Chicago Bears general manager Ryan Poles confirmed the team's "plan" was to stick with quarterback Justin Fields, but said the franchise was continuing "to do our homework" on the 2023 NFL Draft class as they still hold the No. 1 overall pick.
"That's the plan, right now," Poles told reporters Tuesday (February 28) when asked about Fields being the starting quarterback for the 2023 NFL season via NFL.com. "Like I said, we're going to do our homework on this class and if something changes, and again, I will just use this same statement: We will have to be blown away to say, you know, I think this is best for our organization."
Poles has publicly endorsed Fields as the Bears' long-term option amid previous rumors that the team was considering taking another quarterback with the No. 1 overall pick. The former No. 11 overall pick is coming off a breakout second season, throwing for 2,242 yards, 17 touchdowns and 11 interceptions on 192 of 318 passing, as well as recording 1,143 rushing yards -- the second most by a quarterback in NFL history -- and eight touchdowns on 160 attempts, which included setting an NFL record for most rushing yards by a quarterback in a single game (178).
"Justin did some really good things -- I'm excited about where is game is going to go," Poles said via NFL.com. "But at the same time when you sit at our situation at one overall, you have to do your due diligence. You have to investigate everything, you gotta spend time with those guys just to make sure we're making the right decision. What's important to me, and I think everyone knows me by now and how I want to treat our players, we will be in communication with Justin along the way just to make sure that he knows what we're doing and nothing's a surprise to him."
On Monday (February 27), sources with knowledge of the situation told ESPN's Adam Schefter that the Bears were reportedly "leaning toward" trading the No. 1 overall pick in the upcoming 2023 NFL Draft.
"Sources: The Bears already have been approached by multiple teams about trading the draft’s No. 1 overall pick, and Chicago is said to be 'leaning toward' moving the pick. So the No. 1 pick now looks like it’s for sale," Schefter tweeted.
Earlier this month, Sports Illustrated Senior NFL reporter Albert Breer said the Bears were reportedly planning to keep Fields amid previous reports that they were fielding trade offers and considering using the No. 1 overall pick on another quarterback.
“My sense is that they’re going to move forward with Justin Fields and try to trade the first pick,” Breer said during a February 1 appearance on the Rich Eisen Show Tuesday (h/t Yahoo Sports). “Could that change based on their evaluation of Bryce Young, C.J. Stroud, Will Levis, Anthony Richardson? Sure. But I’ve talked to enough people there that feel like Justin didn’tー there wasn’t enough around Justin to get a really clean evaluation on him last year, and given what he had, what he did was really, really impressive.”
Fields also reportedly impressed the organization by accepting blame for the team's struggles during his second season, rather than point blame elsewhere, according to Breer.
“We’ve heard about the friction and bitching from [New England Patriots second-year quarterback] Mac Jones, and everything else. Did we hear one word from Justin Fields complaining about his circumstances? No," Breer told Eisen on Tuesday. "So I think that there is an appreciation not only for how Justin played, how he put his body on the line, but also how he handled all of it. He kind of had a square jaw about the whole thing. Like, ‘I’m taking the responsibility here because I am the franchise quarterback,’ and I think that scored him a lot of points with people in that organization."
The Bears will likely try to trade back in the upcoming draft with several teams having a strong need for the quarterback position. NFL Network draft expert Daniel Jeremiah currently has Georgia defensive tackle Jalen Carter at No. 1 overall prospect in his latest NFL.com rankings.