Bears plan for Justin Fields, return of Tim Tebow, Aaron Rodgers rumors and more

The Chicago Bears plan for Justin Fields, NFL power rankings, Jalen Hurts competing for the Eagles starting job and the latest Aaron Rodgers rumors and news from around the NFL.

*This week, the esteemed Patrick Schmidt is at the controls. Verderame returns May 31*

It’s been nearly one month since the Chicago Bears drafted Justin Fields and I still wake up every morning needing to pinch myself to make sure I’m not dreaming.

The excitement on draft night when the Bears traded up to the No. 11 pick to take the former Ohio State quarterback is something I wish I could bottle and tap into when I need a pick-me-up. It was the greatest feeling I’ve experienced as a Bears fan during a draft.

Fields is the greatest draft pick of my lifetime. He hasn’t played a game yet but his presence is a franchise-changing one for a team that has lacked a player of his potential for generations.

General manager Ryan Pace is on the road to redemption after fumbling the quarterback position time and again. Signing Mike Glennon only to trade up to draft Mitchell Trubisky then giving Chase Daniel mega-millions to hold a clipboard only to trade a fourth-round pick for Nick Foles and his salary to then sign Andy Dalton for $10 million isn’t great.

But trading up for Fields is making me quickly forget about all of his past failures.

Pace did his job, but now it’s up to head coach Matt Nagy to do his.

Nagy and Trubisky were never able to jive. It’s not that there was animosity between the two but there was a clear belief from Nagy that he couldn’t get anything out of Trubisky. Nagy recognized Trubisky couldn’t do what he wanted him to do and the offense had to be truncated to reflect his shortcomings.

Of course, Nagy wasn’t around when Pace drafted Trubisky to the surprise of then-head coach John Fox. He wasn’t his guy and it was readily apparent. One of them had to go and it was Trubisky who signed a one-year deal to serve as Josh Allen’s backup with the Buffalo Bills.

Now with Nagy and Pace surviving the hot seat talk last season, they have to maximize the immense potential of Fields and make sure he doesn’t go the way so many other Bears quarterbacks have.

But this isn’t a Trubisky or Cade McNown situation. This is different.

The plan, for now, is to slowly bring along Fields while Dalton is penciled in as the starter.

This is subject to change, of course.

Publicly naming Andy Dalton as the starter is the right thing to do. He’s a veteran with years of experience. Although the recent results aren’t great, this takes the pressure off Fields and makes him compete for the job.

Fields looked like someone kicked his dog on draft night when the Bears took him. It wasn’t because he was going to Chicago where quarterbacks go to die. It was because he knows he’s an elite player and 10 teams passed on him.

The chip on his shoulder is bigger than The Bean in Millenium Park.

Fields is hungry to get to work and compete for the job. Knowing Dalton is the starter and the person to beat adds fuel to the fire and invigorates the competitive appetite that’s already incapable of being satiated with Fields.

Nagy can say the plan is for Fields to follow the one the Chiefs and Patrick Mahomes had, when Mahomes sat the first 15 games before starting Week 17 with the playoffs secured and Alex Smith getting a week off.

It’s one thing to say that in May, but things change quickly in the NFL. But why this isn’t a great comparison is because this version of Dalton is nowhere near that version of Smith.

Smith was playing at Pro Bowl level in 2017 when Mahomes was on the bench. Smith was in his fifth season with the Chiefs who banked the goodwill of three 11-win seasons and multiple playoff appearances. The playoff success wasn’t there, but Smith had his best season as a pro in that 2017 season when he led the NFL with a 104.1 quarterback rating and made his third Pro Bowl.

Dalton, conversely, has regressed each of the last five years. His tenure with the Cincinnati Bengals ended after leading them to the worst record in the NFL. At least his parting gift was Joe Burrow.

Last year, Dalton went 4-5 in nine starts with the Dallas Cowboys while playing for the injured Dak Prescott. He wasn’t bad. He was the ideal backup quarterback in fact, throwing 14 touchdowns to eight interceptions, including a pair of fourth-quarter comebacks and orchestrating three game-winning drives. He completed 64.9 percent of his passes, the best mark he’s posted since 2015.

Maybe there’s a little gas left in the tank for Dalton. The Bears will give him a chance to see how long he can go before he’s on empty and give Fields the necessary time he may need to adjust to the NFL speed and all that goes into running an NFL offense and commanding a locker room.

When will Fields make his first start for the Bears? The answer won’t be limited to what Dalton does on the field, but rather what Fields shows in practice and the film room. When Nagy knows it’s time, he’ll make the move. It’s not something that needs to be rushed, although Bears fans are hoping it’ll be Week 1 when the Bears play the Aaron Donald, Jalen Ramsey and the Los Angeles Rams on Sunday Night Football.

My prediction? Fields starts by Week 4 against the Detroit Lions on Oct. 3. Write it in pencil.

Power rankings

Best chance at getting the No. 1 pick in 2022 NFL Draft

  1. Detroit Lions
  2. Houston Texans
  3. New York Jets
  4. Jacksonville Jaguars
  5. Cincinnati Bengals
  6. Carolina Panthers
  7. New York Giants
  8. Las Vegas Raiders
  9. Washington Football Team
  10. New Orleans Saints


“For me, I know rent is due every day. It’s always been that way for me. I’ve always been in a ‘get better’ mentality every day. I want to grow every day, be a better leader every day and be a better quarterback every day. When that rent is due, I don’t plan on missing any payments, so let’s work.”

– Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Jalen Hurts on how he’s approaching the upcoming season


Random stat

Larry Fitzgerald has more tackles than drops in his career. The Arizona Cardinals’ future Hall of Fame wide receiver has started 261 games and notched 28 drops alongside 41 tackles. Mind-blowing.

And here’s a bonus random stat involving Fitzgerald: with 17,492 career receiving yards, Fitzgerald could have five straight 1,100-yard receiving seasons and still be shy of Jerry Rice’s all-time record of 22,895 yards.

Info learned this week

1. The Falcons looking to move on from Julio Jones

With a $23 million cap hit this year and less than $1 million in available cap space, the Falcons likely needs trade Julio Jones. But to who and for what return?

A future first-rounder and a third-rounder could be the general ballpark for a deal and I’d expect the Ravens and 49ers to be the most active. They have both the draft assets and cap space to make a deal. While the Patriots, Colts and Titans make sense, Indianapolis is short on picks after the Carson Wentz deal and Bill Belichick isn’t known for making huge acquisitions in the trade market. Tennessee could make the swap, but it has ample defensive needs.

Maybe the Chargers make a big move to pair Jones with Keenan Allen and give Justin Herbert another weapon with which to work? They could be a sleeper for Jones.

Look for trade talk to intensify this summer when the cap savings increase after June 1. The Falcons can save a little more than $15 million with their dead cap hit if Jones is traded after the magic date.

Carrying a $7.75 dead cap isn’t ideal, but it’s the best situation the Falcons can find themselves in. Compensation is still going to be heavy with Jones potentially bringing a first-round pick in return.

2. Frank Reich believes in his healing powers with Carson Wentz

You don’t stick your neck out to trade for a fallen star like Wentz if you’re not confident you can fix him. That’s what the Colts head coach reiterated this week when rebuffing the notion that his new quarterback is ‘broken.’

“I just cringe when I hear stuff like that, not that a player shouldn’t be accountable for poor play on the field,” Reich said Monday. “Carson has to answer to that, and he has answered to it. And until you get out there and prove otherwise, that’s what you live with. But I just know that playing the position of quarterback, there are so many factors that go into it. We talked about why the poor play last year, I’m just very confident that he has a team around him. It’s just I think the culture fit.”

In 2016, during Reich’s last year as offensive coordinator with the Eagles, Wentz had an MVP-caliber campaign before tearing his ACL against the Rams in December. The former No. 2 overall pick threw for 3,296 yards and 33 touchdowns against seven interceptions in 13 games.

If Wentz returns to that level, the Colts are a legitimate contender.

3. Cowboys need to buy insurance for Dak Prescott

We all saw how poorly the Dallas Cowboys played without Dak Prescott last season.

Re-signing their franchise quarterback in the offseason was a huge testament to the faith they have in him returning to full health and his Pro Bowl play.

Still, the Cowboys aren’t confident in the depth chart behind him. There is no Dalton-like veteran presence behind Prescott. Should he have to miss time with an injury in 2021, it could sink their playoff hopes, even in a weak NFC East. That’s what happens when Cooper Rush, Garrett Gilbert and Ben DiNucci are on the roster. It’s why former Ohio State standout, J.T. Barrett and Brady Davis were brought in on a tryout during rookie minicamp, and why the team is considering Brett Hundley who has experience with Mike McCarthy.

If Prescott does get hurt this season, maybe they can make a trade for Dalton who is destined to lose his job after the Bears drafted Fields?

4. Saints, Steelers are teams to watch for QBs of the future

The Saints lost Drew Brees to retirement and the Steelers are expected to lose Ben Roethlisberger to retirement after the 2021-22 season. Both franchises could be jockeying to get one of the top quarterbacks in the 2022 NFL Draft.

Jameis Winston and Taysom Hill shouldn’t be viewed as the future and the Steelers definitely don’t consider Mason Rudolph or Dwayne Haskins as anything more than clipboard holders. However, neither team will likely be bad enough to get ahead of the Lions and Texans who could be taking a quarterback depending on what happens with Jared Goff and Deshaun Watson.

Spencer Rattler of Oklahoma and Sam Howell of North Carolina are the top two prospects but neither is in the same class as recent No. 1 picks Trevor Lawrence, Joe Burrow and Kyler Murray.

Howell has been compared to Baker Mayfield while Rattler has a live arm with a propensity to make some mind-numbing decisions that saw him benched for a stretch last season. Behind them are Malik Willis, Kedon Slovis, JT Daniels, Desmond Ridder and Carson Strong.

The 2021 class was one of the best in a long time but the ’22 class could be one of the weakest. For that reason, look for the Saints and Steelers to make their eventual moves for either Rattler or Howell, who are the best lottery tickets in the class.

5. Do the Buccaneers believe they found Tom Brady’s successor?

While Tom Brady and the Buccaneers joke about the GOAT playing until he’s 50, the team is planning for life after the seven-time Super Bowl champion. The Buccaneers drafted Florida quarterback Kyle Trask in the second round of the NFL Draft and were impressed with his first minicamp.

“He did great,” Buccaneers head coach Bruce Arians said. “I thought he was fantastic. Just the way he processes information. To take it from the first time ever hearing it — he was throwing it to the right guy. There were some really good, disguised coverages that he saw the first day of his career, so I was really impressed with how he processes information, and he was very accurate.”

Trask may have to hold a clipboard for a while, which is something he’s no stranger to. Trask backed up D’Eriq King in high school before waiting three-plus years at Florida before he got his chance after Feleipe Franks suffered a season-ending injury. He put up Heisman-caliber numbers for the Gators in his final year and may have won if not for Alabama’s DeVonta Smith putting up video-game numbers and Florida losing some games they shouldn’t have late in the year.

Teams don’t spend second-round picks to be backups but Trask will benefit from backing up Brady and sitting and watching the best go about his business.

If Brady ever retires, Trask will have an advantage when he’s called upon and the Buccaneers will be better for it as they have positioned themselves for a seamless transition.

Two cents

Call me crazy but one of the games on the NFL schedule I’m looking forward to the most is the Thursday night showdown between the Cincinnati Bengals and Jacksonville Jaguars.

I may actually be crazy, but I’m also a college football fan who is excited to see Burrow and Lawrence together again on the same field for the first time since the national championship game that saw Burrow’s LSU Tigers beat Lawrence’s Clemson Tigers two seasons ago.

The last two No. 1 picks represent the future of the NFL and while wins may be tough to come by in 2021, their talent is undeniable and the excitement they bring to their franchises and fans is palpable.

Save the date for Sept. 30 because fans will get a glimpse of the future of the league that night in the Queen City.

Inside the league

If the Packers trade Aaron Rodgers, they will want a young quarterback coming back in return. The problem is teams with great young quarterbacks don’t trade them.

Let’s preface by saying, any Rodgers deal will be complicated because of his age (38), his need for a new contract that will likely make him the highest-paid player in the NFL, and the compensation that will then go to the Packers.

The Packers’ desire for a young quarterback in return for a Rodgers trade means they aren’t enamored with Justin Love, whom they traded up to get in the 2020 NFL Draft. Of course,  it was this which began the divorce proceedings between the Packers and Rodgers. It doesn’t mean they’re giving up on Love, but it means if they trade Rodgers, they want to double down on making sure they don’t have a black hole at the most important position in sports.

Okay, so let’s look at the game’s young quarterbacks: Kyler Murray, Baker Mayfield, Joe Burrow, Justin Herbert, Trevor Lawrence and the rest of the 2021 class. None of these guys are getting traded. The Raiders have been rumored as a potential Rodgers destination but Derek Carr isn’t young and lacks upside. He would be a bridge to give Love more time to marinate on the bench until he’s ready.

How about Deshaun Watson, he’s young? He’s young and wants out of Houston but his future is muddied with his off-field trouble and likely won’t be traded until that’s cleared up.

What about the Denver Broncos?

I’ll just stop this right now. Teddy Bridgewater won’t be the young quarterback the Packers covet. He’s more of a journeyman at this point. But could they be interested in former second-round pick Drew Lock?

The No. 42 pick in the 2019 draft has had some rough moments in his 18 career starts, including an NFL-high 15 interceptions last year. He spent 10 games on injured reserve as a rookie, missed a pair of games last year due to injury and spent time on the COVID list. He had a four-interception game vs. the Raiders and a four-touchdown game vs. the Panthers. This is the type of roller-coaster play you see from young, somewhat raw quarterbacks.

Lock has a good arm and size at 6-foot-4 and 228 pounds. He had great production in college at Missouri that had him projected to be a potential first-round pick. He finished the year with some momentum, completing 61.7 percent of his passes for 1,015 yards and seven touchdowns to two interceptions. Numbers that won’t be mistaken for Rodgers but numbers you can build on entering his third season, a season that could be a big breakthrough one.

So let’s start the Broncos-Packers trade scenario with Lock being a part of the package for Rodgers. What else does Denver need to add to make the Packers concede to Rodgers and trade the player they have no intention of trading?

Lock and Denver’s first-round picks the next two years.

And then?

It’ll take one or two young members of Denver’s core, which includes Bradley Chubb, Noah Fant, Jerry Jeudy and Patrick Surtain II. If Denver says to pick two of this group to go with Lock and the first-round picks the next two years, that could seal the deal.

Low-balling Green Bay with a package that includes some combination of Dalton Risner, Dre-Mont Jones, Lloyd Cushenberry and/or KJ Hamler will have the Packers hanging up the phone and hoping Rodgers doesn’t retire.

For Denver, its quarterback situation is a problem, for the Broncos and Packers.

History lesson

Some NFL fans have no respect for the history of the game. And I’m not talking about distant history, either.

On Wednesday, Twitter was buzzing when a PFF writer stated Tyreek Hill may be the NFL’s best-ever deep threat. The recency bias is strong.

Hill is a great deep threat and one of the best overall receivers in the game. He’s a weapon for Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs are lucky to have him. But did Randy Moss not exist?

It’s incredibly short-sighted to overlook one of the best receivers ever and a deep threat who terrorized defensive backs after entering the league with the Minnesota Vikings in 1998.

Moss set the NFL record for touchdowns in a season with the Patriots after resurrecting his career that derailed following the trade from the Vikings to the Raiders and averaged 15.5 yards per reception for his career to 14.6 for Hill.

Moss also had at least one 50-yard touchdown in his first 12 seasons. Incredible. And incredibly disrespectful to Moss to slight him as the best deep threat the game has ever seen.

Parting shot

I can’t pretend to care about the Jaguars signing Tim Tebow.

Tebow has been out of the league since the 2015 preseason, he’s turning 34 in August and has been galavanting in the New York Mets farm system while working as a part-time analyst for the SEC Network. I’m not going to get up in arms about him working as a tight end for his college coach.

This is simply Urban Meyer bringing in a player he has great respect and admiration for both his on-and-off-field accomplishments that he’s giving him a chance to go out on his own terms. I don’t expect him to make the final roster. I’m not upset about a coach giving a guy he has a past with an opportunity. This happens in every sport. This is not unique to Meyer and Tebow.

So go ahead and spit hot fire on Twitter about how this is ridiculous, but I’m going to go on about my day without concerning myself about a player who is going to be cut after the first preseason game.

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