The Chicago Bears must decide Justin Fields' long-term future with the franchise this offseason.
He did not make the third-year leap that you would like to see out of a franchise quarterback. Fields still has flashes of potential, but it is mixed with flaws that are keeping him from reaching that next level.
That means a decision needs to be made on if Fields is the guy.
The Bears must also decide if they want to exercise his fifth-year option before May 2, 2024. Complicating matters is the team could end with the No. 1 overall pick again thanks to owning the rights to the Carolina Panthers' first-round selection. That pick is trending towards being the top pick.
Having that pick means the opportunity to draft USC quarterback Caleb Williams who is considered a generational talent. Even if the Chicago Bears end up with the No. 2 pick, it is a chance to draft North Carolina quarterback Drake Maye who is like Justin Herbert.
There are two schools of thought on what the franchise should do.
The first idea is to keep Fields and if the Carolina pick ends up being No. 1 overall, trade that pick much like the team did in the last draft. It would give the Bears more draft assets and a chance to continue to bring in more talent around Fields. In addition, the franchise would need to fire head coach Matt Eberflus and offensive coordinator Luke Getsy and replace them with an offensive-minded head coach.
The other path is the Bears trade Fields and go with Williams or Maye. The thinking is Williams and Maye are just too good to pass up on. If the team is going to fire Getsy, it would be Fields' third offensive coordinator in four seasons. At that point, it is better just to start fresh.
Finally, it would reset the rookie contract clock. That means having four years of a quarterback not clogging up precious salary cap space.
Both paths have their potholes, but both might lead to the Super Bowl.
There is another idea emerging that if the Bears do decide to trade Justin Fields, it would be best that he does not take another snap for the rest of the season.
It is not because of Fields' performance. It would be to avoid any injury as Justin takes a ton of brutal hits.
The fear is the next hit Fields takes could have an impact on his trade value. The market has been set on at least getting three picks back based on what the New York Jets got back from the Panthers for Sam Darnold. The Jets traded their former first-round quarterback in 2021 for a sixth-round choice that year along with a second-round and fourth-round pick in 2022.
The hope is the Bears should get something similar to that deal.
You are not getting it if Justin suffers a catastrophic injury at any point in three meaningless games. Let Tyson Bagent take the punishment and then get a Day 2 pick for Fields in the offseason.
There are two problems with that logic.
The first is the Panthers make terrible trades. Fields is probably going to net a third and a fifth along with a possible future conditional pick.
Second, the whole point of this season is to get a full evaluation of Fields. Despite all the conjecture that the top brass has already decided to move on, the most recent official report is nothing has been declared one way or the other.
Even if it is trending towards moving away from Fields in the offseason, he still should be afforded a chance to complete the season. Also, the conversation changes dramatically if the Panthers win a few more games and fall out of the top two picks. Then you are comparing Justin Fields with say LSU quarterback Jayden Daniels. That is why it is best to take the risk and play out the season with Fields.