Bears' newcomers were drawn to Chicago in part because of Justin Fields' promising future


LAKE FOREST, Ill. (670 The Score) – Coming off a career-high sack season, veteran defensive lineman DeMarcus Walker had plenty of demand and consideration in free agency.

Given his job description is to pursue the man under center, the six-year NFL veteran Walker understands well that he plays in a quarterback-driven league. And what the Bears have at quarterback in 24-year-old Justin Fields was certainly a factor in Walker's decision to sign a three-year deal with Chicago.

“Excuse my French,” Walker said. “Abso-(bleeping)-lutely.”

Fields' growth, talent and potential are big reasons why general manager Ryan Poles, players and the Bears organization are so confident about their future. In 2022, Fields made strides under the watch of new head coach Matt Eberflus and offensive coordinator Luke Getsy while also rushing for the second-most yards ever by a quarterback in a single season. While the Bears recognize Fields’ need to improve in the passing game – he averaged just 149.5 passing yards per game while posting an 85.2 passer rating last season – Poles has stood confident in Fields' continued development and been focused on putting the right core around him.

That's why Poles chose to trade the No. 1 overall pick – rather than utilizing it to select Fields’ replacement at quarterback – to the Panthers for the No. 9 overall selection, dynamic receiver DJ Moore, a 2024 first-round pick and two second-round picks.

Fields and Moore have wasted no time getting acquainted. Moore joined Fields, receiver Chase Claypool and receiver Darnell Mooney at the Bulls' game last Wednesday inside the owners' suite at the United Center.

“It’s just going to elevate the offense and elevate Justin (Fields) at the same time,” Moore said of what his presence can provide for the Bears.

After their important acquisition of Moore, Chicago then went to work in free agency by adding Walker, linebacker Tremaine Edmunds, linebacker T.J. Edwards, defensive lineman Andrew Billings, guard Nate Davis, tight end Robert Tonyan, running back D’Onta Foreman, running back Travis Homer and backup quarterback PJ Walker.

The Bears believe a reconfigured offensive line and greater depth at the skill positions on offense will give Fields the chance to reach his potential in 2023.

“The man is young, he’s smart, he’s talented, he’s a leader,” Davis said. “That’s somebody you want to block for.”

Fields has been surrounded by an unstable situation in his first two professional seasons after being selected at No. 11 overall in the 2021 NFL Draft. In Fields' rookie season, a lame-duck coaching staff deviated from its original developmental plan for him by inserting him as the full-time starter in Week 3 of the regular season. Fields then had to learn an entirely new system and structure in 2022 as Eberflus and Getsy were hired and began guiding his future.

The Bears went an NFL-worst 3-14 in 2022 as they overhauled their roster and surrounded Fields with a weak supporting cast. In 27 career games and 25 starts, Fields has been sacked 91 times and on 13.4% of his dropbacks.

“He’s a mentally strong young player,” Tonyan said. “That’s hard to do when you come in the league when you have a lot of – whether it’s positive or negative things being said about you in the media, just keeping your cool and playing your game. He progressed so well throughout the year last year.

“He’s staying in there, taking hits, getting up, popping up, kept coming back for more. That’s what you kind of want in a quarterback and a leader, someone who doesn’t quit or back down, playing through injuries or whatever it may be. I’m just super excited to be a part of that.”

When Walker arrived at Halas Hall last Thursday morning and signed his contract with the Bears, he ran into Fields as he was working out in the team’s weight room. Walker was surprised to find that Fields had studied tape of his from Florida State and learned what the veteran newcomer could bring to the Bears.

It left an impression on Walker, who saw that Fields is serious about his work and leadership role.

“Justin Fields is definitely somebody that I can’t wait to go to battle with,” Walker said.

Chris Emma covers the Bears, Chicago’s sports scene and more for Follow him on Twitter @CEmma670.

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