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    Thursday, April 18, 2024

    Offseason QB derby could be dictated by what Bears do with the No. 1 pick and Justin Fields

    FILE - Chicago Bears' Justin Fields throws during the first half of an NFL football game against the Green Bay Packers Sunday, Jan. 7, 2024, in Green Bay, Wis. Bears quarterback Justin Fields says he wants to remain in Chicago and is tired of the trade talk surrounding him. Fields made his feelings clear during an episode of the “St. Brown Brothers” podcast that was released on Wednesday, Feb. 21, 2024.(AP Photo/Morry Gash, File)

    Indianapolis — Chicago Bears coach Matt Eberflus already endured one round of the Justin Fields debate.

    He's hoping, for everyone's sake, the second round ends soon.

    The man who has stood in Fields' corner the past two seasons as others argued about whether to keep Fields or start over with a new quarterback, was answering those same, old questions about the No. 1 overall pick again Tuesday at the NFL's annual scouting combine.

    "We have no big news for you today, we're going through the process," Eberflus said as the league's coaches and general managers took center stage in Indianapolis. "If Justin's coming back, we'll have a plan in place for that. If we have a new quarterback, we'll have a plan in place for that."

    Chicago's decision is sure to make ripples — on its roster and perhaps around a league that places premium value on quarterbacks.

    With what some consider a deep quarterback class including three who could come off the board immediately in April, the teams holding those first three picks could lead to new starters — or plenty of trade possibilities.

    And the Bears are right at the top, just as they were last year when they had the No. 1 pick and Fields. Eventually, they dealt the pick to Carolina for receiver D.J. Moore and four picks, including the one that put them back at No. 1 this year.

    Sure they could do it all over again.

    But after missing the playoffs in each of Fields' first three seasons and no postseason wins since the 2010 season, the organization recognizes there's a clamoring for change in the fan base.

    It's not just the fans who are getting anxious, though. Fields said last week on a podcast that he wanted to stay in Chicago though he also wants the debate to end. So Tuesday, general manager Ryan Poles told Bears reporters he would move as quickly as possible.

    Then the next dominoes may fall.

    Washington, picking at No. 2, thought Sam Howell, a fifth-round pick two years ago, might be a franchise quarterback. Instead, he's gone 5-13 as a starter, has as many TD passes as interceptions (22) and is now on a franchise with a new owner, a new general manager and a new coach looking to take the Commanders in a new direction.

    New England, at No. 3, is still searching for Tom Brady's successor after using a first-round pick on Mac Jones in 2021 and a fourth-rounder on Bailey Zappe in 2022. Both have started, but neither has had great success.

    "I'd say there are a lot of options on the table," Patriots general manager Elliot Wolf said.

    Arizona has the No. 4 slot and there had been speculation Kyler Murray also could be available since the No. 1 overall pick and 2019 AP Offensive Rookie of the Year has produced just one winning season in five years.

    But Cardinals GM Monti Ossenfort downplayed that possibility Tuesday by saying Arizona was in an ideal place since it already has its starting quarterback on the roster.

    "The way Kyler came back at the end of the year, (it) gave us all a lot of confidence," Ossenfort said. "The way the offense hit its stride, running the football, throwing the football, and just getting Kyler's health back to a point where he can use his legs, use his arm, do the things we're accustomed to seeing. Knowing Kyler is where he's at, not only where he's at but he's getting better, and seeing him work and progress, it's exciting."

    Who else may want a new quarterback?

    Some fans in Atlanta, New York and Pittsburgh think the Falcons, Giants and Steelers need to move on from Desmond Ridder, Daniel Jones and Kenny Pickett. Jones is rehabbing from a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee, and none of those franchises seem ready for a big change at QB just yet.

    "I have faith in Daniel," Giants GM Joe Schoen said. "I have faith in Daniel as our starting quarterback."

    Meanwhile, in Denver, some believe Super Bowl 48 champion Russell Wilson could be on the move after getting benched late last season while Kirk Cousins and Baker Mayfield could become free agents in two weeks. And then there are all those lingering questions about Fields staying or going or the Bears picking up his fifth-year option.

    Yes, it has all the makings of a busy and potentially tumultuous quarterback derby this offseason.

    And it all begins here, this week in Indy.

    "We'll take them into the room in this particular case and ask them if they want to do darts or putting," Eberflus said, following the same interview process they used at last year's combine. "Then we'll teach them an offensive play, show them their tape and have them talk about their tape and then have them give us back what they learned in the beginning."

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