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It's decision time in Chicago, and it's about time the Bears get this right. Not since Jim Harbaugh in 1990-1991 has the Windy City seen the same Week 1 quarterback guide consecutive playoff runs, teasing the possibility of an actual franchise signal-caller. The Cade McNowns and Rex Grossmans and Jay Cutlers and Mitchell Trubiskys have all led to this eerily familiar juncture: The Bears are at a QB crossroads, with both Justin Fields and a No. 1 draft pick in tow. What oh ever shall they do next?

In truth, their decision may already be made. Fields was the No. 11 overall pick just three years ago, but he wasn't "their" pick if we're referring to the current regime of coach Matt Eberflus and general manager Ryan Poles -- a contingent whose 10-24 record over two seasons all but necessitates a defining stamp of roster progression, or else. What better time, in their minds, to once again possess the No. 1 pick, with the latest "generational" QB prospects at their disposal in USC's Caleb Williams, UNC's Drake Maye and LSU's Jayden Daniels? Poles has already signaled Fields' exit is on the horizon by vowing to "do right" by his current quarterback in a prospective trade. Which means it's probably only a matter of time until the next big thing takes his place.

But what if they're wrong? The Bears' track record, as a franchise, would certainly suggest that's a probability. That doesn't mean Williams or another newcomer won't prove to be a superstar. Big leaps can require bold choices. And yet, is it possible the bolder -- and, more so, the better -- decision might be to retain Justin Fields? Here are three reasons to believe it:

1. The potential financial cost of keeping Fields is wildly overstated

This may not be the primary argument for resetting at QB, but it's still a major piece of the conversation: Many presume that running it back with Fields rather than drafting a new quarterback would hamstring Chicago in its efforts to field a playoff-caliber team. Why? Because Fields is already entering the final year of his rookie contract, and will inevitably command a steep pay raise, either via a fifth-year option in 2025 or a long-term deal.

But here's the thing: Fields is only due to count $6 million against the 2024 salary cap, or 28th among all quarterbacks. That literally makes him one of the most affordable options on the market, and perhaps even more frugal than a potential No. 1 pick like Williams, who's projected to net something like $9.625 million per year. Exercising his fifth-year option for 2025 would skyrocket Fields' earnings to $25.6 million (14th among that year's quarterback cap hits) but still give Chicago at least two cost-controlled seasons of a 24-year-old starting quarterback.

Now envision the scenario in which Fields feasibly commands a bank-breaking long-term deal, either before or after 2025: A major breakout in 2024? An MVP bid? A deep playoff run? Any of those feats would represent a major step forward in an already-gradually improving career for a young QB. Why on Earth would the Bears not want to pay him in that case?

And as for the cap ramifications, let's stop pretending that expensive long-term quarterback deals instantly prohibit clubs from building title-contending rosters. The ink is already dried on the $255 million deal the Philadelphia Eagles gave Jalen Hurts after his 2022 breakout, and yet Hurts won't even sniff the top 10 in terms of yearly quarterback cap hits until the year 2026. The Baltimore Ravens and Buffalo Bills broke records by extending Lamar Jackson and Josh Allen, respectively, and proceeded to slug it out with the eventual Super Bowl champion Kansas City Chiefs, who dedicated almost 17% of their cap to Patrick Mahomes in 2023.

No, Fields may not be Mahomes or Allen. But it's not like the Bears are tight against the cap, either. They literally own some of the most cap space of any team between now and 2026, projected to rank No. 3, No. 10 and No. 12 in available spending money over the next three seasons, per Over the Cap. Any argument against the Bears keeping Fields because of the cost of quarterbacks should immediately be repurposed to become an argument for Chicago finally, just once, making use of its resources.

2. Fields has gotten better with time ... in spite of the Bears' woeful support

Let's be clear: Fields has not been perfect. There's a reason he's not a slam dunk to stay put. Untimely turnovers have been a steady issue, and durability concerns are just as valid. But as was alluded above, the Bears have done precious little to facilitate his growth. Chicago is on its second head coach and third offensive coordinator since Fields' arrival, and while receiver D.J. Moore was an overdue injection of playmaking in 2023, Poles and Co. all but ignored upgrades up front and out wide going into the quarterback's first year as a full-timer, then prioritized defense and lower-tier offensive free-agent signings a year ago.

Playing under since-fired coordinator Luke Getsy for the first time in 2022, Fields all but single-handedly made the Bears competitive down the stretch with a rushing electricity only matched by Jackson in Baltimore. Late in 2023, finally backed by Eberflus' prized defense, his arm and legs helped Chicago win five of its last eight games, convincing team president Kevin Warren that all the "incredibly talented (and) smart" young quarterback really needs is "the support around him." Go figure.

Despite all the Bears' efforts up top, Fields' production has incrementally improved in key passing marks:

SeasonCompletion %YardsINT %QB Rating
















Are these All-Pro numbers? No. But they suggest growth in difficult circumstances, and they also say nothing of the game-changing athleticism he possesses on the ground. There is a fine line when evaluating NFL quarterbacks between extending patience and prolonging false hope. It's not like Fields is a rookie; he's started close to 40 games in this league. At some point, yes, he must prove he's not simply ascending to sustained mediocrity. But his best gifts -- the strong arm, the dynamic mobility -- are largely unteachable. Which means the Bears could stand to build around his growth rather than write it off as happenstance.

Fields is not equivalent to Hurts, and, in fact, probably possesses more of a high-powered arm. But the latter is an apt comparison here. Widely considered a solid but mercurial dual threat coming out of college, Hurts endured early staffing overhauls in the NFL and, despite plenty of success as a scrambler, appeared years away -- if not wholly incapable -- from becoming a title-caliber passer after almost 20 starts with a middling Eagles roster from 2020-2021. Philly had reason to swing bigger going into 2022. Instead, the team saw his unteachable traits -- the rugged toughness, the unfazed leadership -- and went all-in on supporting him with premium investments up front and out wide. They were in the Super Bowl months later.

It may not unfold so cleanly in Chicago. But it's fair to wonder if the Bears have yet to even give Fields a proper try. Rather than using another top pick on another quarterback, what if they instead allocated such a premium resource to another Grade-A pass catcher? Or, better yet, auctioned it off, collected a historic haul, and infused a plethora of new pieces around the existing quarterback, increasing the chances of a breakout?

3. Fields has already proven his talent is translatable to the NFL

The passing game is obviously still a work in progress. But think about the biggest criticisms of Fields at this juncture: He tries to play Superman! He bails on the pocket! He throws into trouble! Are they not all valid questions also surrounding the consensus No. 1 prospect in this draft, Caleb Williams? Maybe Williams will prove to be a superior passer right out of the gate, just like C.J. Stroud for the Houston Texans in 2023. Maybe he is head and shoulders above Fields in certain areas.

But history tells us the hit rate on top-drafted quarterbacks is volatile, with teams almost twice as likely to completely whiff on a first-round passer than hit a home run. Someone from the top of the 2024 class is likely to pan out. But identifying -- let alone nurturing, supporting and ultimately paying -- said quarterback is another story entirely. Every year we get a "no-brainer" atop the position, and every year, the results are mixed. Fields, on the other hand, may not be a finished product, but he's already proven he can be an NFL difference-maker, if only for a team that's mostly deployed questionable secondary talent and coaching.

Remember 2022? Fields topped 1,100 yards as a runner -- a bigger single-season total than anyone in NFL history not named Lamar Jackson, ahead of greats like Michael Vick and Randall Cunningham. His 2,220 career rushing yards through just three seasons already rank eighth among all active quarterbacks. That kind of impact doesn't happen by accident.

As an aside, Fields has also proven to be a beloved leader, which isn't nothing when it comes to the duty of NFL quarterbacking. He's walked back rare press-conference missteps. He's played loyal soldier for a franchise that endured embarrassing staffing resignations in 2023. He's humbly handled the millions already bestowed to him, quietly embracing his uncertain fate in a city that's not properly uplifted its quarterbacks for decades. Those things may not matter more than red-zone completion marks, but they matter. Especially when every single must-have prospect out of college has yet to endure a single NFL spotlight.

Should the Bears push all their chips elsewhere, betting on the upside of a more dynamic weapon under center? They can make that decision for themselves. In the meantime, they already have a developing first-round talent whose persona has drawn high marks and whose athletic profile ensures he's already got a high floor as a play-extending starter. Let's see what they feel he's worth. And if another team decides he's worth more, don't be surprised if they reap the rewards.