Why Bears free agents ‘can’t wait to go to battle’ with Justin Fields

Bears quarterback Justin Fields has a 99.6 passer rating in his last five games (10 touchdowns, three interceptions). He had a 58.7 passer rating in his first five games (two touchdowns, four interceptions).

Ashlee Rezin/Sun-Times

New Bears defensive end DeMarcus Walker was in the middle of giving a defense-wins-championships speech Thursday when he was asked whether he considered who was playing quarterback when picking his new team. Those guys have a lot to do with winning championships, too.

“Excuse my French,” he said. “Abso-[bleeping]-lutely.”

The verdict might still be out about whether Justin Fields can be the Bears’ franchise quarterback for the next decade, but there’s no doubting that he helped attract free agents to Halas Hall in the first few days of free agency. His highlight-reel runs last season were the talk of the league, even if his passing screamed for improvement.

The Bears haven’t had a quarterback that was actually attractive to free agents since 2018, when Mitch Trubisky was coming off an impressive second season. Since then, their list of projected starters included a struggling Trubisky, Nick Foles and Andy Dalton.

Even at this time last season, no one knew that Fields would be so dynamic.

“I’m real excited,” said receiver D.J. Moore, who sat with Fields and fellow receivers Chase Claypool and Darnell Mooney in a luxury box for Thursday night’s Bulls game. “I heard a lot of good things. We’ve been talking it up for a few days, so looking forward to getting on the field.”

So is Walker — though he’ll be on the other side of the practice field.

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

Money is king when it comes to free agency. But the best way to ensure you’re joining a winning team is to pick one with a standout quarterback.

“Obviously that goes into … making that decision to come here,” said new Bears linebacker Tremaine Edmunds, who shadowed Fields in December when he played for the Bills to try to prevent scrambles. “I’m excited, just being around him. And I know the offensive side, they’re going to do their thing …

“I’m excited to get to work with him.”

Walker has seen what happens with bad quarterback play. In four seasons with the Broncos, one with the Texans and one with the Titans, he’s played with a veritable who’s-that of starters: Trevor Siemian, Brock Osweiler, Paxton Lynch, Case Keenum, Joe Flacco, Drew Lock, Brandon Allen, Jeff Driskel, Brett Rypien, Davis Mills, Tyrod Taylor, Josh Dobbs and Malik Willis.

Only Ryan Tannehill, with whom he played last year, is league-average.

“Some humbling years,” he said.

By contrast, Walker said, he was flattered that Fields knew some of his background information when the two met in the Bears’ weight room Thursday.

Guard Nate Davis was on the same Titans team with Walker last year.

“Justin Fields, he checks all those boxes, man …” Davis said. “There’s so much. The man is young, he’s smart, he’s talented. Obviously he’s a leader. That’s somebody you’d want to block for, for sure.”

Linebacker T.J. Edwards, who signed a three-year deal Wednesday, grew up a Bears fan in Lake Villa. He knows their checkered quarterback history — “I understand everything and all that, and how it goes in the past,” he said — and understands what it would mean if Fields breaks out.

He saw it in person when the Eagles played the Bears in December.

“I knew he was fast, for sure, just from what he can do — I knew he had a strong arm,” he said. “But I didn’t realize he’s a big dude, man. That’s no small quarterback back there. So I think just how strong he is and the way he can maneuver and make the right decisions is big-time, for sure.”

That level of excitement is new around Halas Hall. The Bears have never had a 4,000-yard passer. They’ve had two Pro Bowl quarterbacks since the NFL-AFL merger: Jim McMahon in 1986 and Trubisky, an injury replacement, five years ago.

Now, at least they have hope.

Free agents can see it.

“After watching last year, man, I was highly impressed with the ability he has,” said quarterback P.J. Walker, who signed Thursday to become Fields’ backup.  “And I watched him in college … I’ve always been excited for him, and a fan of his.”

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