Eastman: It’s time for the Caleb Williams era to start in Chicago

Chicago Bears graphic. - Graphics Editor / Julia Quennessen

The Chicago Bears, owners of the No. 1 overall pick in the upcoming 2024 draft, currently face two doors. 

Door #1: Trade the pick and continue to build around current quarterback, Justin Fields. While Fields hasn’t brought success to Chicago, his spurts of electric play could convince the people in charge he can figure it out next season. 

Door #2: Trade Fields and select the highly touted Caleb Williams to become the new face of the franchise. This may be a tough decision for some but to me, the answer is simple. Chicago needs to take Williams to be the quarterback of the future. 

Looking at it from a contract standpoint, Chicago saves itself more money by moving on from Fields and starting fresh. If Chicago were to keep Fields, they would have to pick up his fifth-year option on his rookie contract, which should be priced around $23 million according to Over the Cap. 

If Chicago were to commit to Fields, they would also have to consider what an extension would look like for Fields. It’s possible that Fields would garner a contract similar to what Giants quarterback Daniel Jones got, which was roughly $40 million a year. It’s a hefty price to pay, but one Chicago is theoretically priced into if they were to pass on drafting a quarterback this season. 

On the other hand, if Chicago were to draft Williams, they would be paying a much more manageable salary. Last year’s first overall pick Bryce Young is currently on a four-year, $38 million contract. It’s likely that Williams’ contract would be slotted similarly given how the NFL rookie pay scale system works. Having your starting quarterback on a relatively small contract gives a team such an advantage in team building and being able to build a much more competitive team, an advantage they wouldn’t have by keeping Fields.

Contracts aside, Chicago is most likely getting a better player with a much higher ceiling in Williams. Williams was a Heisman winner at USC in 2022 and put up monster numbers in his three seasons in college. Rightful or not, Williams has been compared to Patrick Mahomes for his playmaking ability and the elite arm talent he showcased. While the Mahomes comparison is premature, there is no denying that Williams has talent that doesn’t come around every year or even every five years. 

Especially when seeing the caliber of quarterback needed to be relevant in the NFL, Chicago can’t afford to pass on such a talent. Look no further than their arch-rival in the Green Bay Packers and Jordan Love. In order to just keep up in their own division, it becomes even more evident that getting the quarterback right is so important. Drafting Williams is Chicago’s chance to acquire elite talent at the position.

It may be a tough sell at first for fans and players alike. The team and fanbase have been very outspoken about their support for Fields and their desire to see him return next season. While Fields may be a likable guy in the locker room, it unfortunately hasn’t resulted in on-field success. Fields has compiled a record of 10-28 in Chicago and while that doesn’t solely fall on him, it’s evident that he hasn’t played well enough to earn another year of patience from Chicago. 

In the event Chicago drafts Williams, I suspect that the team will quickly be won over. Not only is Williams highly talented, he also is a great teammate. There are many occasions he is blocking downfield for his teammates, something most quarterbacks shy away from completely. He also loves and supports his teammates regularly on social media. Williams has all the makings of becoming a fan favorite and team leader.

The NFL draft is often a franchise-altering moment for organizations. In the case of the Chicago Bears, drafting Caleb Williams will be seen as a turning point in their history. By drafting Williams, they will have finally closed the revolving door at the quarterback position for good.

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