Why Bears are better off with Fields than Russell Wilson

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The blockbuster deal which sent Russell Wilson to the Broncos has had the NFL buzzing as everyone assesses the new landscape. Are the Broncos legit Super Bowl contenders now? Is the AFC West officially the toughest division in the league? Closer to home, fans have wondered what the Bears would look like if they had consummated the trade for Wilson last season. At the time, many were disappointed that Ryan Pace struck out after months of rumor mill hysteria. But looking back, missing out on Wilson has worked out much better for the Bears.

Let’s go back to last winter, when Russ Talk was at its peak. The Bears were at a crossroads with a coach and a GM on the hot seat. They believed the defense was still good enough to perform as one of the best units in the league. They thought they had enough pieces to put up points on offense with Allen Robinson, Darnell Mooney, David Montgomery and Tarik Cohen. They had finally found a clutch kicker in Cairo Santos. All they needed was the quarterback to lead the way.  Wilson would’ve been a perfect choice too. He throws one of the best deep balls in the league, which would unlock the explosive plays Nagy’s offense had desperately been missing. He boasts great mobility, which is a quality any offense covets in its quarterback. Most important, Wilson is a proven winner.

As it turned out, however, the Bears were not ready to compete at a serious level. The offense looked broken and rhythmless throughout the year, no matter if it was Andy Dalton, Justin Fields or Nick Foles under center. Robinson had one of the worst years of his career, and Cohen never returned. In rare moments when the offense did generate some momentum, it was often undone by silly penalties that put the team behind the sticks again.

The struggles extended to the defense, as well. Robert Quinn, Roquan Smith and Jaylon Johnson may have enjoyed excellent individual seasons, but mental miscues plagued the team from Week 1 to Week 18. So did poor tackling. The secondary was exposed as Sean Desai’s unit shuffled cornerbacks not named “Jaylon Johnson” in and out of the lineup. Again, silly penalties cost the team in critical moments.

Would Wilson have helped the team win one or two more games? Yeah, probably. Would he have single-handedly turned the team into a legit playoff threat? Probably not. So where would that have left the team? Probably still with a new GM and head coach. But that new leadership group would have considerably fewer resources to build a new team around Wilson.

The Broncos sent two first-round picks, two second-rounders, a fifth, plus Drew Lock, Noah Fant and Shelby Harris to Seattle in exchange for Wilson and a fourth-round pick. Reports from last year say the Bears offered even more: three first-round picks, a third-rounder, plus two selections from a collection of players that included Khalil Mack and Akiem Hicks. With no first-round picks until 2024, any new GM would be hamstrung trying to inject impactful talent into the roster. Plus, with Wilson in the fold, there would be no Fields. In the draft day trade to select Fields, the Bears swapped first-round picks with the Giants in 2021 in addition to sending New York a fifth-round pick in 2021, and a first-rounder and fourth-rounder in 2022. Obviously a much lower price to pay.

It’s valid to argue that the Bears would be better off with Wilson, a proven winner, than Fields, an unknown prospect. But when taking in the full picture, the Bears likely would’ve wasted the last years of Wilson’s prime since they wouldn’t have the draft capital to build around him, nor would they have the cap space to sign top-shelf free agents given Wilson’s hefty cap hits. Instead of chasing a closing championship window with an aging QB, now the Bears can retool a roster around a budding quarterback whose championship window hasn’t even opened yet.

If the Bears can develop Fields into a top-tier quarterback, obviously missing out on Wilson won’t be a big deal. They’ll have their quarterback, and they’ll theoretically have him for many years. If Fields doesn’t pan out, obviously it will set the team back considerably, as they’ll be forced to continue their everlasting search for a franchise quarterback. But that rebuilding effort likely won’t be nearly as painful as if the team had traded for Wilson, only to need another rebuild, too.

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