Bears did right by Justin Fields in trading him to Steelers

The saga is over.

The Chicago Bears traded quarterback Justin Fields to the Pittsburgh Steelers for a conditional pick in the 2025 NFL Draft. It will range from the sixth round to the fourth.

On the day the city celebrates St. Patrick’s Day, no less.

The timing was curious for more than just that reason. The future Day 3 return isn’t a haul befitting of a starter. It’s a reflection of the current market, where most of the starting and backup roles have already been accounted for in the first wave of free agency. Wouldn’t it have made more sense for the Bears to hang onto Fields until draft night and see if a team gets desperate for a quarterback? Especially if they were content with taking compensation in future years?

But general manager Ryan Poles said he wanted to do right by Fields if he were to trade him earlier this month in Indianapolis at the NFL Combine. The trade happening on March 16 is Poles fulfilling that promise.

Poles didn’t want to drag this process out longer than it had already gone on. He didn’t want Fields to be on the roster when Chicago drafted its new signal caller. Poles also sent Fields to a good situation. Fields will have the opportunity to learn and grow in a stable organization that seems to be leaving the door open for the 25-year-old to become part of its future. The Steelers have Russell Wilson on a veteran minimum, one-year deal as their starter, after all. 

The Bears may have forfeited some assets, but Poles did right by Fields.

Fields was owed that much after organizational dysfunction threw off the start of his career.

Chicago can now concentrate on using the first overall pick in this year’s draft to get its quarterback of the future. It’s a unique situation given the Bears don’t have a roster that warranted the first overall pick. The way the Bears are currently set up on paper looks like a great landing spot to develop a young quarterback, maybe for the first time in franchise history.

Chicago not only has D.J. Moore as an offensive weapon, but Keenan Allen, too. They have D’Andre Swift leading a stable of running backs. They have an experienced center and depth all along the offensive line. I fully anticipate them adding to that unit in the draft, as well. The Bears also have a defense that was one of the NFL’s five best in the back half of last season and should be more talented next season.

Bears GM Ryan Poles: ‘I want to do right by Justin Fields’ if QB is traded

Their new offensive coordinator has also gotten the best out of multiple quarterbacks in his career. 

It’s more than any first overall pick can ask for.

That’s why this was the only course of action that made sense for Chicago. The draft positioning was unique. The biggest risk would have been to keep Fields and pass on this year’s crop of quarterbacks, one that is better overall than we’ve seen the last few years. Had Chicago passed on a quarterback, the Bears wouldn’t just have been accountable for presumed top quarterback Caleb Williams and his success. No. They would have been accountable for all of this year’s quarterbacks’ success. If any of them worked out and ended up being better than Fields, who has never exceeded 2,600 passing yards in a season, Poles would have looked terrible.

Fiscally, it made the most sense as well. Building for sustainable success requires judicious use of capital. Being able to start the quarterback contract clock over allows a team to build around that quarterback in the beginning of his career as he’s getting his sea legs. It’s the most crucial time in an NFL quarterback’s development.

Just ask Fields.

Is it fair that Fields didn’t have all these assets when he started his career? No, it’s not. But Poles wasn’t in charge then. Poles didn’t draft Fields. Poles was never going to be accountable for another man’s decision. 

This is what always made sense.

How Caleb Williams’ skills will translate to the NFL

Now, Fields will get a fresh start and Poles will be put to the ultimate test of his Bears tenure. Will he finally be the one to deliver a quarterback and therefore sustained and consistent success to Chicago?

We’re about to find out.

Carmen Vitali covers the NFC North for FOX Sports. Carmen had previous stops with The Draft Network and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. She spent six seasons with the Bucs, including 2020, which added the title of Super Bowl Champion (and boat-parade participant) to her résumé. You can follow Carmen on Twitter at @CarmieV.

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