t think it can be the Patriots.


From Kevin Greene (@OrangeGaucho): Why is [J.J.] McCarthy not rated higher? Just not enough passing snaps? Or something more fundamental?

Kevin, it’s a couple things.

One is what you’re alluding to, and I think it’s important: There weren’t a lot of Michigan’s games in the last two years where he had to be the best player on the field for the Wolverines to win. And to best illustrate why that matters, let’s look at some of the best players in the sport. Patrick Mahomes had to be that guy at Texas Tech almost every week. Ditto for Josh Allen at Wyoming, and Lamar Jackson at Louisville. Joe Burrow didn’t, but given great talent around him, he was absolutely otherworldly his final year at LSU.

Bottom line, McCarthy just doesn’t have enough of that on his resume, which brings fair questions. For example, consider Jones vs. Brock Purdy. Jones didn’t have to be the guy at Alabama. Purdy did at Iowa State. Who seems more comfortable leading a team in the NFL?

The second thing is McCarthy’s frame. I had one scout tell me he’s built like a stretched-out Bryce Young—and it’s not like he’s that much taller than Young, at about 6’2″. Yes, he’s only 21. But looking at him physically, teams have concerns about how much bigger he’ll get. In fact, one AFC college scouting director said to me last month, “I get taken aback seeing him in person because he’s so slight.”

Now, with all that in mind, McCarthy’s clearly a fierce competitor, tough, and possesses the quick feet, strong arm, and loose athleticism to make it in the NFL. So he’ll be a fascinating one to watch over the next couple months. I could see him sneaking in the end of the top 10. I could see him slipping out of the first round. And based solely on the conversations I’ve had, I’d put him in the second tier at his position with (and probably a little ahead of) Oregon’s Bo Nix and Washington’s Michael Penix Jr.


From Scott Fairbanks (@Sxottlan): Chance of another wintry city hosting a Super Bowl again any time soon?

Scott, for it to happen, you need a new, domed stadium. That’s why Detroit, Minneapolis and Indianapolis got theirs. New York, of course, is different. Nashville will get one, I’m sure, but I don’t think it’d qualify as a “wintry” city. So to me the next ones will likely be places like Chicago and Washington, big metropolises with teams trying to get domes.


From Adam Pietrzak (@theadogg99): Will the Panthers go after a wide receiver for Bryce Young?

You’d think the Carolina Panthers are in this great spot to take advantage of Bryce Young being on a rookie contract. The truth is, it’s a good, not great spot. Carolina is working with less than $30 million in cap space. They also have to consider tagging Brian Burns, even if they don’t want to spend what it takes to sign him—and that’ll likely occupy about $20 million of that cap space in the short term.

So yes, I think they will try and add a high-end weapon for Young. Maybe it’s someone like Tee Higgins (which would also require a trade, in the event he’s tagged). Maybe it’s someone in the draft. And maybe, based on the spot the team is currently in, the latter is more likely than the former.


From JWin Baby (@raidersjwb): How likely is it that the Chiefs three-peat next season, and what offseason moves would they need to accomplish to improve their chances of a three-peat and vice versa?

JWin, so the two big questions I’d have are what are you doing about Chris Jones, and what are you doing with L’Jarius Sneed. Age is a concern with the former, and with the latter there has been some worry about his knee over the last year or so. But the two are massively important to the Chiefs. And if both are back in 2024, then there’s no reason why the Chiefs shouldn’t have one of the very best defenses in the NFL to pair with Mahomes.

Then there’s the skill-positions, and whether they add someone, with Travis Kelce turning 35 next year. The team needs to continue developing young guys (Can Rashee Rice become a No. 1?) around Kelce to eventually take the mantle.

But Mahomes will be back, and Andy Reid will too, which is a very good place to start, and to say, yes, I’d expect to see the Chiefs back in the AFC title game for a seventh straight year next January. Where it goes from there could very well ride on how the above elements fall into place for the team.


From David Kromelow (@dkrom59): How many franchise tags are you anticipating being administered…and are any players hot candidates for a tag-and-trade?

David, I’d say Cincinnati Bengals WR Tee Higgins, Panthers OLB Brian Burns, Miami Dolphins DT Christian Wilkins, Jacksonville Jaguars OLB Josh Allen, Bears CB Jaylon Johnson, Baltimore Ravens DT Justin Madubuike, and Tampa Bay Buccaneers S Antoine Winfield Jr. are on the list of candidates. Jones and Sneed could be, too, though it’d be expensive for the Chiefs to tag Jones (nearly $32 million). So that gives you eight.

Of those, I’d say Higgins and Burns could be tag-to-trade candidates. In Burns’s case, it’s because he and the Panthers haven’t been close on a long-term agreement over the last couple years. In Higgins’s case, it’s because the Bengals have a bigger deal for Ja’Marr Chase on the horizon.


From James (@jc333333333): Just a friendly reminder of me calling KC winning the SB and going through the toughest opponents in postseason history to do it— now, when KC 3-Peats next year, is it reasonable to already say Pat has passed Tom?

James, if we’re talking about Mahomes’s peak being higher than Tom Brady’s peak then, yeah, absolutely we can have that conversation at that point. But from a legacy standpoint, I think my buddy Tom Curran put it perfectly when he said Brady, with his seven rings, is Babe Ruth. So Mahomes is getting steps closer, but he isn’t there yet.

Related: Patrick Mahomes Is the Mountain the Rest of the NFL Has to Scale


From Duke Ratanakarn (@sanddune80): Top 3 players who are rising after the senior bowl?

My three, based on conversations I had with scouts after the game: Toledo CB Quinyon Mitchell, Oregon State OT Taliese Fuaga, and Michigan WR Roman Wilson. The first two are probably top-half-of-the-first-round players now, while Wilson may have played his way into the second round.


From Kristopher Paul (@KristopherPare): You’re GM for the Eagles, where do you start/what’s most important to improve to get us back to contention after an awful ending to the season. Continued success and great work Albert 🙏

Kristopher, they have to get younger and faster on defense, in general. It’s really that simple.


From BobC (@2004inarow): Thanks Albert. Which of the consensus top 3 QBs remaining at #3 would cause the Pats to trade out of that spot? I suspect it would be Maye but curious to hear your thoughts.

Bob, it’s too early to answer that definitively. But I will say Jayden Daniels has caught Drake Maye in the eyes of some teams. We can also say that history tells us that Williams, Maye and Daniels won’t all make it as NFL quarterbacks. The trick, of course, is pulling off what the Chiefs did in 2017 and the Bills did in ’20—which is identifying which player is the right one, knowing you won’t get the first one to come off the board.

Easier said than done, of course. But Sunday gave everyone a pretty good view of the rewards if you get it right.

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