Chicago Bears rookie quarterback Justin Fields was the first of the Round 1 signal-callers from the 2021 NFL Draft to sign his contract. Let’s take a look at the specifics of Fields’ contract, his impact on the Bears’ salary cap, and what options the Bears will have with Fields in the future.
Justin Fields’ contract details and bonuses
As with all rookie contracts, the value of Fields’ deal was assigned based on his draft position at 11th overall. The total value of the contract was set at a fully guaranteed $18.9 million on a four-year deal with a team option for a fifth year. The fifth-year option is not accounted for in the $18.9 million. Instead, it’s based on Fields’ performances in his first three years in the league.
The specifics of Fields’ contract include a signing bonus of just under $11.1 million with around $7.8 million in salary. All of that money is guaranteed, assuming Fields does nothing that would warrant the contract being made void.
What impact does Fields’ deal have on the Bears’ salary cap?
While Fields will receive $11.8 million in cash as a rookie, his salary cap number is significantly different.
Fields’ $11.1 million signing bonus will prorate across the four years of his contract at just under $2.8 million per year. That $2.8 million combines with Fields’ salary for each year to determine his salary cap number.
In 2021, Fields will count for slightly above $3.4 million in salary-cap space. That number rises to $4.3 million in 2022, $5.1 million in 2023, and $6.0 million in 2024.
What options do the Bears have with Fields’ contract?
The Bears’ options with Fields are somewhat limited by the scope of the rookie contract structure. Firstly, as mentioned above, the contract is fully guaranteed. Therefore, even if the Bears want to release Fields, they will not save anything on the $18.9 million.
The only caveat would be if Fields were to violate the team or league code of conduct. If that were to occur, the team could void the remaining guaranteed money and reclaim some of the signing bonuses.
Were the Bears to decide to move on from Fields during his contract, the remaining prorated signing bonus would accelerate onto their cap in the season they release him. If the Bears cut Fields ahead of 2022, they would have $15.4 million in dead money. That would fall to $11.2 million in 2023 and $6.0 million in 2024.
When is Fields eligible for an extension?
The Bears and Fields cannot agree to a contract extension until after Fields’ third year in the NFL. Therefore, Fields will be eligible for an extension following the 2023 season. That 2024 offseason will be an intriguing one for Fields. Additionally, this is the time that the Bears will have to make a decision on whether to exercise Fields’ fifth-year option or not.
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