Tight end Cole Kmet has been extended. We’ve taken a look at what type of contract extensions receiver Darnell Mooney and cornerback Jaylon Johnson could be receiving. But let’s jump in a year early and look at Justin Fields.
Fields is not eligible for a contract extension, but he will be in 2024. If Fields performs poorly this season, our Chicago Bears will almost certainly pivot away from Fields and select a new quarterback in the 2024 draft, but that’s a scenario that fans, and more importantly, general manager Ryan Poles is not expecting.
The Bears have committed to Fields. They believe he will be coming into his own as a top-tier quarterback that will be able to lead this franchise to success. Obviously, if Fields struggles, this article becomes null and void.
The second of three scenarios is that Fields plays pretty well in 2023 but leaves some doubt. If the Bears believe things are trending in the right direction but still aren’t ready to commit to him, they are fortunate that Fields was a first-round pick so they can commit the fifth-year option to him after this season and punt the entire extension process to 2025.
There is little risk in doing that other than the fact that Trevor Lawrence will have received an extension in 2024 from Jacksonville, so almost certainly, Fields' extension in 2025 would be a little more expensive than it would be in 2024. But Fields will still have another full season of control with the fifth-year and with a franchise tag the year after, so pushing the extension one season will have little overall impact on Fields’ path to free agency.
For the purpose of this article, we are going to assume that Justin Fields 2023 performance is the final of three scenarios and that is that he leaves no doubt that he’s the Bears quarterback of the present and the future. If this is the case, the Bears are going to want to commit to him, and this will be the largest contract in the history of the franchise.
With quarterback extensions, they usually just nominally beat the previous contract. This past offseason, Jalen Hurts became the highest-paid quarterback in NFL history in April. Lamar Jackson surpassed that total in May. Justin Herbert surpassed that total in July. Joe Burrow will pass that total in August.
The question on Fields is whether Burrow just bumps up slightly past Herbert or if the Cincinnati Bengals consider doing a much larger contract like the Kansas City Chiefs did with Patrick Mahomes where Burrow’s deal won’t do much for figuring into Fields’ extension.
If the Bears do look to extend Fields in 2024, you would expect Trevor Lawrence who is ahead of Fields on the development curve to wait for Fields to be extended to make sure Lawrence surpasses anything Fields receives.
Hurts is currently making $51 million per season on average, Jackson is at $52 million and Herbert is at $52.5 million. Let’s say that Fields is right in line with the rest of them and hits $53 million per season. The guarantee will be interesting because with Fields having the propensity of being banged up later in the year, the Bears may have some hesitation to guarantee as much as some of the other QBs have received.
Herbert and Jackson are both in the $130 million+ in terms of the fully guaranteed part of the deal, but Jalen Hurts is down around $110 million+ in terms of the full guarantee. Hurts’ total guarantee is in line with the other QB contracts but not the full. The difference there? Total guarantees are guarantees that include what is guaranteed early in the contract but other guarantees that will kick in later in the contract but leaves the team an out before the full guarantees all kick in. Teams will be penalized significantly in cap space, but they can get out. The Eagles left themselves that out with Hurts, and I think the Bears would do the same with Fields.
With less overall success and some injury history, it’s possible that Fields fully guarantee is less than what Hurts received. So again, keep in mind the three 2023 scenarios:
Scenario One: Fields struggles. Bears pivot to a new quarterback.
Scenario Two: Fields plays pretty well but leaves some doubt. Bears pick up fifth-year option for 2025 and let Fields play out 2024 and engage in a potential contract extension after two more seasons.
Scenario Three: Fields has a breakout season, and the Bears want to extend him.
The extension prediction for scenario three: Five years, $265 million, $195 million in total guarantees, and $108 million fully guaranteed.