Bears are doubling their Justin Fields investment in the reported deal with the Panthers for the No. 1 NFL draft pick

It’s never easy to know whether to take the head coach and general manager at their word, especially after a disappointing season.

And if they pick No. 1 in the upcoming draft, all bets are off.

It turns out that in the weeks since the end of the Chicago Bears’ last season, when head coach Matt Eberflus and general manager Ryan Poles were asked about quarterback Justin Fields, they haven’t just been blowing smoke when talking about it “big step” he won last season – and that Fields is “on the right track” and just needs to focus on making small improvements and adjustments to his game.

They genuinely believe in Fields’ ability to lead the Bears and they are committed to ensuring he has what he needs to do so.

November 6, 2022; Chicago, IL, USA; Chicago Bears quarterback Justin Fields (1) is released by Miami Dolphins linebacker Melvin Ingram (6) in the fourth quarter at Soldier Field. Miami defeated Chicago 35-32. Mandatory Credit: Jamie Sabau-USA TODAY Sports

Bears QB Justin Fields has taken a heavy penalty in the 2022 season. (Jamie Sabau/USA TODAY Sports)

On Friday night, Chicago reportedly traded the top pick in next month’s draft for the Carolina Panthers, who rose from No. 9 and received first- and second-round picks this year, the Panthers next year’s first-round pick and a second-round pick in 2025.

As if that wasn’t enough, the Bears also acquired a top receiver, DJ Moore. Panthers beat reporter Joe Person tweeted that Moore, a 2018 first-round pick who averaged 72 catches and 1,000+ yards per season with Carolina (despite playing with 11 starting quarterbacks during that streak), was considered a “must have” for Chicago in the deal.

Moore managed 63 receptions and a career-high seven touchdowns last season despite playing with a trio of boring quarterbacks. That was far more production than the Bears’ top receiver, Darnell Mooney. He only had 40 catches, with tight end Cole Kmet leading the team with 50 catches. The wide receivers on Chicago’s roster last season totaled 121 catches, the worst in the league.

Moore had already signed a contract extension with the Panthers and is currently under contract until 2025.

Even better, Chicago closed that trade before free agency officially begins Wednesday, meaning it can be even more strategic about the players it adds, mixing seasoned veterans with young players it hopes will become core members of the team. Factoring in Moore’s 2023 base salary of $19.9 million, the Bears still have the best $75 million in salary cap in the league, although of course some of that will go to their draft class.

Fields was fired 55 times last season, most of them in the NFL, so help is needed on offense. But a team that had the first pick in the draft has many needs on both sides of the ball. Defensively, the Bears had just 20 sacks and 43 quarterback hits in 2022 when they traded eventual Pro Bowl linebacker Roquan Smith in November. The Bears had no Pro Bowlers on their roster.

There are rumors that the Arizona Cardinals could trade DeAndre Hopkins, which would add another strong receiver to the mix. Veteran linebacker Bobby Wagner is a free agent and one of the league’s most respected leaders. There are some solid offensive players available, including rising right tackle Jawaan Taylor, who’s only 25 and has started every game in his first four seasons with Jacksonville.

It’s been a rough decade for Bears fans since Lovie Smith was fired: four head coaches, three general managers, just two postseason appearances and a lot of boring quarterback play. Smith brought Chicago to its final Super Bowl appearance of the 2006 season and after To some fans, he earned Credit also to Friday’s haul: After Smith’s Houston Texans defeated the Indianapolis Colts in Week 18, the Bears got the #1 pick, setting the stage for this trade.

With a new head coach and a new offensive coordinator in Luke Getsy for his sophomore season, Fields began to thrive and had some great moments and games — despite having pretty much no help from his line or receivers.

They say “blossom where you are planted,” and Fields did so in less than fertile ground.

There’s always more work to do, of course, and that’s getting easier as Chicago is clearly committed to their rising young star and building a team around him that will hopefully let him play to his strengths and bring excitement back to a proud franchise struggling has been sustained for years. Bears are doubling their Justin Fields investment in the reported deal with the Panthers for the No. 1 NFL draft pick

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