The Bears doubled down on their investment in Justin Fields in a deal with the Panthers for the No. 1 pick in the NFL draft

It’s never easy to know whether to take head coaches and general managers at their word, especially after a disappointing season.

And if they have the No. 1 pick in the upcoming draft, well, all bets are off.

It turns out that in the weeks since the Chicago Bears’ last season ended, and head coach Matt Eberflus and general manager Ryan Poles were asked about running back Justin Fields, they weren’t just blowing off steam when talking about “big step” he took last season — and that Fields is “on the right track” and should only focus on small improvements and adjustments to your game.

They really believe in Fields’ ability to lead the Bears, and are committed to making sure he has what it takes to do so.

Bears QB Justin Fields hit with a lot of fines in 2022 season (Jamie Sabau/USA TODAY Sports)

On Friday night, Chicago reportedly traded the No. 1 pick in next month’s draft to the Carolina Panthers, who moved up from No. 9, getting this year’s first- and second-round picks, the Panthers’ first-round pick next year and a second-rounder in 2025.

As if that wasn’t enough, the Bears also acquired top receiver DJ Moore. Panthers beat reporter Joe Person, he tweeted that getting Moore, a 2018 first-round pick who had 72 catches and more than 1,000 yards in a season with Carolina (despite playing with 11 starting backs at the time), was considered a “must have” for Chicago in the deal.

Moore managed a career-high 63 receptions and seven touchdowns last season, even while playing with a trio of uninspiring running backs. That was far more production than the Bears’ top receiver, Darnell Mooney. He had just 40 catches, with Cole Kmet’s team-leading 50 catches. The wide receivers on Chicago’s roster combined for a league-worst 121 catches last season.

Moore has already signed an extension with the Panthers and is currently under contract through 2025.

Even better, Chicago made this trade before free agency officially begins Wednesday, meaning it can be even more strategic about the players it adds, mixing seasoned veterans with youngsters it hopes will become key members of the team. Factoring in Moore’s 2023 base salary of $19.9 million, the Bears still have a career-best $75 million in salary cap space, though some of that will of course go to their draft class.

Fields was sacked 55 times last season, the most in the NFL, so help is needed on the offensive line. But the team that had the first pick in the draft has a lot of needs on both ends. Defensively, the Bears had just 20 sacks and 43 running backs in 2022 since they traded away future Pro Bowl Roquan Smith in November. The Bears had no Pro Bowlers on their roster.

There are rumors that the Arizona Cardinals could trade DeAndre Hopkins, which would add another strong receiver to the mix. Veteran linebacker Bobby Wagner is a free agent and one of the league’s most respected leaders. There are some solid hitters available, including right tackle Jawaan Taylor, who is just 25 years old and has started every game in his first four seasons for Jacksonville.

It’s been a rough decade for Bears fans since Lovie Smith was fired: four head coaches, three general managers, just two postseason appearances and a lot of uninspiring quarterback play. Smith led Chicago to its last Super Bowl appearance, in the 2006 season and according to to some fans, he deserves credit for Friday’s success, too: After Smith’s Houston Texans beat the Indianapolis Colts in Week 18, the Bears got the No. 1 pick, setting the stage for this trade.

With a new head coach and a new offensive coordinator in Luke Getsy for his sophomore season, Fields began to blossom and had some great moments and games – despite having almost no help from his line or receivers.

They say “bloom where you’re planted,” and Fields did so on not-so-fertile soil.

There’s still work to be done, of course, and that will be easier with Chicago clearly committed to their rising young star and building a team around him that will hopefully allow him to play to his strengths and bring excitement back to a proud franchise that has struggled to find its footing. stronghold for years.

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