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A Future Franchise Quarterback? Only Time Will Tell

Courtesy of Lucas Hunt/USA TODAY Sports

As one of the five quarterbacks picked in the first round of the 2021 draft, Justin Fields has a lot of potential. At only 25 years old, the quarterback out of Ohio State University has had nothing less than a tumultuous few weeks. As he looks at his past three seasons with the Chicago Bears and anticipates his future with the Pittsburgh Steelers, Fields still holds lots of promise.

Even though five quarterbacks were picked in the Draft, only two are currently starting: Fields and Trevor Lawrence of the Jacksonville Jaguars. Zach Wilson lost his job to Aaron Rogers in 2023 and is awaiting a release from the New York Jets. Trey Lance was also traded from the San Francisco 49ers to the Dallas Cowboys in 2023, and Mac Jones was traded to the Jaguars in mid-March.

So why exactly did the Bears trade Fields? After all, during the 40 regular season games during his three-season career in Chicago, Fields started 38 times. While with the Bears, he completed 578 of 958 passes, 6,674 yards, 40 touchdowns, and 30 interceptions. As for his quarterback rating, it stood at an excellent 82.3. Going into his career in Chicago, it was said that Fields could become the next franchise quarterback. His impressive stats at Ohio State backed that claim, and many believed it. However, while his mobility was among the best in the NFL, he often held onto the ball for too long, leading him to become one of the most-sacked quarterbacks in the league. Questions about the player's development were raised, and the program began to doubt Fields.

Courtesy of Brendan Sugrue/USA TODAY Sports

Sources say that because the Bears have secured the first pick in the 2024 NFL Draft, it is said that they will more than likely pick proven starter quarterback Caleb Williams, a player out of USC. The Bear's General Manager, Ryan Poles, didn't want to add a No.1 pick quarterback to the team with Fields there because it could cause tension among the team–even in offseason practices and meetings.  

"We have engaged in multiple trade conversations in recent weeks and believe trading Justin at this time to Pittsburgh is what is best for both Justin and the Bears," Bears general manager Ryan Poles said in a news release. "Today, we spoke to Justin to inform him of the trade and the rationale behind it for us as a Club. We want to thank him for his tireless dedication, leadership and all he poured into our franchise and community the last three years and wish him the best towards a long and successful NFL career."

In exchange for Fields, the Bears will get a conditional sixth-round 2025 NFL Draft pick that could switch to a fourth-round pick, depending on playing time.

While that may not seem like a lot, Fields will have to compete with Pro Bowler Russell Wilson, the previous Denver Broncos quarterback recently traded to the Steelers. Because of the giant dead cap that Denver has to pay Wilson, the Men of Steel only have to pay him a $1.2 million veteran minimum for one year.

Field's contract with the Steelers is for a four-year, $18.8 million deal, with a fifth-year option available. He also benefits from an $11 million signing bonus. All of this equals a roughly annual salary of $4.7 million.

When speaking about his trade Sunday night, Fields left a grateful message on Twitter;

"I can't say thank you enough to the city of Chicago for taking me in and embracing me. Thank you to the entire Bears organization and ownership for allowing me the opportunity to be part of such a historic franchise. But most of all thank you to all my brothers that I played with. You all were the reason I attacked each day the way I did. I can't thank you all enough for what y'all have meant to me over the last 3 years through the ups and downs. I wish each one of you nothing but success. Ready for this next chapter!"

With this new chapter in his life, Fields has the chance to make a huge turnaround in his career. New coaches, new teammates, and a new atmosphere could allow Fields to prove that he has what it takes to be a franchise quarterback.

Courtesy of Jeff Hanisch/USA TODAY Sports

Edited By: Juliana Long

Social Media Content Created By: Brianna Huffmaster

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