After an embarrassing loss to Kansas City, the winless Chicago Bears are far from reaching the playoffs anytime soon, much less true contention. Quarterback Justin Fields is rightfully frustrated, and it would behoove both parties to begin trade talks. Enter the Atlanta Falcons, who desperately need a quarterback upgrade. Check out below for a Justin Fields trade package and the rationale behind this move for both franchises.
Justin Fields Trade Framework
Chicago Bears receive:
- Falcons 2024 1st, Falcons 2024 3rd
Atlanta Falcons receive:
- Justin Fields
Russell Wilson cost Denver two first round picks, two second round picks, and a few solid players, while Deshaun Watston went for a whopping three first round picks. Both established quarterbacks were widely considered elite at the time though, so a struggling Fields won’t fetch anything in the same neighborhood regardless of his youth, draft pedigree and contract. The fact that the deals appear to be massive overpays will also deter franchises from significantly depleting their draft capital. Fields’ current contract with the Bears is a 4 year, $18,871,957 deal that is valid through the 2024 season.
Therefore, a 2024 first and third round pick will suffice for Justin Fields, especially since Chicago has little leverage due to a lack of suitors. Perhaps they could morph that third into a second round pick, but it would be shocking if Chicago managed to snag a pair of first round picks.
Chicago Bears Trade Rationale
Although Justin Fields deserves a share of the blame, he resides in one of the worst situations in football. Chicago’s defense ranks 31st in opponent Expected Points Added per Play, 30th in opponent yards per play, 26th in PFF’s overall Defense grade, and 30th in percentage of opponent drives ending in an offensive score. To put it bluntly, this Chicago Bears defense couldn’t stop a runny nose.
Meanwhile, Fields’ offensive surroundings are far from ideal. New acquisition DJ Moore would be a strong second option, but he’s somewhat out of his depth as the top receiver in an elite offense. Darnell Mooney, Cole Kmet, and Roschon Johnson are individually decent pieces but nothing special. By my count, the only teams with inferior weapons are Carolina, Arizona, New England, the New York Giants, and arguably Houston, which would place Chicago at 27th or 28th in weapons rating.
To make matters worse, Chicago’s offensive line is at least a bottom five unit that especially struggles blocking interior pressure. As a result, Fields is constantly under fire trying to make plays with pass-catchers that don’t generate significant separation. Now, Fields certainly doesn’t help matters in terms of escaping defensive linemen. He owns one of the highest pressure to sack ratios because he doesn’t possess enough pocket awareness and tries to extend plays that cannot be saved. On the other hand, it could be argued that Fields has to take unwise risks because he likely knows Chicago’s defense will allow a score if they punt.
— JPAFootball (@jasrifootball) September 10, 2023
Finally, Chicago’s coaching staff isn’t placing Fields in a position to utilize his strengths. Despite his quality touch on deep attempts, he ranks 25th in play action frequency and ninth in screen frequency (per PFF). Did they watch Fields eviscerate defenses at Ohio State on play action passes? He ranked fourth in the nation in overall play action passing grade per PFF and absolutely torched Clemson to reach the national championship. Plus, their stubborn desire to make Fields exclusively a pocket passer is borderline absurd. He doesn’t have the pocket awareness or processing speed to fill this role; add a few rollouts and designed runs to the playbook and get Fields out of that death trap of a pocket.
Given the state of this roster and the 2024 NFL Draft landscape, it’s time for the Bears to move on and trade Justin Fields. Chicago’s front office must honestly assess their situation and hopefully avoid the sunk cost fallacy, which is when a person doesn’t abandon a strategy even though it would clearly be more beneficial due to the large amount of investment already put into said strategy. The Arizona Cardinals avoided this pitfall recently when they drafted Pro Bowler Kyler Murray first overall a year after selecting Josh Rosen tenth overall. Most franchises would have stuck with Rosen because of the size of the investment, but Arizona didn’t allow ego or fear of judgment to cloud their decision making and wound up with a far better situation.
Perhaps this exceptional draft class will convince the Bears. It’s foolish, irresponsible, and unfair to a prospect to compare him to Patrick Mahomes…but USC quarterback Caleb Williams is an exception. The reigning Heisman winner is the complete package: hyper-elite arm talent, acute pocket awareness, field vision, creativity, mobility, size and plain old football IQ. He’s the best prospect since at least Trevor Lawrence and perhaps reaches Andrew Luck heights. Franchises rarely tank because there’s typically never a surefire generational prospect, but Caleb Williams fits the bill.
Breaking: Another impressive Caleb Williams highlight
— PFF College (@PFF_College) September 3, 2023
The Bears also own Carolina’s first round pick from the Bryce Young trade, and the Panthers probably the hold the title of worst team in football. Both teams are 0-3, and their main rivals Arizona and Houston both picked up wins in Week Three. With Kyler Murray returning at some point and CJ Stroud cooking, the Cardinals and Texans may surprise teams. The other winless franchises include Minnesota and Denver, who shouldn’t remain that way for long. The Vikings face Carolina’s horrific roster in Week Four, while the Broncos host Chicago. Essentially, the Bears are in the driver’s seat to collect the top two picks in the 2024 Draft, although their chances would be greatly boosted if they immediately trade Fields and start quarterback Tyson Bagent.
Chicago could then draft Caleb Williams and star Notre Dame left tackle Joe Alt to protect his blindside. Alt allowed a measly eight pressures and no sacks in thirteen games last season while committing only one penalty per PFF. He still hasn’t let up a sack so far this year either. Another alternative is selecting generational receiver prospect Marvin Harrison Jr, who immediately becomes Chicago’s top option. Value them equally? Trade back one spot and snag extra draft capital.
Next, the Bears can address their offensive line or defense with Atlanta’s first rounder, their own second rounder, and their two third round picks. There is a realistic future where Chicago adds Caleb Williams, Joe Alt or Marvin Harrison Jr, another highly touted offensive linemen and three tantalizing defensive prospects to the roster. Plus, the Bears would have these six players on rookie contracts for the foreseeable future, so they could subsequently spend heavily in free agency to radically improve the roster.
Overall, the optimal course for Chicago to take is crystal clear. This roster won’t be a contender anytime soon, and it’s still unclear whether Fields is a franchise quarterback. Draft Caleb Williams and a plethora of elite prospects, reset with fresh rookie contracts, and immediately brighten the future tenfold.
Atlanta Falcons Trade Rationale
The Atlanta Falcons have built a desirable environment for their quarterback. Wide receiver Drake London and tight end Kyle Pitts are hyper-talented pass-catchers with the size and speed to routinely beat tight coverage. The offensive line is an excellent run blocking unit, and they roster the most dynamic running back across the NFL in Bijan Robinson along with backfield partner Tyler Allgeier. Atlanta’s pass protection needs work, but it’s far from the bottom of the league.
In summation, Atlanta possesses a muscular run game, elite targets, and a solid offensive line. Meanwhile, their defense is ready to compete now. Grady Jarrett and David Onyemata form a devastating defensive line duo, while cornerback AJ Terrell and safety Jessie Bates III can lock down the passing game. Linebacker Kaden Ellis is an all-around weapon too. This Falcons defense currently sits at 12th in opponent Expected Points Added per Play, 8th in opponent yards per play, 14th in PFF’s Defense grade and 8th in percentage of opponent drives ending in an offensive score.
They are 2-1 and in the NFC South – the worst division in football – but their ceiling is unfortunately capped with Desmond Ridder orchestrating the offense. Of the 34 quarterbacks with at least 50 dropbacks per PFF, Ridder ranks 24th in Big Time Throw rate, 27th in adjusted completion percentage, dead last in overall grade, and possesses the highest Turnover Worthy Play rate. His dreadful play only becomes worse when considering his tantalizing offensive surroundings.
Do not, under any circumstances, watch this if you’re a Kyle Pitts manager pic.twitter.com/v8RliZ6pAH
— FantasyPros (@FantasyPros) September 24, 2023
Enter Justin Fields, who would fit perfectly with the Falcons. Head coach Arthur Smith loves to mercilessly run the ball until the opponent brings a safety up and transitions to single high coverage. Then, he calls for play action passes and deep bombs in order to exploit the subsequent space. As a result, Ridder is eighth in percentage of attempts at least twenty yards downfield and fourth in play action dropback percentage. His wildly inaccurate arm isn’t allowing Atlanta to capitalize; however, Justin Fields would be a different story.
To start the season on twenty plus yard throws, Fields is eighth in Big Time Throw Percentage, second in touchdowns, and owns no Turnover Worthy Plays per PFF. For his career, Fields has a 33 to 9 ratio of Big Time Throws to Turnover Worthy Plays on deep attempts. That 3.66 to 1 ratio would have ranked ahead of names such as Josh Allen, Aaron Rodgers, Tua Tagovailoa, and Russell Wilson last season.
With a stronger offensive line, an assortment of dangerous weapons and a head coach that would actually utilize his strengths and highlight the running ability, Fields would blossom into an above average or borderline elite quarterback. Atlanta’s offense suddenly becomes extremely scary and especially difficult to stop in short yardage situations. How can opponents defend Bijan Robinson or Justin Fields potentially running the ball behind this nasty offensive line when it could also be a quick dart to Drake London or Kyle Pitts?
Fields fits like a glove, but the Falcons have to examine whether the price is worth the upside. Their 2024 first likely falls in the mid to high teens, although that probably jumps to the low twenties with Fields replacing Ridder. Therefore, are late first and third rounders worth the gamble of acquiring a 24-year-old potential franchise quarterback that fits the scheme? The answer is yes for Atlanta every single time. Plus, they would have Fields on a rookie contract next year too, so the Falcons get to test the Fields experiment for nearly two full seasons before either extending him or walking away with a clean cap sheet.
Overall, Desmond Ridder is seriously hindering this Falcons roster. Justin Fields could be their savior and franchise quarterback, so now is the time to strike for Atlanta, especially since the NFC isn’t exactly strong at the moment. Fields can grow with the young core and potentially allow them to be a contender for years to come.