Former Rival QB Apparently Wanted to Join Vikings

Dec 4, 2022; Chicago, Illinois, USA; Chicago Bears quarterback Justin Fields (1) looks on in the second quarter against the Green Bay Packers at Soldier Field. Mandatory Credit: Daniel Bartel-USA TODAY Sports

The Minnesota Vikings‘ search for a franchise quarterback nearly brought a rival QB for a second time in 15 years.

Apparently, former Chicago Bears quarterback Justin Fields wanted a trade to the Vikings according to ESPN’s Brooke Pryor. Fields would have joined Brett Favre as the second NFC North starting QB to later come to the Vikings since 2009.

Ultimately, the Pittsburgh Steelers landed Fields for a sixth-round pick. The Vikings were among Fields’ finalists, though, as Pryor noted.

“The Steelers were one of four teams on Fields’ radar prior to the start of free agency, along with the Vikings, [Las Vegas] Raiders and [Atlanta] Falcons, a source familiar with Fields’ thinking said,” Pryor reported on March 29.

Minnesota still has a significant void to fill at quarterback with Fields off the table and former starter Kirk Cousins in Atlanta. That’s also presuming that new Vikings QB and journeyman Sam Darnold can’t turn around his once-promising career.

Sam Darnold’s Ceiling in Minnesota Remains Unknown

Jan 7, 2024; Santa Clara, California, USA; San Francisco 49ers quarterback Sam Darnold (14) celebrates after a play during the second quarter against the Los Angeles Rams at Levi’s Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Sergio Estrada-USA TODAY Sports

A former No. 3 pick in 2018, Darnold didn’t live up to expectations with the New York Jets, and it didn’t get better for him after a trade with the Carolina Panthers in 2021. Carolina let him walk in 2023, and he signed with the San Francisco 49ers, which made him a backup behind 2022 Mr. Irrelevant Brock Purdy.

Darnold could turn the corner in Minnesota, however, since he has quality playmakers around him. In his brief playing time for the 49ers, he posted the second-best completion percentage, 60.9%, and quarterback rating, 85.1, of his whole career.

Whether or not Darnold reaches his potential with the Vikings, the team still looks poised to go for a quarterback in the draft next month. That could include a big trade up with the New England Patriots for the No. 3 pick as rumors persist, or the Vikings could find a quality QB with the No. 11.

Michigan’s J.J. McCarthy and Oregon’s Bo Nix could both land that land that far, which gives the Vikings options. McCarthy became the most successful QB in Michigan history, and Nix lit things up with monster numbers in Oregon.

Had Fields joined the Vikings, a later QB such as Washington’s Michael Penix Jr. may have landed in the Minneapolis. Based on Fields’ first three seasons in Chicago, a transition to the Vikings wouldn’t have mirrored anything remotely close to Favre, a Hall of Fame QB.

Justin Fields Part of a Beleaguered 2021 Draft Class

Rival QB
Dec 10, 2023; Chicago, Illinois, USA; Chicago Bears quarterback Justin Fields (1) rushes for a touchdown against the Detroit Lions during the second half at Soldier Field. Mandatory Credit: Mike Dinovo-USA TODAY Sports

Chicago only netted that sixth-round pick, which was lower than other QBs from the beleaguered 2021 QB draft class. San Francisco traded Marshall, Minnesota, native Trey Lance for a fourth round pick to the Dallas Cowboys in 2023.

The Patriots trade Mac Jones to the Jacksonville Jaguars for a sixth-round pick. Speculation ensues that the Jets could trade Zach Wilson at some point after his 2023 benching.

Fields, of course, may never start in the Steel City. Pittsburgh previously acquired Russell Wilson from the Denver Broncos, had he has a stronger track record of success despite a subpar two years in the Mile High City.

While Fields has underperformed in his young career, he would have cost the Vikings massive dollars beyond 2024. Fields could call for $47.1 million annually or a 6-year, $283.18 million deal, based on Spotrac’s projection.

Oct 15, 2023; Chicago, Illinois, USA; Chicago Bears quarterback Justin Fields (1) passes in the first half against the Minnesota Vikings at Soldier Field. Mandatory Credit: Jamie Sabau-USA TODAY Sports

Of course, Fields will need to start enough games and display enough success on the field to win such a contract. Regardless of his success level, those aren’t cap-friendly numbers for the Vikings or almost any team.

Minnesota has the fourth-best projected salary cap for 2025 at $102.4 million, but Fields eating up more than Cousins may have would have been a major issue. It’s also a lot to pay for a QB who never thrown for more than 2,570 yards or 17 TDs in a season.

The Bears sending Fields out of the division lessens the chance for regret if his career takes off. Minnesota not landing Fields avoids a salary-cap a year after a QB-rich draft.

Editor’s Note: Statistics for this article were found via Pro Football Reference.