Jason La Canfora, reporting via Twitter, offered this Wednesday: “More than one NFL general manager came away from the Senior Bowl fairly convinced Justin Fields will be dealt.” We stipulate that “more than one” could be “two,” and note there are 32 GMs. Still: In these parts – and not just these parts – Justin Fields is a big name.
As a second-year starter for the Bears, Fields had a big season. He rushed for 1,143 yards, seventh-most among NFL players. He finished 25th in passer rating, which is below par but still topped Mac Jones, Russell Wilson, Matt Ryan, Carson Wentz, Kenny Pickett and Zach Wilson.
Chicago finished with the league’s worst record, meaning it holds first pick in a draft somewhat rich with quarterbacks. Bears GM Ryan Poles said he’d have to be “absolutely blown away” by a college QB to exercise the No. 1 pick on one, seeing as how Fields went 11th overall in 2021. He’s widely regarded as the Bears’ franchise quarterback. Then again, Wentz and Wilson – and Jared Goff and Baker Mayfield – were once viewed similarly. Views can change.
If Chicago is sold on Fields, it can keep him, trade down and maybe nab Jalen Carter at No. 3 or 4. If Chicago harbors deep doubts about its incumbent QB, it can trade him and draft Bryce Young or C.J. Stroud. No team will invest mega-millions to stage a quarterback tryout. That would leave one of your highest-profile and highest-paid players disgruntled at a young age. That’d be silly.
Many around the league regard La Canfora’s report as the Bears’ way of trawling for an outrageously overstuffed trade offer. Seattle got five draft picks – two each in Rounds 1 and 2 – plus three players for Wilson. The Texans reaped six picks – three in Round 1 – for Deshaun Watson. Chicago isn’t seeking just a quarterback swap; it’s seeking the deal that will lend wings to their rebuild.
Poles didn’t draft Fields. Ryan Pace did, having moved up nine spots in Round 1. He was fired six months later. He now works as a senior personnel executive for a business based in Flowery Branch, Ga. Small world, huh?
Fields played at Harrison High. He played, albeit in small doses, for Georgia. He left after one season. He landed at Ohio State, where he would become a Heisman finalist and lead the Buckeyes to the College Football Playoff in consecutive seasons.
Bears’ fans seem fine with Fields. His jersey is the leading seller in Illinois, Wisconsin and Indiana. (Doesn’t Aaron Rodgers work in Wisconsin?) He appears to be a tough-minded quarterback in a city that sees itself as tough-minded and – borrowing from Carl Sandburg’s eponymous poem – big-shouldered. He might, however, be a better fit in Atlanta.
Yes, the Falcons have Desmond Ridder, who looked OK in four rookie starts. Fields is a bigger talent than Ridder. Arthur Smith, who coaches the Falcons, is a deft hand at the running game, and here’s the best running quarterback apart from Lamar Jackson. (Who might also be available.)
For Fields to land in Flowery Branch would require two massive decisions: The Bears would have to believe they can find somebody better immediately; the Falcons would need to be convinced he’s worth a goodly chunk of their rebuilding capital. If they trade for Fields, they’ll be shedding No. 1 picks – but wouldn’t a starting quarterback be fair value for a couple of picks?
Will this happen? Probably not. Might it happen? Sure. Dan Reeves traded with the Chargers for the pick that became Michael Vick. The Chargers landed LaDainian Tomlinson and Drew Brees. If Brees hadn’t hurt his arm, that would’ve been one of the great win-win trades.
Smith and Fields would be a terrific pairing. That match, alas, might be too heavenly to exist on this Earth. But we can dream.
The above is part of a regular exercise, written and curated by yours truly, available to all who register on AJC.com for our free Sports Daily newsletter. The full Buzz, which includes more opinions and extras like a weekly poll and pithy quotes, arrives via email around 1:30 p.m. on Monday, Wednesday and Friday.
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