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The Justin Fields Trade Fantasy Football Fallout

The biggest storyline of the 2024 NFL off-season now has a resolution. Well, kind of. I’m talking, of course, about the Justin Fields trade. The Chicago Bears, who own the first-overall pick in next month’s NFL Draft, have decided to move on from Fields after just three seasons. The 2021 11th-overall pick gets a fresh start with the Pittsburgh Steelers. While we now know specifics of the Justin Fields trade, the fallout for fantasy football needs some clearing up as it could be felt for years to come.

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The Impact of the Justin Fields Trade on Fantasy Football

Justin Fields in His First Three Seasons

The Chicago Bears’ General Manager from 2015 to 2022 was Ryan Pace. In what would be his final draft as Chicago’s general manager, Pace traded the 20th-overall pick and the Bears’ fifth-round pick in the 2021 NFL Draft, as well as the Bears’ 2022 first and fourth-round picks, to move up to the 11th-overall pick in the 2021 NFL Draft. In an attempt to find the franchise’s future at quarterback, and save his job, Pace selected Justin Fields with the 11th pick in the 2021 NFL Draft.

One month prior, Pace and the Bears had signed veteran quarterback, Andy Dalton. A year prior to that, Pace and the Bears traded a fourth-round compensatory pick for veteran quarterback, Nick Foles. This sent mixed signals throughout the 2021 quarterback room in Fields’ rookie season. He would eventually go on to start 10 games, attempt just 270 passes, throw seven touchdowns against 10 picks, and rush for an additional two touchdowns and 420 yards, as a rookie. After a 6-11 season, both head coach, Matt Nagy, and general manager, Ryan Pace, were fired.

Fields then moves forward as the starter finishing with an 8-20 record over the next two seasons. Perhaps his biggest achievement is his 1,143 rushing yards in 2022. That ranks second amongst quarterbacks all-time in a single season. In three seasons with the Bears, Fields had two different head coaches and two different offensive coordinators.

Why Give Up on Justin Fields?

Following the 2022-23 NFL season, the Chicago Bears earned the first overall pick after finishing with three wins and a franchise record 14 losses. In fact, the Houston Texans’ win in Week 18 bumped themselves out of the first overall pick and into pick two.

In early March of the 2023 off-season, Ryan Poles, in his second year as the Bears’ general manager, traded away the first overall pick to the Carolina Panthers in exchange for the 2023 ninth-overall pick, a 2023 second, a 2024 first, a 2025 second, and wide receiver, DJ Moore.

The Panthers would go on to draft quarterback Bryce Young and ultimately finish the 2023-24 season with a 2-15 record. As a result of their record and the above trade, the Chicago Bears now hold the rights to Carolina’s first-round pick in the 2024 NFL Draft which is the first-overall selection.

Regardless of which quarterback you think should be the first-overall selection, the financial advantage of resetting your quarterback contract to that of a rookie is an incredibly difficult opportunity to pass up. Before the May 2nd deadline, the Bears would have had to decide whether or not to exercise Justin Fields’ fifth-year option for the 2025-26 season. That’s worth approximately $25.6 million. The projected total value of the 2024 first overall selection’s entire contract is $38.5 million with a $24.8 million signing bonus. Rather than exercise Fields’ fifth-year option with a much larger extension potentially on the horizon, it makes complete sense to start over with the 2024 first overall pick in hand.

The Justin Fields Trade to Pittsburgh

We are all aware of some of the pain and anguish many NFL teams went through during the 2023 season deploying backup quarterbacks due to injuries or poor play from their original starters. Considering that and the potential free agents set to hit the market, surely Justin Fields would be a hot commodity as one of the more desirable targets this off-season, right? Apparently not.

In the past week we’ve seen players like Kirk Cousins, Baker Mayfield, and even Gardner Minshew agree to terms for the 2024 season and beyond. Additionally, quarterbacks such as Sam Howell, Desmond Ridder, and even Kenny Pickett were traded to other teams before Justin Fields. I, like many, believed Fields would fetch at least a second-round draft pick from one of the many quarterback-needy teams. I, like many, was wrong.

Instead, Justin Fields was sent to the Pittsburgh Steelers in exchange for a 2025 sixth-round conditional pick that elevates to a fourth-round pick if he plays 51% or more of the Steelers’ offensive snaps this season. That’s significant because Russell Wilson is also on the Pittsburgh Steelers after signing a one-year/$1.2 million veteran minimum deal.

There are reports that other teams inquired about Justin Fields via trade. It’s worth noting that Chicago’s general manager, Ryan Poles, is on the record saying if he were to decide to pursue a Justin Fields trade, he wanted to do right by Fields in the deal. Recent reports go on to say that Fields named the Steelers as a team he was interested in playing for, so a trade there, Poles determined, was doing right by Fields. That’s a significantly strong message to current and future Bears that Poles will try his best to consider their input when making decisions.

So, Who is the Steelers’ QB1?

This is obviously the question on everybody’s mind. Immediately following the Justin Fields trade, sources claimed that Russell Wilson would be the team’s starter for the 2024 season. I’m not so sure for how long, if at all.

Russell Wilson is under contract for one-year/$1.2 million. Justin Fields is currently under contract for $3.2 million for the 2024 season. Now, Pittsburgh must decide whether or not to exercise Justin Fields’ fifth-year option of $25.6 million for next season before May 2, 2024. That decision must be made without Fields having played a single snap for the Steelers yet. It is my belief that Pittsburgh attempts to go the route that the Green Bay Packers did last season in a similar situation with quarterback Jordan Love. Rather than exercise Love’s fifth-year option, the Packers renegotiated a deal that paid Love more in guarantees for the 2023 season, though a tad less in total value through this upcoming season, still with a chance at a larger extension if earned.

If the Steelers take this approach with Fields, we could see his 2024 contract value increase above the current $3.2 million though the total value would be less than if his fifth-year option had been exercised. It’s more money up front. Both factors here outweigh Russell Wilson financially and in longevity. The Steelers will owe the Bears their 2025 fourth-round pick, as opposed to their sixth, if Fields plays 51% of next season’s offensive snaps. However, that’s a price I imagine the Steelers are willing to pay to determine if Fields is the future of their franchise.

Above all else, given the talent on the defensive side of the ball, and long-time head coach, Mike Tomlin, in place, I wouldn’t rule out a quarterback change sooner than later from Wilson to Fields if they aren’t stacking wins in the win column. We saw career backup Mason Rudolph take over and remain the starter over former first-round pick, Kenny Pickett, last season. Whatever it takes to win.

The Fantasy Football Fallout of the Justin Fields Trade Amongst Chicago Bears

Let’s start with what we know. Following the Justin Fields trade, we know the Chicago Bears are going to select a quarterback next month with the first overall pick. It’s all but done that they will likely select Caleb Williams from the University of Southern California. Williams will walk into one of the best offenses for a rookie quarterback that I can remember. After acquiring wide receiver DJ Moore in a trade with the Carolina Panthers last off-season, the Bears just added wide receiver Keenan Allen in a trade with the Los Angeles Chargers last week. Allen’s 11.5 targets per game last season led the league. Additionally, D’Andre Swift is joining the backfield on a three-year deal. He’s coming off of a 2023 season in which he was fifth in rushing yards (1,049) with receiving upside, as well.

The single-season record for most passing yards in a season by a Chicago Bears quarterback is 3,838 yards set by Erik Kramer in 1995. Over today’s 17-game season, that requires an average of 225.82 yards per game to set a new record. Given the above receiving options, and others not listed, it’s hard to fathom Caleb Williams not surpassing 4,000 passing yards as a rookie. There are 10 quarterbacks who threw for 4,000 or more passing yards in 2023. Six of them finished inside the top-12 in fantasy points per game (that played six or more games). Trevor Lawrence, who threw for 4,016 yards, the least of the 10 to throw for over 4,000, finished as QB18. Caleb Williams could be a fantasy superstar immediately, especially with his rushing ability.

As for his receivers, Keenan Allen missed the final four games of the 2023 season and still finished with 150 targets. That’s the 10th-most amongst all wide receivers from last season. DJ Moore is coming off a career year. His 96 receptions, 1,364 receiving yards, and eight receiving touchdowns are all career bests. The Bears’ new offensive coordinator, Shane Waldron, has a history of success, especially in fantasy football. Most notably, in Geno Smith’s 2022 Comeback Player of the Year season, both DK Metcalf and Tyler Lockett surpassed 1,000 receiving yards in the Seattle Seahawks’ offense under Waldron. They finished as WR23 and WR19 respectively. Neither Keenan Allen or DJ Moore may achieve WR1 status in fantasy football, but should both yield WR2 value in 2024.

The Fantasy Football Fallout of the Justin Fields Trade Amongst Pittsburgh Steelers

Let’s assume that Russell Wilson is the Steelers’ Week 1 starter and that he plays a significant amount of games in 2024. Under offensive coordinator, Arthur Smith, and based on what we’ve seen from Wilson over the last two seasons in Denver, I do believe Pittsburgh takes a run-heavy approach. They should continue to bolster their offensive line in next month’s draft. Wilson’s presence under center should be good news for running back Najee Harris. After three straight 1,000+ yard rushing seasons, the Steelers have to decide on Harris’ fifth-year option by May 2, as well. That would keep him in Pittsburgh through next season for just $6 million.

As for the passing game, I believe in Russell Wilson’s ability to push the ball downfield far more than I do to find his receivers in the middle on crossing routes. Especially with the exit of Diontae Johnson via trade, George Pickens should have plenty of opportunities to rack up fantasy points in 2024. Not only is he full of big play potential downfield, but his competition for targets as of now doesn’t really exist. The Steelers may still add another notable free agent, like Tyler Boyd, but I expect them to round out the wide receiver room through the draft.

If Wilson struggles out of the gate, or even during training camp, I do believe Justin Fields could take over, especially if we see an upcoming contract negotiation. If that were the case, his rushing ability would take some of the upside off of Najee Harris’ and Jaylen Warren’s plates. Fields will be the most mobile quarterback Pittsburgh has seen in a very long time. Even if he shows signs of struggle as a passer, Fields’ rushing maintains such a solid floor for fantasy football. With just 2,562 passing yards in 2023, Fields still yielded 19.2 fantasy points per game finishing as the QB8 on a points-per-game basis.


In 12 complete games last season, Fields logged six top-eight finishes, five of which he finished as QB4 or better. The season prior, without DJ Moore, Fields finished the season as QB7 getting a huge boost from his rushing. A fresh start in Pittsburgh with a more legitimate opportunity to establish himself could stabilize his value if the team does intend to build around him.

If you have Justin Fields on a dynasty roster, not all hope is lost. He is going to get an opportunity to start again. We just don’t know when that is. Due to the uncertainty of the situation, but upside of the player for fantasy, I’m holding onto Fields if I have him. If possible, I’m buying low if I don’t have him and need to bolster quarterback depth. For redraft purposes, Fields isn’t worth drafting in 1QB leagues unless he wins the starting job in training camp. For Superflex leagues, he is a high-upside bench stash worth targeting later in drafts.

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