Chicago Bears

Ryan Poles details potential Justin Fields trade timeline should Bears opt for QB change

The Bears are still early in the information-gathering stages of their QB decision

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INDIANAPOLIS -- Bears general manager Ryan Poles opened his 2024 NFL Scouting Combine media availability by saying he had "no master plan" regarding the No. 1 overall pick, Justin Fields, and the franchise's quarterback future.

Poles said the Bears remain in the information-gathering stage. They'll use this week in Indy to get to know the prospects as people and take the next steps in their exhaustive process.

As far as Fields is concerned, Poles admitted that should the Bears decide to draft a quarterback at No. 1, he believes it would be the right thing to do to try and trade Fields before free agency starts.

"Yeah, again it just depends on what opportunities pop up," Poles told Chicago media Tuesday in Indianapolis. "I will say this, I think you guys know me well enough now, if we go down that road, I want to do right by Justin as well. No one wants to live in grey, I know that's uncomfortable. I wouldn't want to be in that situation either. So, we will gather the information, we will move as quickly as possible, we are not going to be in a rush and see what presents itself and what's best for the organization."

Fields went on the "St. Brown Brothers" podcast last week and explained why he unfollowed the Bears on social media. Fields said he wants to remain a Bear but would like to know one way or another what his future holds.

Poles said he has been transparent with Fields and his team about where the Bears are in the process.

"So I've always felt, and I told him this after the season when we had our exit meetings that transparency and communication is key in these moments," Poles said. "I told them that we will do that. I've been in contact with his team and kind of let them know what we are looking at, how things might play out. And that will continue to communicate as we move forward. Again, I understand how uncomfortable that is for him but again, like I told him and he understands, I think he said it the other day too, it's part of this business. It is a unique situation. But I'll continue that communication with them."

Fields received unanimous support from his teammates during the season. That support has continued this offseason. Wide receiver DJ Moore and tight end Cole Kmet were among a contingent of Bears to hit Radio Row during the week of Super Bowl LVIII and express their continued support for Fields.

However, the Bears veterans also understand it's a business and are bracing for change at the quarterback position.

Poles respects Fields and his standing in the locker room. But he also knows it's his job to look at things from 30,000 feet and project the best path forward for the organization.

“He’s a leader. Everything our guys have said is true, and not surprised our guys have said what they said," Poles said. "I feel the same way. I think sometimes this whole thing gets -- is it’s Justin vs. another person and I have to look at it a little bit differently. I take that into effect. That’s why the person is so important when we evaluate all the people that would come in at that position. But also it’s my job to think of the long term and a lot of our guys kind of don’t see that. It’s not their job to do that and they defend their guy which I think speaks volumes about our culture in that locker room.”

Poles spending time with the top quarterback prospects -- Caleb Williams, Drake Maye, and Jayden Daniels -- will be invaluable as he tries to find out how each man is wired and whether or not they can lead his team going forward.

That process starts this week as Poles, and the Bears' decision-makers will sit down with top prospects for the first of many interviews. That will include 30 visits, pro days, and potentially private workouts as Poles works to leave no stone unturned in his search for the Bears' franchise quarterback.

In a perfect world, Poles would have all of his information soon and be able to make his decision. But he understands how long this process can take to get it right.

"I would love to know as soon as possible," Poles said when asked when he wants clarity. "I would love to know, but I know that’s not how the process works. Sure, before free agency would be good. Like I said, I’m also taking, if we were to do something with Justin, I want to do right by him and I know, again, living in that grey space, we would want to do something sooner rather than later. But just like I talk about with contracts, it takes two teams to figure that out, but at the same time, we’re also trying to figure out the draft process as well. There’s a lot of different things with different timelines going and that’s what makes it a little difficult."

The Bears find themselves in a unique situation. The future of their franchise will be forever changed based on the decision Poles makes this offseason.

If he decides to stay with Fields, the Bears should be able to move the No. 1 pick for a massive haul. Poles will only trade the pick for a return that will "significantly" help the organization.

Should he decide to move on from Fields, Poles will work quickly to get the 24-year-old quarterback to a new team, ensuring a fresh start and a full offseason to hit the ground running at his new home.

But the Bears are nowhere close to having that needed clarity. The journey is just beginning.

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