Justin Fields

Russell Wilson, Kirk Cousins show why Bears must move fast with Justin Fields trade

If the Bears plan to trade Justin Fields, time is of the essence

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General manager Ryan Poles promised to look under every stone to get all the information needed for the franchise-altering quarterback decision that awaits the Bears this offseason.

The Bears should finalize their plans next week at the NFL Scouting Combine, with all signs pointing to the Bears electing to draft a quarterback at No. 1 overall and trade Justin Fields.

At his year-end press conference, Poles said he'd take the decision all the way up to the draft, but doing that could put the Bears in a sticky situation.

If the plan is to trade Fields, the Bears should try to agree on a deal shortly after the combine so it can be executed when the new league year begins before the free-agent quarterback carousel gets going.

Fields is still just 24 years old and has the potential to continue to develop as a quarterback if he lands in the right place. While many NFL teams are intrigued by Fields, few will be interested in giving up a premium pick to acquire him while also picking up his fifth-year option without seeing him take a snap in their uniform.

As of right now, only the Atlanta Falcons, New England Patriots, Pittsburgh Steelers, and Denver Broncos feel like the most likely landing spots.

The Las Vegas Raiders' decision to hire Luke Getsy as their offensive coordinator likely removes them from the picture. Teams with veteran quarterbacks potentially on their last leg -- New Orleans Saints, New York Jets, and Los Angeles Rams -- are unlikely to be involved but could enter the picture. The Seattle Seahawks, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, and Cleveland Browns loom as potential wild-card entrants into the talks.

With the information available, we're going to operate under the assumption that one of the four teams in QB purgatory -- Denver, Pittsburgh, New England, and Atlanta -- will trade for Fields.

That's not a big pool of potential dance partners. When you factor in the likelihood that at least one team won't be interested, the Patriots could opt to draft a quarterback at No. 3 overall, and that two veteran quarterbacks are slated to hit the free-agent market, you can understand why the Bears need to move quickly if they do decide to trade Fields.

Russell Wilson and Kirk Cousins are expected to be free agents when the new league year begins. Wilson was benched by the Broncos late in the season, and Denver is expected to move on from the former Super Bowl champion. Cousins could still return to the Vikings. However, given his age and his Achilles injury, it's unclear what Minnesota's appetite is for bringing him back on a B-level free agent deal between $30-$40 million. Cousins said he plans to be ready to go for the start of the season, but his rehab timeline could alter his market once teams get a look at his medicals. Cousins' contract voids after the franchise tag deadline passes, so he is not a tag candidate.

Both Wilson and Cousins have been linked to teams thought to be landing spots for Fields -- Pittsburgh and Atlanta -- which further illustrates the need for the Bears to get a deal done when the new league year begins.

If the Bears wait, they risk losing all their trade leverage and being forced to trade Fields for less than he's worth or bring him to camp with the quarterback they draft at No. 1 and wait for a team to need a starting-caliber quarterback due to injury.

Neither of those is a desirable outcome.

Fields has shown he's a starting-caliber quarterback and should be in demand from a few quarterback-needy teams looking to take a chance on a former first-round pick who has continued to improve.

But if the Bears wait for the quarterback carousel to start spinning, the Fields market could deteriorate or evaporate entirely.

With Cousins and Wilson set to hit the market next month, the Bears would be wise to move quickly once they cement their quarterback plans at the combine.

Wasted time is wasted opportunity, and the Bears can't afford either at this critical juncture.

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