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Justin Fields’ future with the Chicago Bears remains unclear as the NFL’s QB carousel spins

Justin Fields’ future with the Chicago Bears remains unclear as the NFL’s QB carousel spins

As the winds of NFL free agency intensified Monday, Justin Fields’ future continued to swirl in the air. The fourth-year quarterback remains under contract with the Chicago Bears until further notice.

While many inside the league have been intrigued to see what general manager Ryan Poles might do with Fields as momentum builds toward the Bears selecting a quarterback in next month’s draft, the QB landscape across the league is now settling in a way that only increases uncertainty.

Baker Mayfield never made it to the open market, agreeing to a three-year, $100 million extension with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers over the weekend.

Russell Wilson landed in Pittsburgh on a one-year agreement that will come at a deep discount as the Denver Broncos remain on the hook for $39 million for 2024.

Kirk Cousins exited Minnesota on Monday afternoon, agreeing to a four-year, $180 million deal with the Atlanta Falcons, a major domino in the quarterback game. Even Gardner Minshew found a new home, agreeing to a contract with the Las Vegas Raiders.

Those moves removed four teams as possible Fields suitors. It has become increasingly evident in recent weeks that Fields wasn’t Plan A at quarterback for any team this offseason as the league’s annual game of musical chairs plays out.

The Bears own the No. 1 draft pick and are in line to select USC quarterback Caleb Williams if so desired. The Washington Commanders and New England Patriots, other teams with quarterback needs, own the Nos. 2 and 3 picks.

So who might be interested in trading for Fields? And when? Right now, the answers are unclear.

Other notable quarterbacks with significant starting experience who are on the free-agent market include Sam Darnold, Jacoby Brissett and Ryan Tannehill.

Late last month at the scouting combine in Indianapolis, Poles was asked about the prospect of trading Fields and insinuated that a move could be possible before free agency opened.

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“It just depends on what opportunities pop up,” Poles said. “If we go down that road, I want to do right by Justin as well. No one wants to live in gray. 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. But we are not going to be in a rush and see what presents itself and what’s best for the organization.”

Later that day, Bears coach Matt Eberflus rattled off the traits he finds most important in a quarterback.

“I know what a good quarterback looks like,” Eberflus said, “and what’s hard on a defense is a guy who has the ability to create, a guy who has the ability to throw with timing and accuracy and a guy who can move the ball down the field when it’s those critical moments. So on third downs, two-minute (drills), all those critical moments.”

Within league circles, there’s a strong sense that momentum is building toward the Bears drafting a quarterback — most likely Williams.

During a news conference Monday to discuss his four-year contract extension, Bears cornerback Jaylon Johnson was asked about the potential for locker-room fallout if Fields is traded.

Johnson has been a vocal supporter of Fields but emphasized that accepting change is a part of the job in the NFL.

“At the end of the day, we know the business that we’re in,” Johnson said. “So I feel like it wouldn’t be mature of us as a locker room not to rally together in spite of having Justin leave.

“I know how we would feel with him here. But at the end of the day, we’ll all have our opinions and our emotions. But as far as the locker room staying together, I think we have the right guys to keep everything together.”