Fields’ contract status plus the potential option of having the No. 1 overall pick in the draft is the reason a decision must be made on his future.
The Chicago Bears leveraged last year’s No. 1 overall pick into D.J. Moore and a bunch of draft picks from the Carolina Panthers. That includes the Panthers top pick in next year’s draft that is trending towards being the No. 1 overall pick.
If general manager Ryan Poles decides to trade that pick away again, it means he might be passing on the chance to draft USC quarterback Caleb Williams. Many NFL scouts and general managers feel he is a generational quarterback.
Even if the Panthers win enough games to fall out of the top pick, there is a good chance they will finish second worst in the NFL. That gives Poles the chance to select North Carolina quarterback Drake Maye. He could be like Justin Herbert for the Chicago Bears.
There are still concerns that drafting one of those two QBs poise the same risk as keeping Fields.
Williams is undersized. There are questions on if he can play well against elite competition. He put up great numbers against weaker teams, but his numbers are not great against the best in college football.
Mental toughness might also be concerned as he has been seen taken losses very hard. Maye has his drawbacks too. He tends to not quite on plays much like Fields is unwilling to do. That can lead to some costly sacks or ill-advised turnovers. He also can have trouble picking up tricks defenses pull post-snap.
While they have their risks, they would come with four years of rookie quarterback contract. That means saving a ton of cap space. It would allow Poles to focus on upgrading other areas to contend for a Super Bowl. That contract reset might be more valuable than waiting to see if Fields can reach his full potential in his fourth season.