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Why Hall of Fame DE believes Bears should have kept Justin Fields, built around him in 2024 NFL draft originally appeared on NBC Sports Chicago

Hall of Fame defensive Dwight Freeney has added his voice to the growing chorus of former and current NFL players who believe the Bears should’ve kept quarterback Justin Fields and built around him in the upcoming draft. Freeney joined the Under Center Podcast on Monday and explained why.

“There are no guarantees in this league,” Freeney said. “I don’t care what you look like in college… you can go down the list of guys who were top draft picks, first, second, third pick quarterbacks and hadn’t succeeded in the NFL.

“It is not easy to succeed in the National Football League. It really isn’t. There are no guarantees out here, being able to be successful to have four or five years of success, it’s not easy.”

Caleb Williams, the presumptive No. 1 overall pick, is no ordinary QB prospect, however. The only consistent flaw in his college tape was a propensity to fumble while playing hero ball in 2023. By all accounts, he’s determined to put in the work to surpass football stardom and become an NFL legend.

The Bears are no ordinary landing spot for a No. 1 overall quarterback, either. They’re a 7-10 team who only had the pick because the Panthers were so bad (the Bears controlled the Panthers’ first-round pick as part of the deal that sent the No. 1 overall pick to Carolina last year), so they’re already better situated than most. Beyond that, they’ve added Keenan Allen, D’Andre Swift and Gerald Everett to the offense. Mix those guys in with DJ Moore, Cole Kmet and an improved offensive line and Williams might have the best supporting cast a QB1 has enjoyed in NFL history.

Freeney explained that rookie QB growing pains can occur regardless of the number of playmakers around him, however.

“You have to complement the offensive scheme with the offensive player. Everything has to come cohesively together. If you get in a bad system, or if the coordinator doesn’t see eye-to-eye with the coordinator or head coach can’t see the same things that you’re seeing, you’re going to have problems, you’re going to have trouble.”

Highly touted prospects bust all the time. Each and every year, first-round picks struggle and some of them never earn a second contract in the NFL. Freeney and other players see it happen first hand. That’s why he believes most players seem to say “stick with Fields” while the consensus from pundits say “draft Williams, it’s a no brainer.”

“Probably a lot of the veteran guys talking about this have seen the horror stories, have seen that high draft pick just fall flat on his face,” Freeney said.

“I don’t know what’s going to happen, but I know what I’ve seen from Fields is that it’s better than nothing. You don’t know what the other guy is going to produce, what the other guy is going to do. You know what you’ve got and you know that he’s a hard worker, you know he’s trying to do the right things to grow his game and grow his craft.”

Of course Fields is in Pittsburgh now so there’s no chance he’ll grow his game with the Bears. Freeney also said he understood why GM Ryan Poles made the decision to move on from Fields and pick the first quarterback of his own with the No. 1 overall pick.

“We all know for years upon years, Chicago has always had an issue with scoring a lot of points so I understand the frustration and I understand both sides.

“I get it, but the grass isn’t always greener on the other side, so be careful what you ask for.”

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