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Choose Your Patriots QB: Is a Justin Fields trade the right move?

Choose Your Patriots QB: Is a Justin Fields trade the right move? originally appeared on NBC Sports Boston

Editor’s Note: The New England Patriots have a franchise-altering decision to make at quarterback this offseason. As part of our “Choose Your Patriots QB” series, we’ll highlight five different paths the team can take at QB in 2024, laying out the pros and cons of each choice.

Today’s scenario involves New England keeping the No. 3 pick, not taking a QB, and then trading a 2024 third-round pick and 2025 fourth-round pick to the Chicago Bears for Justin Fields.

The New England Patriots selected quarterback Mac Jones in the first round of the 2021 NFL Draft, and it has proven to be a mistake. Could taking a chance on a different QB from that same draft produce better results for the Patriots?

Justin Fields’ future with the Chicago Bears is unclear.

The Bears, thanks to a 2023 trade with the Carolina Panthers, own the No. 1 pick in the 2024 NFL Draft.

They also have their own pick at No. 9 overall. If the Bears decide to take USC quarterback Caleb Williams — the top-rated prospect in this year’s class — with the No. 1 pick, they could trade Fields for additional draft capital.

The Bears drafted Fields with the No. 11 pick in 2021, four spots ahead of where the Patriots selected Jones. The Ohio State product has played well for stretches in Chicago, even very good at times. But he’s still a work in progress. In the right situation, he has the potential to be a dynamic playmaker.

Let’s list some of the pros and cons of the Patriots trading for Fields, as spotlighted in the video player above:

Pros of trading for Fields

Use first two picks to surround Fields with talent: One of the benefits of trading for Fields is that the Patriots can use their first two picks — No. 3 overall in Round 1 and No. 2 overall in Round 2 — to surround him with the type of talent needed to maximize his production.

The logical choice at No. 3 would be drafting Ohio State star wide receiver Marvin Harrison. Harrison has been labeled as a generational talent at wideout and is ranked No. 2 on most draft rankings. In the second round the Patriots can draft one of the best offensive tackles available. The 2024 draft class is absolutely loaded at this position. We could see eight to 10 tackles taken in the first two rounds.

Two years of rookie contract remaining: Fields is entering the fourth year of his rookie contract, which carries a salary cap hit of just $6,004,713, per Spotrac. That’s a pretty low cap figure for an important player, which would allow the Patriots some extra flexibility to spend money on players at the skill positions on offense. His fifth-year option, if picked up by the Patriots, could be around $21 million, which is still manageable if Fields lives up to his potential.

So the Patriots would have two seasons to figure out if Fields is the right quarterback or not, and it wouldn’t destroy their salary cap situation to go through that process.

Cons of trading for Fields

What if Fields just isn’t that good?: Fields has never completed more than 61.4 percent of his pass attempts in a season. His touchdown-to-interception rate (40 TDs, 30 INTs) isn’t amazing, either. His career QBR is just 44.6 over three seasons. Maybe it’s unfair to blame the totality of these numbers on Fields because the Bears didn’t exactly surround him with a lot of high-end talent. But there’s also a decent chance that he’ll never be a top 15 quarterback, and it’s very hard to win the Super Bowl in the modern NFL without one of those guys.

Can he stay healthy?: Fields missed two games in 2022 and four in 2023. He missed time with a dislocated right thumb last season. It’s fair to wonder how durable Fields will be long term given his kind of play style. He loves to escape the pocket and pick up huge chunks of yards running the ball. Fields has carried the ball 284 times over the last two years, and while he’s been productive (1,800 yards, 12 touchdowns), how long can he play that way and stay healthy enough to last a full season?

What’s your take?

Should the Patriots trade for Justin Fields or choose from one of four other QB paths? Cast your vote in the poll below or by visiting our Patriots Vote page:

The Verdict

Fields has exciting talent. His dual-threat skill set puts a lot of pressure on opposing defenses, and the Patriots found that out firsthand when Fields and the Bears came to Gillette Stadium for a Monday Night Football game in 2022 and earned a 33-14 victory.

But despite Fields’ potential, the smartest path for the Patriots to take at quarterback is selecting one with the No. 3 pick, whether it’s LSU’s Jayden Daniels or UNC’s Drake Maye. Both of those quarterbacks have more upside than Fields. They are better passers than Fields, too. Daniels is as good or better at running the football. Daniels and Maye also would be cheaper against the salary cap over the next four to five years.

If the Patriots aren’t completely sold on Daniels, Maye or any other quarterback available at No. 3 overall, then it would make sense to explore a trade for Fields. But there’s a better chance of Maye or Daniels becoming a true franchise quarterback than Fields.

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