Why did the Bears trade Justin Fields to the Steelers?

CHICAGO — Chicago Bears general manager Ryan Bowles was the chief college scout in 2017 when Kansas City drafted quarterback Patrick Mahomes, who sat out a year and learned behind veteran rookie Alex Smith. The Poles realize that this dynamic could work.

But that's not what he was up against with the Bears.

Instead of getting a starter like Smith, the Bears had Justin Fields entering his fourth season with questions about his development. Adding a No. 1 pick as USC's quarterback Caleb Williams This combination, even for just off-season practices and training camps, may have made the situation untenable, or at least embarrassing, for both players. With several Bears players recently voicing strong support for Fields, the potential for a locker room rift had to be considered.

The Poles avoided that scenario by trading Fields to the Pittsburgh Steelers on Saturday night for a 2025 sixth-round pick, which converts to the fourth round if Fields plays 51% of the offensive snaps this season.

“You can't [have both on the roster]”The league called Chicago's bluff and won,” an NFL assistant coach told ESPN before the trade.

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“They don't get anything in return [Fields]”And I just need to let him go.”

Obviously, this was not the compensation the Poles originally sought. A source familiar with the team's plans told ESPN that the Bears were initially eyeing a Day 2 draft pick as well as a late conditional pick for 2025. Six teams, including Pittsburgh, came in with a variety of offers, with most envisioning Fields as a backup.

Through a flurry of QB activity, Fields' market was shrinking. After being unable to move Fields before the start of free agency, multiple NFL front office sources told ESPN they believe Chicago's best chance of getting the compensation it wants — or closer to it — will be if the team is without a quarterback. He will hopefully be drafted in April.

The Poles could also have waited until the start of the season and, when one of their midfielders is injured, engage that team in trade talks.

But when the Poles said during the meeting in February that he wanted to “do the right thing” with Fields, it meant not holding him down for long before being dealt with. It also meant not dealing him to a team that had a young quarterback, and the Steelers fit that criteria after signing Russell Wilson to a one-year deal.

“We have been involved in multiple trade talks in recent weeks and believe that trading Justin at this time to Pittsburgh is best for both Justin and the Bears,” the Bulls said in a statement. “…We spoke to Justin to inform him of the deal and the rationale behind it for us as a club.

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“We want to thank him for his tireless dedication, leadership and all he has done for our franchise and community over the past three years and wish him the best in a long and successful NFL career.”

In a social media post on Saturday, Fields thanked the Bears and the city of Chicago “for giving me the opportunity to be a part of this historic franchise.”

It meant a lot to the Poles to be able to part ways with Fields, who was drafted by GM Ryan Pace in 2021, on good terms. This might not have been the case if he kept Fields and drafted Williams.

Additionally, the Poles wanted to put their new midfielder in the best position to succeed, and as discussed in the meeting, there are a lot of factors to take into account.

“What does the infrastructure look like?” He said. “What's around the player? I think that's the key.”

In Chicago, what the rookie quarterback the Bears will draft is a roster that is ready to compete.

Recently acquired wide receiver Keenan Allen joins wide receiver DJ Moore as the only teammates in the NFL to have at least 90 receptions and 1,200 receiving yards in 2023. The Bears upgrade their backfield with D'Andre Swift, added Gerald Everett to the tight end room and are improving along the offensive line after adding a projected starter at center Coleman Shelton. Chicago's young defense is filled with talent from defensive end Montez Sweat to cornerback Jaylon Johnson and linebacker Tremaine Edmonds.

Creating a clear role for the soon-to-be new QB1 separated Poles from the way the organization had operated in the past, such as when the team traded up for the draft with Fields, pitting him between two veteran quarterbacks — Andy Dalton and Nick Foles — who didn't They are eager to give up their jobs to a junior.

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There will be no suspense over who the Bears' starting quarterback will be after the first round of the draft on April 25. The only question is how much of an upgrade he will get over Fields.

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