Four years after trading up for Mitchell Trubisky, an experiment that eventually fizzled out, the Chicago Bears once again pulled off a stunning move Thursday night in the NFL draft when they traded up nine spots with the New York Giants to take Ohio State quarterback Justin Fields with the 11th overall pick.
The Giants received Chicago’s first-round (No. 20) and fifth-round picks this year, and the Bears’ first- and fourth-rounders next year.
“We had multiple plans tonight, and the way the board was falling, we got excited when the quarterbacks came off that way and Justin continued to fall,” Bears general manager Ryan Pace said. “For us, it was just executing our plan at the right spot in the draft and being patient with that, which sometimes can be difficult.
“Fortunately, with the Giants, I’ve known Dave Gettleman for 20 years. He’s an amazing person and amazing general manager and we go way back, so that communication started really this morning about something like that happening, and when we were able to execute it in the draft, I just feel real fortunate.”
The Bears signed veteran Andy Dalton for one year, $10 million in free agency, but Chicago’s sights were always set on finding its quarterback of the future. The Bears have been bereft a true franchise quarterback since Hall of Famer Sid Luckman retired in 1950.
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Bears head coach Matt Nagy spoke to Dalton on Thursday night and reiterated that Dalton is still the team’s starting quarterback. That status, however, is only temporary.
Fields is confident he can eventually fill the quarterback void in Chicago that has lasted 70-plus years.
“You know, just the way I carry myself, just the way I care about the game, the grit I have, the determination I have to be great,” Fields said when asked by reporters why he believes he can be the franchise quarterback Chicago has struggled finding. “I think nobody has the story that I have. So just everything inside of me, just wanting to be a great quarterback, wanting to be a franchise quarterback. And just me dreaming for this moment my whole life. So I just think all of those intangibles, my work ethic and all that together will of course be different for me.”
The Bears did extensive legwork on this year’s class of quarterbacks, with Pace and Nagy traveling around the country to attend the respective pro days of many of the quarterback prospects, including Fields’ second workout at Ohio State.
“I think I fit perfectly [with what Nagy wants at quarterback],” Fields said. “If he didn’t think I fit well [the Bears] wouldn’t have traded up.”
“I mean, Fields’ toughness on a scale of 1-10 is an 11,” Pace added. “And you just love that about him. Oh, and by the way, he runs a 4.44 40-yard dash. You throw that all in together, and it just feels good.”
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Pace expressed optimism Thursday that Chicago had the right quarterback room with Dalton and fellow veteran Nick Foles to welcome a rookie quarterback in the mix. The Bears also have multiple former quarterbacks — Nagy, offensive coordinator Bill Lazor and quarterbacks coach John DeFilippo — on the current coaching staff, which they believe can help expedite the development process.
“We talk about, you can draft the players but you have to develop them the right way,” Pace said. “And that’s what I love about the environment that we have. What I love about our environment is the veteran quarterbacks that we have in that room — like, I don’t know if you look around the league, how many teams have that kind of experience in the room. And then the coaches that we have surrounding that position. I can’t say that enough. We’ve got a good plan in place to surround him with the right resources, to develop him the right way.”
After the Philadelphia Eagles jumped the Giants to take wide receiver DeVonta Smith, Gettleman made the first trade back in his nine drafts as a general manager. He had never traded back in any round of the previous eight drafts as a GM with the Carolina Panthers and Giants.
The Giants received a hefty return for pick No. 11, something even they didn’t think possible before the draft. But Fields and Alabama quarterback Mac Jones fell out of the top 10, allowing Gettleman to avoid getting fleeced, which he said last week was a reason he never traded back before, even though he had tried.
ESPN’s Jordan Raanan contributed to this report.
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