NFL: Bears narrowing options, plan to ‘do right by’ QB Justin Fields

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INDIANAPOLIS — Bears general manager Ryan Poles holds the keys to the NFL draft for the second consecutive year, and he’s all gas, no brakes as the Scouting Combine kicks off Tuesday.

Asked for his timeframe determining his plan at quarterback and how the team will use the No. 1 overall pick in the draft, Poles deadpanned, “Tomorrow.”

Part of the reason Poles is feeling some urgency is the amount of outreach he’s receiving on an hourly basis. He flipped his phone to “do not disturb” weeks ago and described the options on the table for the Bears as nearing triple digits.

Before moving on to the more pressing decision, the Bears are ramping up efforts to re-sign cornerback Jaylon Johnson to a long-term deal before free agency begins. Poles expects a deal to be done in the next two weeks.

That will clear the decks for him to focus on what the franchise perceives as the best option at quarterback.

Not long after the end of the combine in 2023, Poles and the Bears pulled the trigger on a deal to send the Carolina Panthers the top pick on March 10. He said the Bears are in contact with current quarterback Justin Fields, the No. 11 pick in the 2021 draft, while narrowing the options for maximizing the top pick in April — or sooner.

Poles said the Bears would “do right by Justin” and trade him before the start of free agency, which begins March 13, if they’ve determined drafting a quarterback is the “best decision for the franchise.”

“I know him well enough now. No one wants to live in the gray,” he said.

Asked if he’s aware the locker room is supportive of Fields, Poles said, “I feel the same way.”

Fields is entering the final year of his contract with a salary of $1.6 million for 2024 and a team option for 2025 available. The financial piece of the call can’t be ignored by the Bears, or potential suitors. For reference, the current franchise tag for quarterbacks is $38 million and could skyrocket next March.

Poles noted the talent at quarterback in the 2024 draft puts the Bears in a unique position he won’t take lightly.

“I would say our approach is exactly the same (as 2023) with the No. 1 pick. Obviously we chose to trade back last year and I think that helped our team out a lot,” Poles said.

Poles said the Bears are meeting with a number of quarterbacks this week, including Southern California’s Caleb Williams, while dismissing rumors the 2022 Heisman Trophy winner didn’t want to come to Chicago.

“No concerns about that at all,” he said.

–Field Level Media

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