By trading for Chase Claypool, the Bears are investing in Justin Fields

Eight months to the day after Ryan Poles first detailed an in-house Bears study that determined second-year quarterbacks improved most when given a “dependability piece” at pass-catcher, the general manager finally brought in high-quality help for Justin Fields.

When Poles traded the Bears’ own 2023 second-round draft pick to the Steelers for Chase Claypool hours ahead of Tuesday’s harried NFL trade deadline, he made his first major investment in a receiver. And in Fields.

“I like the way Justin is trending,” Poles said. “And I think adding another big body who’s physical, explosive, great leaping ability, can stretch the field but also is violent with the ball in his hands — as well as a blocker. I think that enhances everyone around him.”

Enhancing Fields is the clearest sign yet that the Bears like what they see in their quarterback, who is almost halfway through a year-long tryout to be the face of the franchise.

“As a quarterback — and you all know where I come from — you can never have enough weapons and guys that help your quarterback gain confidence,” said Poles, who spent 12 years in the Chiefs front office, the last five alongside star Patrick Mahomes, before the Bears hired him in January. “I know a lot of the guys are starting to make plays for us. Adding another receiver is going to allow him to continue to grow and gain that confidence.”

Once Claypool gets settled, the Bears will also have one less excuse if Fields struggles.

Poles said last offseason that he wanted to give Fields help at receiver, then did so on the cheap, signing Byron Pringle, Equanimeous St. Brown and Dante Pettis to one-year deals and trading a future seventh-round pick to the Patriots for N’Keal Harry.

Claypool is different. The third-year receiver from Notre Dame is a physical specimen — at 6-4, 238 pounds, he owns the seventh-fastest speed in a game this season, having run 21.46 miles per hour in Week 1.

His first two seasons were almost identical; he caught 62 balls for 873 yards in 2020 and 59 for 860 in 2021. Claypool has caught 32 passes for 311 yards this season, but his yards-per-game average was down from 57.3 last year to 38.9. As recently as a week-and-a-half ago, he complained about the lack of Steelers’ deep passes.Since 2020, Claypool has ranks fifth in the league in both routes run and targets on go routes, per NFL Next Gen Stats.

Poles said he had no concerns, pointing to quarterback instability — the Steelers switched from Mitch Trubisky to rookie Kenny Pickett last month.

“There’s a lot of changes going on there,” he said. “So you have to just look at the scenario and put it all together. I think he’ll be fine.”

The Steelers don’t make many personnel mistakes, though, and it’s fair to wonder what they know about the 2020 second-round pick that Poles doesn’t. There have been questions about his maturity.

The first-year GM knows that he liked Claypool better than the underwhelming free agent receiver class that was awaiting him in March. JuJu Smith-Schuster, D.J. Chark and Sterling Shepard are, amazingly, the biggest names expected to be available.

“That’s part of my job and part of my crew upstairs, is, you have to do a little bit of forecasting and looking down the road,” he said. “I just didn’t feel completely comfortable with that. Not to say that there’s not good players there. I just didn’t feel comfortable with not maybe a little bit more aggressive at this point.”

He probably overpaid for the privilege. But Poles is giving Fields a weapon for the next year-and-a-half, at least. He can extend Claypool, who is on a rookie deal, as soon as this offseason.

“The contract definitely helps,” Poles said. “But just like everybody else, we’re going to take this season and see how everything works out, and go from there.”

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