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2024 NFL Scouting Combine: Top takeaways as Ryan Poles addresses the Caleb Williams-Justin Fields situation

Nicholas Moreano Avatar
February 27, 2024

INDIANAPOLIS — Ryan Poles met the media on Tuesday afternoon, just down the hall from the Starbucks on the second floor of the JW Marriott.

Like last year, the Chicago Bears’ general manager is at the center of the NFL world since the organization holds possession of the No. 1 overall pick for the second straight year.

Poles was asked about the No. 1 overall pick, Justin Fields, Caleb Williams, Jaylon Johnson and more.

Here are my top takeaways from Poles’ press conference

Timeline on decision

Fields said on the St. Brown Bros Podcast last week that if he is going to be traded, he simply wants to know so all the conversations surrounding his future for the Bears can be over.

Poles understands Fields’ emotions and acknowledged on Tuesday that he wouldn’t want to live in that type of situation either. Poles told reporters that he wants “to do right by Justin” and move as quickly as possible while also not being in a rush on this monumental decision.

It’s no secret that Fields is universally loved by his teammates, so trading him would be a difficult move that would impact the locker room, but Poles doesn’t get anxious about how he would communicate that news if the Bears elect to draft a rookie quarterback.

“I have faith in our ability to communicate with our guys,” Poles said. “When we do that, I think they’ll know that it’s in the best interest of the team. I think as we’ve moved along here, I think the trust factor is there that they are in good hands with however we decide to move forward.”

Ideally, Poles would like to know as soon as “tomorrow” on what he and the Bears will be doing at the quarterback position.

“I would love to know, but I know that’s not how the process works,” Poles said. “Sure, before free agency would be good. Like I said, I’m also taking, if we were to do something with Justin, I want to do right by him and I know, again, living in that grey space, we would want to do something sooner rather than later. But just like I talk about with contracts, it takes two teams to figure that out, but at the same time, we’re also trying to figure out the draft process as well. There’s a lot of different things with different timelines going and that’s what makes it a little difficult.”

When asked about the type of compensation it would take to move off the No. 1 overall pick, Poles said “it’s hard to say right now.” Poles brought up last year’s haul, which included the No. 9 pick in 2023, a second-round pick in 2023, a 2024 first-round pick, a 2025 second rounder and DJ Moore, and said he would look for that type of return.

Ryan Poles wants to get a Jaylon Johnson deal done without using the franchise tag

The conversations between the Bears and Jaylon Johnson appear to be moving in the right direction. Poles said the team is “in the process of getting Jaylon Johnson done. Conversations are going well at this time.”

“We feel like we’ve done a really good job coming to the table strong and showing the respect that he’s due just in terms of his production through his career and really an emphasis on the turnovers he created this past year,” Poles said. “Our expectation is that’s going to continue to go as he’s with the Bears. When I say come strong, that means cash flows are strong, guarantees are strong, the term is strong for him; being with his age, there’s a really good opportunity to go back to the market again and continue to earn money and play well and hopefully that’s with the Bears for a long period of time, so I’m excited about that. Like I’ve said about those deals — all the time — it takes two to tango and you’ve gotta find a place that everyone feels comfortable with, so I feel really good about that situation.”

This past season, Johnson finished first among cornerbacks with his 91 coverage grade, according to Pro Football Focus. He only allowed 195 yards receiving yards, which was the second-lowest among the top-10 rated cornerbacks. Also, Johnson intercepted four passes — including one that went for a pick-6.

Johnson proved he could create plays on the ball and that put him in the position he is in today, which should see the veteran corner securing a huge payday. Poles shared his thoughts on the type of deal that he would ideally want to get done with Johnson.

“I’d like to avoid the franchise tag for him,” Poles said. “I think there is really good space for us to find the middle ground. Again, we always have the tag to use, but I really would like to get something done long-term.”

Thoughts on Caleb Williams

Even if it’s unfair, USC quarterback Caleb Williams has be compared to Patrick Mahomes in certain aspects. However, one is projected to be the No. 1 overall pick in the 2024 NFL Draft and the other is a three-time Super Bowl champion.

There’s a lot that needs to happen for those comparisons to play out in the NFL and Poles was asked directly about the similarities between the two players.

Instead of dodging the question, the Bears’ general manager provided his perspective on the quarterbacks.

“There’s pieces. There’s pieces that are similar,” Poles said. “Obviously, the one that stands out to everyone is just different arm angles. That’s a unique trait, not a lot of guys can do that. I’ll give Jeff King, who’s on my team, credit. He painted a picture of two types of quarterbacks: there’s artists, and then there’s surgeons. So within that group you can kind of see who’s the artist that’s really creative, doesn’t draw within the lines where there’s more of surgeons who are like your typical, like the Bradys and Peytons. You kind of branch them out in those buckets and go from there. That’s where they’re similar.”

Poles didn’t provide a preference on whether he wanted more of an artist or surgeon, but he did mention he wants “winners.” Poles also said he wants to continue to learn about the individual and intends to gather as much information as he can. Poles wants to know about the prospect’s leadership, how they handle pressure and how they handle playing in a big city like Chicago among other things.

With a prospect like Williams, gathering information will be an emphasis, especially since there has been so much outside noise about him. One of the rumors is that Williams or his team around him wouldn’t play for the Bears. Poles shot down that statement.

“No. No. No concerns about that at all,” Poles said. “I would love to know why, if that was the case. Like I said, I think as a young quarterback, and I’ve been around it, the infrastructure is important, and I think we’ve made really good progress in terms of having really good infrastructure for whoever were to come in or if Justin were to stay here as well.”

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